The U.S. Department of Justice is planning to sue Google very soon for (allegedly) abusing its control over the search market. While antitrust suit preparations are still ongoing, state prosecutors are already mulling what parts of the company they’d like to break up if the courts rule in their favor, and according to a report from Politico, one of the biggest candidates is the Chrome browser.
With a market share of over 66 percent, Chrome seems like an obvious target for the Feds, but the DOJ and state attorneys general have reportedly been urged by numerous third parties (e.g., advertising technology experts, industry rivals, and media publishers) to single out the world’s most popular browser for disbandment.
One of the key factors is that Chrome is popular enough to set standards that could harm other businesses. These include third-party cookies, which Google is abolishing for privacy reasons – a noble gesture, but one that will damage the publishing industry.
“Google’s own estimates show that eliminating those cookies will reduce advertising revenue to news outlets that show online ads by as much as 62 percent,” Politico noted.
That’s less of an issue for Google, though, since it has plenty of other ways to gather user data.
“Google’s ad-based business model can prompt questions about whether the standards Google chooses to introduce are ultimately designed primarily to serve Google’s interests,” the House report said. “Market participants are concerned that while Google phases out third-party cookies needed by other digital advertising companies, Google can still rely on data collected throughout its ecosystem.”
As of September 2020, Google Chrome’s user base has grown to 66.3 percent based on statistics from Statcounter. Apple’s Safari trails far behind at 16.76 percent, while Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge are a relative blip at 4.08 percent and 2.61 percent, respectively.