SHOULD THE GOVERNMENT break up Google, as it broke up Standard Oil and AT&T, for being a monopoly too big to tolerate? Let's consider that question as we take a stroll down memory lane.
•In March 1998, Fortune Magazine chronicled the rise of a mighty tech giant, an online powerhouse it described as "the biggest star in the Internet cosmos." The headline on the piece: "How Yahoo! Won The Search Wars." So popular and wealthy had Yahoo! become, Fortune noted, that "some people say it's the next American Online."
•Nine years later, The Guardian reported on the Internet's number one social-media platform, the most-visited website in America. "Will MySpace ever lose its monopoly?" it asked, strongly suggesting the answer was no. MySpace's user base, massive and fast-growing, was "becoming what economists call a 'natural monopoly,'" said The Guardian. "It may already be too late for competitors to dislodge MySpace."
•The following December, Forbes celebrated the undisputed Goliath in mobile communications. On the magazine's cover was a picture of a confident CEO holding one of his company's telephones to his ear. The headline was just as cocky: "Nokia. One Billion Customers — Can Anyone Catch The Cell Phone King?"
A chorus of critics has been sounding alarums lately about the monopoly power of Big Tech corporations like Google, demanding that the federal government bring antitrust prosecutions to clip their wings or split them into smaller firms. These latter-day trustbusters claim that Google uses its outsize market power to stifle competitors and suppress innovation, that it jiggers its search algorithms to boost its own products over its rivals', and that its staggering dominance has rendered it too big to be tamed through the normal resiliency of the market.
But the notion that government intervention is needed to cut Google down to size is utterly misguided. . . .