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Google and Germany’s Ministry of Justice: A Wrong Idea of Dominant Position

The Germany’s Ministry of Justice asked Google to disclose its search algorithm because of the Mountain View company dominant position on the relevant market.

The request is not legitimate at least for two main reasons.

First: Google’s current “market position” is not based on a “users’ lock-in” as in the file-format case (for longtime, not being able to open a .doc file has been an effective method to have the users stuck to Microsoft Word). Everybody is free to use whatever search engine of choice. Yes, because Google is not the only kid in town: Yahoo!, Bing, DuckduckGo are in the same business, but steps behind Google. Sure, Google is THE search engine, as Altavista was a few years ago. But who but (some) historians still remember about the Google’s predecessor? And here comes the point: Google’s success is made by the people who use it: give them a better search engine (and additional features) and Google will fall on a fingers’ snap. This is the last iteration of a wrong concept of “dominant position” and “monopoly” when matched with a successful digital business model based on information as quid-pro-quo for providing (partially) free services.

Second: even if the “dominant position doctrine” were relevant to this case, the German solution would be possibly worst than the disease to be cured, because it would set the precedent that a company, for the sake of the “free market”, should be forced to disclose its industrial and trade secrets. Try to tell this to the pharmas or the automotive manufacturers and wait for the answers!

So the bottom line is: If you want to beat Google, instead of tying its hands, do create a better one.