Don't call Google's search business a monopoly, the company's executives have reminded us.
Unfortunately, we're running out of other ways to describe it. Researchers at Hitwise released new data Monday indicating that Google in July topped a 70 percent share of U.S. Web searches (70.77 percent to be exact). That's up 10 percent from the same month a year ago and 2 percent from the previous month. Yahoo search was second at 18.65 percent, MSN search was third at 5.36 percent, and Ask.com came in fourth at 3.53 percent.
At 70 percent, Google is joining a club of tech giants that really know how to dominate a market, including Cisco Systems in routers, Intel in chips, and Microsoft in a whole bunch of stuff.
Now before I get e-mails from Google's lawyers, let's add these caveats: There's probably no magic number at which trustbusters decide a company must be brought to heel. But with increasing dominance, comes increasing scrutiny by folks in Washington.
A few weeks ago, my colleague Charles Cooper discussed the "M" issue with Google's general counsel, Kent Walker, and Dana Wagner, the company's U.S. competition counsel. Their take, not surprisingly, is that it's inappropriate to compare Google's search dominance to IBM's mainframe business in the 1960s or Microsoft in the 1990s.
"The nature of the Internet is just a fundamentally different world from the sale of packaged software or the bundling of software with OEMs (original equipment manufacturers)," Walker said. (It's a terrific audio interview that's worth listening.) "The standard line we have is that competition is just one click away."
Maybe so. But that competition is starting to look mighty small by comparison.