NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Google ( GOOG) is the Microsoft ( MSFT) of our time -- dominant, potentially self-serving and increasingly probed by the authorities. But unlike Microsoft, Google has not yet been found to be abusing its monopoly power in the Internet search industry the way Microsoft Windows lorded over the PC industry for years. At least not yet.
Google said Friday that it is the subject of an antitrust investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, a development reported by The Wall Street Journal Thursday. The news comes as attorneys generals from California, New York, Ohio and Texas have started inquiries into Google's search business, according to the Financial Times. This isn't the first time Google's come under scrutiny for its search dominance -- the European Union launched a probe last year. But one key element that stands out in this assembly of investigators is the presence of California's Attorney General's office. While relatively successful in areas of fraud and abuse like the $8.6 billion settlement it made against Countrywide Financial for deceptive mortgage practices, California has hardly been a watchdog in the area of corporate antitrust issues. "I guess California doesn't want to look like its being left out when Texas and two or three other states are looking at doing the same thing," said Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of blog SearchEngineLand. The state and federal authorities are trying to determine if Google uses its sway in the industry to manipulate search results and possibly favor its own sites over competitors. The moves come at a time when Google continues to hold more than a two-thirds share of the Net search market, despite Microsoft's revamped Bing effort. Google said it was cooperating with the FTC. The company also explained on its blog Friday that its objective has remained the same for 13 years. Google sais it provides users: "Instant answers. New sources of knowledge. Powerful tools -- all for free." The fact that Google is now in the crosshairs of international, federal and now state enforcement agencies suggests this will be a burdensome battle for years to come.
"I think the stakes are getting higher for Google with all the piling-on," said Sullivan. Google investors who have seen Microsoft's long and punishing antitrust battleground might be feeling a little queasy about the sudden investigative onslaught on Google. In afternoon trading Friday, Google shares were down 1.32% to $473.91. --Written by Scott Moritz in New York.>To contact this writer, click here: Scott Moritz, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.To follow Scott on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/TheStreet_Tech.>To send a tip, email: email@example.com.