How Much More Should It Be Allowed to Grab?

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Google is the quintessential business success story. Two bright young guys started with an idea, built a company around it and grew it into a $150 billion juggernaut that now dominates the Internet. It nudged aside rival Yahoo, challenged traditional media giants and frustrated the Web strategy of the once-invincible Microsoft. And it did it all fair and square.

First-quarter reports show how much Google has pulled ahead of the pack: a 69 percent increase in profit on a 63 percent increase in sales. The news came just days after Yahoo acknowledged that its profit had fallen 11 percent, sending its already-lagging stock down 12 percent. Reports from big newspaper chains were even more dismal.

But now, precisely because of its success, it's fair to ask if Google should be barred from furthering its dominance through acquisitions or collaborations. At issue are the recent purchases of YouTube, the leader in online video sharing, and DoubleClick, the leading broker of online advertising; in both instances Google used its gusher of profits to outbid rivals. There are also new joint ventures with Clear Channel, the giant radio broadcaster, and EchoStar, the satellite television operator.

Consider this: There may never have been a Google without the government's antitrust suit that prevented Microsoft from crushing upstart rivals. By the same principle, isn't it time to begin restraining Google to increase the odds another Google will come along?


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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