Google's business model is firmly linked to its role in online advertising – but does the giant dominate and control the market in a way that critics describe as anti-competitive at best, and tantamount to an actual monopoly at worst?
These accusations are now probed in various investigations launched around the world, including the one considered by the US Justice Department, that hope to get to the bottom of Google's activities in the super-lucrative ad business.
Google continues to deny that its share in the global market means it is in fact acting like a monopoly. The gist of the argument seems to be that because users can deploy its ad tools with competitors – this means the market is fair.
That's despite the fact Google's share is now close to 30 percent globally, while crucially, the company also develops and controls key software tools that are widely used in the ad market. But according to a document filed with Australian's authorities looking into its behavior, Google says that it is not anti-competitive.
The giant insists that it isn't abusing its position to undermine competition or overcharge customers, and according to the document, claims that it has viable competition – but Google's own case in defense of its practices cites only AT&T as another company that has the entire ad buying market covered with its products. Other companies mentioned as competitors (though without control over the entire process) are either as big as Google itself, or thereabouts: Amazon, Facebook, Comcast, Oracle.
In Australia, Google has been in the cross-hairs of publishers, notably of News Corp, and the document is said to have come in response to this company's lawyers accusing the tech and ad giant of forming a monopoly that stifles competition.
Google's reaction is seen as valuable insight into how it might choose to argue in favor of its position should the Justice Department decide to go ahead and sue the behemoth for anti-competitive practices.
According to reports, the US case would likely not focus only on the way Google handles the ad market, but also on its search business.