The heart of Google’s defense is that people use Google because it’s the best — and it’s not against antitrust laws to be the best. But this case isn’t as simple as deciding whether people use Google because it’s the best or because it’s what’s put in front of them as the default.
Even if Google is better than its competitors like Bing and DuckDuckGo, it matters why it’s the best. Is Google the best because of its algorithm and innovations? Or is it the best because it’s the biggest — and can leverage the data it gets from its many users in a way that makes it impossible for smaller search engines to compete effectively?
These questions are why the DOJ spent much of its examination of Google chief economist Hal Varian over the last two days pressing him on his multiple claims over the years that downplayed the role Google’s scale played in its dominance. DOJ attempted to paint a picture of Varian incorrectly pushing a narrative that Google’s scale contributed little.
Yesterday, DOJ highlighted the internal pushback Varian received from Google colleagues after he claimed in 2009 that search scale is “bogus”. According to Varian, Google wasn’t the best because of the “quantity or quality of its ingredients,” but because it had “better recipes.”