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What No Bids for Twitter Tell Us about Google Facebook & Online Advertising

What does it tell us that no company ultimately bid to buy Twitter over the last month despite several reported brand-name interested buyers?

Twitter is the eighth-most-visited Internet site in the world; the best site in the world for real-time content; and is one of the few public companies in the marketplace that is growing revenue at a 20% annual rate – and no one even submitted a low-ball bid for Twitter? What is going on here?

Apparently, it tells us that there are only two companies in the world that could grow, leverage and monetize Twitter to make it worth roughly $20b under current circumstances – Alphabet-Google and Facebook -- and they both practically can’t buy Twitter for antitrust reasons.

Let’s analyze why.

First, Google and Facebook each individually would face unwanted serious antitrust risk.

Alphabet-Google

Currently, Alphabet-Google is embroiled in this century’s biggest antitrust case in the EU.

Google’s New Home/Hardware Integration Has Privacy & Antitrust Implications

Listen to Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai when he says Google foresees a transformation from a “mobile-first world to an AI-first world,” because that is where Google-Android’s ~90% market dominance in mobile, search, and search advertising, is going to take the world -- like it or not.

As you will see, an “AI-first world” is also a “privacy-second world” and an “antitrust-cursed world.”

Just like Google’s unmatched data collection enabled it to figure out how to position itself to dominate the mobile Internet with Android’s contractual-tying over the last eight years, Google’s unmatched data collection currently is enabling it to figure out how to perfectly vertically-integrate a comprehensive-suite of home-related, products and services to dominate home-digital information and services with its just announced products: Google Home, Google WiFi, Allo, Google Assistant, Google Pixel, etc.

Naturally this Google “data-driven,” omni-integration will have big privacy and antitrust implications.

Google’s Information Is Power – Info-opoly Power

Who thinks it wise to allow a single company to corner the global market for any set of critical inputs to the global economy -- like stocks, bonds, currencies, industrial metals, precious metals, energy resources, grains, food, or livestock -- with no regulatory oversight, transparency or obligation to be an honest broker?   

Why then, if “information is power” in commerce, society, and governing, has the world allowed Google to anti-competitively corner the global market for the world’s information?

To spotlight this extraordinary risk and exceptional lapse in sovereign accountability, my new research provides new insight into how Google has become the most powerful commercial monopoly the modern world has ever seen.  

Why Did Google & Facebook Stop Competing With Each Other?

The evidence shows that Google & Facebook -- by far the world’s most dominant Internet gatekeepers – are not an Internet advertising “duopoly,” but worse, two separate Internet advertising monopoly platforms, one in search advertising and another in social media advertising.

That’s because search and social media advertising are not competitive substitutes for each other, but are proving to be synergistic advertising complements to each other in company marketing campaigns, because generally search advertising excels at lead generation and local business visibility while social media advertising generally excels at building brand awareness and interactivity with consumers.

Tellingly, after beginning to directly compete in social in 2011 and in search in 2013, Google and Facebook both abruptly, coincidentally, and effectively stopped competing directly with each other in both the search and social media markets in 2014.

Apparently, they either jointly agreed in 2014 to divide up the marketplace and no longer directly compete with each other to maximize their exceptional mobile growth and profitability; or they concluded independently -- from their initial directly competitive forays into the other’s core markets -- that the other commanded unbeatable monopoly network effects, so not directly competing with each other would maximize their exceptional mobile growth and profitability.     

The EU-Google Antitrust Cases’ Implications for Amazon Facebook & Apple

The EU’s recent intense antitrust spotlight on Google can’t help but illuminate some of what EU antitrust authorities think about other dominant consumer technology platforms adjacent to Google -- i.e. Amazon, Facebook, and Apple – companies Europe collectively refers to as “GAFA” particularly in the context of the EU’s Digital Single Market strategy.

In 2011, Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt was the first to identify, and publicly bring attention to, these particular four dominant consumer technology companies “exploiting platform strategies” ironically by branding them the “gang of four.

The EU Strategy behind its Three Google Antitrust Cases

With the EU’s new advertising antitrust charges against Google, the EU has now issued three Google abuse-of-dominance Statement of Objections covering search, mobile, and advertising, that actually span seven separately defined antitrust markets in the EU.   

So what does this strategically-critical new EU-Google advertising Statement of Objections -- that builds upon the other two statements of objection – finally tell us about the EU’s overall Google antitrust strategy?

What EU-Google Advertising Antitrust Charges Mean for the FTC

Of the three EU antitrust cases against Google (search bias in shopping, Android tying, and soon search-advertising-tying), the expected new search-advertising case -- which focuses on how Google has long contractually required websites to use Google’s search advertising if they use Google search -- could be the hardest EU-Google antitrust case for the FTC to ignore, for the reasons below.

Summary of Why It’s Hard for FTC to Ignore the EU Search-Advertising Antitrust Case:

1. The FTC has been following the EU’s antitrust lead.

2. The FTC’s Google 2012 staff report agrees with the EU’s conclusion on search advertising.

3. The DOJ threatened a 2008 monopolization case over Google’s search advertising syndication.

Why Google Can’t Buy Yahoo’s Search & Advertising Patents

Given that Google bought Motorola for its patents to protect itself from patent litigation, many assume Alphabet-Google to be a likely bidder and buyer of Yahoo’s reported sale of its portfolio of ~3,000 1990s search, advertising and ecommerce patents.

Au contraire, big antitrust vulnerabilities and a decade of Googlian hostility to the intellectual property rights of competitors effectively rule them out of this Yahoo auction.

Google’s lawyers have to appreciate that Google bidding on Yahoo’s patents would self-shine antitrust spotlights exactly where Google does not want them shined, and would attract attention to Google’s ignominious pattern of disrespect for the property of competitors and the bloody trail of intellectual property infringement lawsuits Google has uniquely provoked over the last fourteen years.

Why Google can’t buy Yahoo’s search, advertising & ecommerce patents.

Google-Android’s Strategy to Monopolize Home Digital Information & Services

Every company and industry competitor currently serving and targeting the digital home marketplace doesn’t know they are largely surrounded, but they are.

If one organizes and pieces together the many related things Google intimated at its I/O developer conference last month, especially about Google’s big advantage in conversational AI voice, with what we already know about what Google has already achieved and is doing, what kind of Google digital home strategy becomes clear?

The assembled pieces showcase a discernible big picture of an exceptionally comprehensive Google-Android strategy to try and monopolize the integrated connectivity of home automation (i.e. digital information, products and services) over time via: its strong advantage in conversational AI voice interface, Android dominance, and its proliferating OS tentacles -- very much like Google did with mobile search and search-related information, products, and services in increasingly dominating consumer digital services over the last decade.

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