Breaking Google Into Pieces

The U.S. Department of Justice is about to bring an antitrust action against Google, the search division of Alphabet. Truth be told, Alphabet would not exist without Google, given the size of search operations and profits. Google could be separated into parts to counter the Justice Department. Or the Justice Department could move to break up Google up via the courts.

A report by Bloomberg points out that the Justice Department believes Google controls too much of the online ad market. This is due to Google’s ad revenue and systems that buy online ads for other companies. Google has about 30% of the online ad market. That is followed by faltering Facebook at just below 25% and Amazon at 12%. That means all other online ad support properties own less than a third of the market. (Click here for the companies that control over 50% of their industries.)

Google’s business could be divided into three pieces. Google’s ad revenue was $61.4 billion in the most recent quarter. Of this, $39.4 billion came from Google search, $7.1 billion from YouTube and $7.8 from Google’s network.

The first move to take away Google’s dominance would be to spin out YouTube, which dominates the online video ad market. That would remove one of the two huge Google in-house ad businesses. YouTube would need to stand on its own without the support structure of the parent.

The next move would be to separate Google’s systems used to buy, sell and serve online advertising. Much of this runs through Google’s Ad Manager, which runs AdSense, Ad Exchange, third-party networks and third-party exchanges.

The idea that Google could be broken into pieces seems impossible. It is not. The Justice Department’s action led to the breakup of AT&T in 1982. In 2000, the same thing almost happened to Microsoft.

Google may have a tough fight with the Justice Department, and there is no guarantee it will dodge a court’s ability to dismantle it.

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