The EU’s European Commission has hit Google with an eye-watering €4.3 billion (around £3.8 billion) fine over what it claims are unfair business practices.
The fine is primarily the result of three practices that have been deemed to be anti-competitive (via the BBC). Firstly, Google requires Android manufacturers to use its search by default and to pre-install the Chrome browser if they want access to the Play app store.
Secondly, although Android is open source, manufacturers are prevented from selling devices powered by software based on its source code.
Finally, Google is alleged to give device manufacturers financial incentives to exclusively offer its own search.
Google has said that it does not require device manufacturers to pre-load its apps, and that pre-loading Google Search is what allows it to offer free services. It may challenge the ruling.
There are similarities here to a ruling Microsoft faced in 2009 when the EU forced the company to offer its users a choice of browsers on Windows 7. Google may face a similar fate as a result of this ruling.
Google has found itself in trouble with the European Commission before. In 2016, it was ordered to stop incentivising manufacturers to exclusively offer Google Search, and the following year it was fined $2.7 billion for prioritising its own shopping service in search results.
Of course, manufacturers are free to not install Google’s apps if they so choose, but doing so means that they won’t be able to offer the Google Play store on their devices, which would make them almost useless to users.
Control the ecosystem, control the market
Of course, the big difference between Microsoft and Google’s positions is that Chrome is actually a good browser in addition to being the default on Android. Meanwhile, Internet Explorer was horribly outdated by 2009, as the likes of Firefox and then Chrome ushered in the modern web-browsing experience.
As a result, it’s difficult to see how many people would choose an alternative browser if they were given the option. While Firefox’s latest version makes big promises about privacy and speed, most people won’t feel lacking if they choose Chrome, short of making a point about browser competition.
Still, it’s hard to argue that Google’s de facto monopoly is a good thing in the long run. Although the company still (largely) produces good products and services, its dominant position has given it considerable control over our everyday lives.
A browser choice might seem like a small thing, but when the browser is your portal to your entire internet existence it takes on a much bigger significance.
Do you think Google should be forced to offer you more of a choice of browser on Android? Let us know @TrustedReviews.