On Tuesday, federal prosecutors will argue that Google has violated antitrust law by allegedly bribing big-name web browsers and essentially forcing software developers to make the search engine users’ default option.
The Justice Department brought its lawsuit against Google almost three years ago, when former President Donald Trump was still in office. Now, the case has gone to trial and will play out over the next two-and-a-half months, with Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and a top Apple executive, Eddie Cue, both expected to testify.
U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta is not expected to issue a verdict until early 2024.
Google pays billions each year to be the main search engine on Safari, Firefox and other popular web browsers. Device manufacturers that want complete access to the Google Play app store on their smartphones are contractually obligated to make Google their default search engine, too.
Regulators describe these business practices as underhanded, enabling Google to build its sprawling big tech empire, which controls about 90% of the search engine market.
“This case is about the future of the internet and whether Google will ever face meaningful competition in search,” said Justice Department attorney Kenneth Dintzer.
Google maintains that its dealings are above board. Its search engine results, they say, are more responsive than competitors like Bing and Yahoo. A likely argument for the defense is that consumers are free to uninstall Google and download other apps.
Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is worth $1.7 trillion, with most of its ad revenue coming from its search engine. Google gets more queries per day than there are people on the planet.
If Google is found to be in violation of antitrust law, it may have to make costly concessions that could slash its alleged monopoly and shift the corporate hierarchy of big tech.
Some information in this article comes Agence-France Presse and the Associated Press.