Monday Grok: Google, Firefox and antitrust

OK, so our facts were wrong, but the truthiness remains.

Remember when we told you last year that Google was about to kill Firefox. Well in case you weren't paying attention - and for the record - Grok got that horribly, horribly wrong. You may recall before Christmas the column about contract renewal delays with the Google/Mozilla bundling deal. At the time we noted speculation - which we foolishly absorbed - that Google was about to zip the contract and pretty much put paid to Mozilla as a serious concern since the old deal represented to bulk of its $123 million in revenues last year.

The argument was that Google, with its aspirations to dominate the browser market, and having already over taken Firefox through competitive practice was about the pull the cord on the life support.

Contrary to our suggestion, however, anarchy's favorite browser company actually gave Google a royal corn holing. Mozilla extracted almost a billion bucks over three years, and despite its declining fortunes in the browser market, it has now massively inflated the value of its business and put off its moment of truth for another three years. The deal was announced on around about the seventh day of Christmas, so the lyrics to that old carol might need a makeover.

So might Grok's usually robust skepticism.

As a commenter on this site noted at the time about Grok's faulty logic, "So Opera has reliably been paid for its insignificant market share for *years*, but Google is going to walk away from 25-30% of internet traffic?" Of course, he then went on to describe your humble grokker as "a mentally disabled chimpanzee high on weed", which was perhaps over-engineering the argument just a little bit.

In Grok's defense, sometimes even when you are horribly, horribly wrong, you still end up horribly right. That's the joy of blogging. While we got the facts wrong (oh so wrong!) it turns out there's a gathering body of opinion that supports the essential truthiness of the argument that Google is skating on thin antitrust ice.

In December we wrote that if Google was to crush Mozilla they would be inviting all manner of antitrust scrutiny. Now it's seems that by Google doing quite the opposite and writing Mozilla a cheque for $1 billion dollars, they might actually invite the same regulatory outcome, according to Forbes.

Forbes contributor Scott Cleland writes writes a lengthy and detailed piece under the heading "Google Firefox Deal is antitrust red meat". To try to describe the article would not do it justice, so if you're interested go take a look. If however, you were born after 1981 and think you can learn everything you need to know about anything from a brief synopsis, then here's a stab at it in Cleland's on words: " Google does not want the DOJ/FTC/EU looking too deeply into how Google systematically leverages its search dominance to advantage its Chrome browser business and its Chrome browser to reinforce its dominant search/search-advertising business."

Andrew Birmingham is the CEO of Silicon Gully Investments. He will be more skeptical in future. Promise. Follow him on Twitter @ag_birmingham.

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