David Prosser: The giant that crushes all before it

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The Independent Online

Outlook Does Google's power know no bounds? While controversy rages about how the search engine undermines newspapers' hopes of charging for online content, Google is quietly marching into all sorts of other markets, sending shock waves through each one in turn.

Yesterday, reports linked it with a move into online estate agency, the idea being that it could offer a portal through which property sellers from around the UK could advertise their homes to a national audience in one place. Not surprisingly, the reports – which Google refuses to deny – sent shares in Rightmove, the company that currently dominates that market, plunging. Only a month ago, Google said it was incorporating satnav software into new versions of its mobile phone operating system Android. That will quickly turn phones equipped with the system into satnav devices – and, equally quickly, knock demand for the standalone gadgets currently available. Shares in TomTom and Garmin, the market leaders in that industry, have not yet recovered from the announcement.

In its 10 years of existence, Google has been fêted as a force for good, a cool company that regularly tops rankings of the most desirable places to work. No doubt there is something in all that, but Google is also rapidly becoming a dangerous monopolist whose power threatens to choke off all competition in every marketplace in which it chooses to operate.

The is a precedent for the journey on which Google has embarked. Microsoft also began life as a geeky start-up, but ended up becoming so dominant that regulators all over the world threatened to break it up. Sooner or later, companies of this scale have to be challenged. Google might want to think about that as it plans its next decade of expansion.

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