“Breakup is not enough”, says Movement for an Open Web
Tuesday 17th October 2023 – Advocacy group Movement for an Open Web (MOW) propose remedies to Google and Apple’s digital monopoly.
The recommendations prevent Google and Apple, as browser owners and joint controllers of Google Search, from exerting market power over the rest of the internet. They support the legislators, policymakers, and courts in the EU, UK and US seeking to restore an open digital market with competitive dynamics, driving innovation, jobs and growth for a digital century.
Google’s vertical integration at every level in the Tech Stack – from browser to advertiser – is a problem recognised by the DOJ and EU Commission. Google’s deal with Apple, where Google pays Apple $18 bn for a share of search, keeps Apple out of advertising and internet search. Apple makes more profit from one low risk deal with Google than from selling MacBooks.
MOW considers the forced divestiture of Google’s advertising exchange and demand and supply side platforms a good start. However, without controls over both Google and Apple browsers, forced divestiture is not sufficient to deliver a more open and fairer web for businesses and consumers.
Through continued control over its web browsers via web standards body W3C, and via defaults associated with iOS and Android operating systems, the monopolists control the browsers that most people use as gateways to the web. Any remedy must be alive to the fact that circumvention can take place anywhere in the gatekeeper software.
MOW’s proposed remedies focus on post-divestiture Google. They include how Google trades with its former businesses and preventing advertising being bundled into its web browser.
Monopolists’ web browsers must facilitate user’s navigation of the web in accordance with objective standards defined in a neutral technical standards body, and offer guarantees of interoperability for all market participants. Defaults must not be used to coerce people into the “GApple” walled garden.
This is the first time that detailed recommendations for monopolist remedies have been stated and MOW will be making their findings available to relevant regulatory bodies worldwide from today.
Tim Cowen, Chair of the Antitrust Practice at Preiskel & Co and co-founder of MOW, said: “With Google’s monopoly and its relationship with Apple under close legal and regulatory scrutiny worldwide, now is the time to think about the detailed remedies that will create a more vibrant and competitive digital marketplace. A breakup of some parts of the business is inevitable and thinking beyond the first step also has to include Fair Reasonable And Non Discriminatory (FRAND) access and interoperability.
“Google has become dominant through a combination of deals and poor standards-setting by the likes of the W3C, and by a series of concerted steps to exclude rivals, remove interoperability and stifle competition. This has been possible through the fact that they control the majority of the web’s traffic through the Chromium/Chrome browser and the majority of the web’s data through their deal with Apple. Therefore, it’s vital that the pivotal role of the browser as a gatekeeper technology is also recognised and controlled.”
James Rosewell, co-founder of MOW, said: “We look forward to discussing these remedies with regulators, standards bodies, and lawmakers worldwide. Furthermore, we’d welcome a constructive dialogue with Google to determine how these remedies could be applied rapidly.
“Once guaranteed interoperability and access is in place genuine improvements to privacy will be driven by innovators and market forces. Publishers and advertisers will regain control over their supply chains.”
Full details of MOW’s proposed monopoly remedies are below.
For more information:
The Movement for an Open Web is a campaign group dedicated to preserving an open and decentralised web in the face of efforts by the major platforms to exert monopolistic control over its operations.
Big tech corporations are trying to secure ownership and control of key aspects of the web, from people’s online identity to the way in which the internet is monetised. MOW draws attention to these issues to the public, media, regulators and policy makers.
MOW is not dedicated to preserving the status quo or any specific technological solutions. It simply asks that any fundamental changes to the way the web works are open and competitive, not proprietary and closed.
MOW is made up of a group of concerned organisations that want to preserve an open and decentralised web. They are by necessity anonymous for fear of retaliation from browser owners, in itself a clear indication of their market dominance.
MOW’s summarised recommendations for remedies to Google’s monopoly dominance are: