How Google Abuses Its Market Power

Just one example of many: With a simple technical change, Google wants to make all browser extensions unusable that hinder its advertising business.


Björn GreifEditor

50 years after the beginnings of the Internet, more than half of the world’s population is online today. But how 4 billion people worldwide access information on the web is mainly determined by US corporations like Google. The monopolist in the browser and search engine segment is using its market power “to prevent competition and block innovation”, says Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner for Competition. In this post and future articles, we will give concrete examples for that.

One of many examples are the technical changes to Chrome and all Chromium-based browsers announced under the title Manifest V3. Google’s proposed interface modifications would virtually kill off third-party ad blocker and privacy tools – to the disadvantage of all users.

Google’s Arguments Are Not Valid

Google is justifying the changes by saying it wants to improve privacy and browser performance. However, both arguments were invalidated by Cliqz studies: neither do current ad blocker extensions noticeably slow down browser performance, nor do the planned interface modifications improve privacy.

On the contrary: In fact, the proposed changes reduce privacy by severely hindering the operation of privacy extensions like Privacy Badger or Ghostery. In the case of Ghostery, they would result in slower performance, less configuration options, more site breakage, and less privacy.

Changes Will Prevent Competition and Innovation

In the end, users would be left with only very limited ways to prevent third parties from intercepting their browsing behavior, to protect their privacy, and to get rid of unwanted content. It would no longer be possible to provide any substantial added value over Google’s built-in technology, which of course doesn’t block Google’s ads and trackers. Competition would be destroyed. Innovation would cease to exist, and Google’s own ad blocker implemented in Chrome might get a competitive advantage.

Despite massive criticism from extension developers, the Internet giant obviously wants to push through the planned interface modifications with might and main. Whether Google does this to protect their advertising business or simply to force its own rules on everyone else, it would be nothing less than another case of misuse of its market-dominating position.

We Need More Independent Alternatives

As the example of Manifest V3 shows, Google has the power to destroy an entire industrial sector with a simple technical modification. This is only possible because there are almost no independent alternatives. Most browsers use the Chromium code base (e.g., Brave, Opera, Vivaldi, Edge) or Google as their default search engine (e.g., Firefox, Safari) and are financed by Google advertising. And Google has concluded a non-aggression pact with their only halfway serious competitor Microsoft/Bing.

As long as the balance of power doesn’t change, US companies like Google will determine what the Internet of the future will look like. It’s high time we put a stop to Silicon Valley companies and restore a fair competitive environment. This is the only way to prevent Big Tech from capturing more and more key technologies and sealing off the markets of the future today. Europe needs an independent digital infrastructure as the foundation for a sovereign future in which our values and rules apply.