Is this the end of Google as we know it?

The trial between the US Justice Department and Google concludes this week, with the judge expected to give his ruling in 3 or 4 months

Martin Crowley
May 3, 2024

After a five-month courtroom battle, the biggest antitrust case the courts have seen in a quarter of a century, between the US Justice Department and Google, will close this week. Both sides will conclude with closing arguments on whether Google is using its dominance and power to prevent fair competition and stifle innovation.  

Why is the US Justice Department suing Google?  

The Justice Department has accused Google of abusing its power and exploiting its monopoly over the search engine market to prevent competitors from entering what should have been a vibrant and competitive market.

The closing arguments from the Justice Department questioned whether it would be possible for another company to get the money or data needed to develop a search engine that could compete with Google.

With an operating profit of $96B, a net worth of $2 trillion, and a 90% share of the US search engine market, it’s easy to see why these questions are being asked.

And it appears that the District Judge–Amit Mehta–feels the same, adding that he found it strange that Google is making billions of dollars in profit, yet nobody “is trying to enter into the market to cut into that profit.

The biggest bone of contention in the case

One of the key arguments the opposition is making against Google is about its default search engine contracts.

In 2021, Google reportedly paid over $26.3B to be the default search engine on all Apple devices and web browsers such as Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox. Reports show that the money they spend on these contracts exceeds the amount they spend on improving the quality of their search results, therefore, short-changing users in exchange for continued market dominance.

These claims were backed by Microsoft's CEO–Satya Nadella–who, when he took the stand against Google, said that he’d tried for years to get Apple to set Bing as the default search engine on Apple devices, but even they–the largest company in the world, with a market cap of $2.89 trillion–couldn’t compete with Google.

Google’s argument

Google’s lead defense lawyer–John Schmidtlein–argued the case, stating that the reason Google is so successful is simply because it has engineered the best technology, and doesn’t need to engage in sinister tactics.

He pointed out that Apple had the chance to get out of its Google default agreement but, after trialing Bing as the default search engine, decided to stick with Google. He also claimed that Mozilla tried switching to Yahoo as the default search engine on its Firefox browser, before switching back to Google, because users preferred it.

"Users today have more search options and more ways to access information online than ever before…but Google is winning because it’s better." – John Schmidtlein, Lead Defense Lawyer

When Google CEO–Sundar Pichai–testified, he said that paying billions of dollars to make sure Google Search had default placement on devices made total business sense.

What's next in the case?

As both sides wrap up the case, the Judge will reflect on the arguments given and will likely give his ruling in three to four months.

The decision he makes could change the way people use and interact with the internet forever: If he finds Google guilty, it’s thought he may dilute Google’s market dominance by imposing high fines or demanding a company restructure.