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Matthew Webster: Digital Life

Regulars | By Matthew Webster | September Issue

Engine troubles

At an Oldie literary lunch, you will never go short of a firmly expressed, educated opinion. Two of the many charming subscribers at my last lunch told me that Google is too powerful and needs its wings clipping. They were swayed, I think, by the astonishing size of its bank balance ($172bn – £132bn; at least twenty European countries have a smaller GDP) and the recent fine of almost $3bn (£2.3bn) imposed by the European Commission for ‘abusing [its] dominance... by giving illegal advantage to its own comparison shopping service’. I found myself defending Google, pompously saying that penalising success is a barrier to innovation. Having thought about it, I’m not so sure. You may not even know how it is that Google has managed to upset Brussels so much; I’ll demonstrate. Search Google for something, anything, pre xed by the word ‘buy’. Perhaps ‘buy brogues’ or ‘buy The Oldie’...

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