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Web firms fear Google’s reach

Google this year has been gobbling up Web companies that look nothing like Google, from a social gaming start-up to a firm that powers most online sales for the airline industry.

world Updated: Dec 14, 2010 01:20 IST

As the tech giant spreads its reach, it’s making new enemies who fear that once Google steps onto their turf it will use its almighty search engine to quash them. Now, these critics are pushing antitrust officials to block some of Google’s mergers or build a blockbuster case against the search behemoth, reminiscent of the government’s battle with Microsoft.

Yet as Google expands its ecosystem of products – a spread that already includes email, a digital bookstore and cell phone software – it’s only become a bigger puzzle for regulators.

Antitrust law was crafted with brick-and-mortar companies in mind whose business lines fit into neat categories, not a firm like Google whose influence is spreading lightning-quick into different markets that are connected only by the Internet.

Google says its acquisitions help the company build a bigger menu of useful products for consumers. And, the tech firm accuses competitors of waging their battles against the company in Washington, rather than going toe-to-toe on the Web.

“We’re a big company. We’re disruptive. We’re going to get scrutiny from governments around the world, and that just comes with the territory,” said Adam Kovacevich, Google’s senior manager of global communications and public affairs.

US antitrust enforcers at the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission are examining Google carefully with each big merger it proposes. But they have yet to allege the company is acting illegally as a dominant player on the Web.

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First Published: Dec 14, 2010 01:18 IST