One of the most abused words in the English language has to be “monopoly” and all of its derivatives.  Any time someone complains about a company, it’s inevitable that someone will say “It’s a monopoly, and it’s evil!  Something has to be done about it!”

This comes up because a group called Consumer Watchdog has decided that one of it’s main goals is to break up Google because of what it sees as its monopolistic nature.  In a statement released on April 21st, John M. Simpson, consumer advocate of the group, said that the United States Department of Justice needed to look into investigating the company, and also possibly consider the possibility of breaking the corporation into parts just like a judge ruled to do to AT&T in the 1980’s.

consumer watchdog vs google“Such action could include breaking Google Inc. into multiple separate companies or regulating it as a public utility,” the statement said. “Google exerts monopoly power over Internet searches, controlling 70 percent of the U.S. market.  For most Americans – indeed, for most people in the world – Google is the gateway to the Internet. How it tweaks its proprietary search algorithms can ensure a business’s success or doom it to failure.”

The problem is that hardly anyone seems to actually knows what the word “monopoly” means, so lets take a look at the definition of the word.

[muh-nop-uh-lee] –noun,plural-lies.

  1. exclusive control of a commodity or service in a particular market, or a control that makes possible the manipulation of prices. Compare duopoly, oligopoly.
  2. an exclusive privilege to carry on a business, traffic, or service, granted by a government.
  3. the exclusive possession or control of something.
  4. something that is the subject of such control, as a commodity or service.
  5. a company or group that has such control.
  6. the market condition that exists when there is only one seller.
  7. (initial capital letter) a board game in which a player attempts to gain a monopoly of real estate by advancing around the board and purchasing property, acquiring capital by collecting rent from other players whose pieces land on that property.

mr monopolyI’m sorry, but seeing as Google controls 70 percent of the search market pretty much immediately shoots holes in this argument that it is in any way a “monopoly”. A verb, (i.e. “I’ll google that), but not a monopoly.

Consumer Watchdog went on to even make some suggestions of ways that Google could be broken up:

One possibility would be to break Google into different companies devoted to different lines of business.  Search could be separated from advertising.  Gmail and its new social networking service, Buzz, could be spun off as a separate entity as could YouTube, a Google acquisition that we believe should have been denied at the time of merger. Enterprise applications could be another separate business.

They also suggested turning it into a public utility so that it would be able to be regulated as such, or even possibly level it with financial penalties for its actions.

Google spokesman Adam Koracevich told Fox Business News, “Given their track record, even if we broke Google in half tomorrow, Consumer Watchdog would probably insist that we split halves into quarters.”

While it is of course everyone’s right to complain about any company they want, but a basic understanding of how the whole process works would help.  Google isn’t a monopoly.  It isn’t close to being a public utility, it is just a service like any other on the Web, and if you don’t like it, there’s other options for just about every service that it offers.

What say you?  Is Google a monopoly?  Should it be regulated?