Google: A Recipe for Less Innovation?
Industry observers have recently speculated that Google’s continued growth depends upon its ability to gain control over more specialized types of search. Of course, we’re all too familiar with Google’s attempt to dominate online travel search with its proposed takeover of ITA Software. The Washington Post’s Food section introduces us to Google’s latest foray into vertical search:
“You’ve no doubt read about Google’s latest tool to dominate yet another online market. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company rolled out a recipe search function today, which will instantly compete with services such as Foodily, Taste Book and other online search tools.”
Interesting choice of words, no?
We’re all for more competition in vertical search (yes, even from Google) – that’s what drives innovation that benefits consumers. The problem, however, is that rather than spurring more innovation, Google’s entries into vertical search markets have historically resulted in less competition and fewer choices for consumers (for example, Google Maps and YouTube).
In examining the antitrust concerns raised by Google’s proposed acquisition of ITA Software, the American Antitrust Institute (AAI) noted how Google “seems already to have conquered maps, books and video.” (Think about it, when’s the last time we saw a new player in any of those verticals?) And then there’s Google’s other little bad habit of promoting its own content over the content of competitors in key search verticals like health, shopping and local.
Indeed, as the American Antitrust Institute warned: “Maintaining competitive markets for both general and niche search may be the only alternative, ultimately, to an unregulatable monopoly.”
For those that don’t speak antitrust: “unregulatable monopoly” means “Google.”