Google LogoYou think Google’s search engine is great. Gmail is easy to use. YouTube gives you instant access to funny pictures of dogs and music videos. And Google maps helps you find where you are and the nearest pizza place. And it’s all free.

So you’re a happy customer and don’t understand why anyone would think antitrust action is needed against Google. Or why government officials from Europe to the U.S. Congress and, just last week, U.S. state governments are bringing antitrust investigations against Google.

Except remember — it’s free! Google doesn’t make a dime of profit from you, so you aren’t the customer. In fact, all those cool products are just bait to get your information in the Google ecosystem so your attention and eyeballs can be sold to Google’s advertisers.

The pleasant experience of using Google products is little different (in any economic analysis) from the pleasant massage administered to Kobe beef cattle in Japan; each is just a tool to increase the quality of the product delivered up to the real customers.

What is Google’s Market in a Web 2.0 World? So here’s the key place to start in understanding proper technology policy for Google: there is no market for search engines; there is no market for online geolocation mapping software; there is no market for online video.

Google, by making these products free, has destroyed those markets in favor of an alternative economic model of selling individual attention and precise information about those users to advertisers. You are the product, not the customer. That market between Google and its advertisers is where antitrust authorities ultimately have to look to understand what public policy is needed.

[Continue at HuffPo]

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