Google might be forced to sell its Chrome browser

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The move would be part of an antitrust legal battle that DOJ is expected to begin in the coming weeks.

The US Justice Department are considering whether to force the company to sell its dominant Chrome browser and parts of its lucrative advertising business. So reports the news outlet Politico in a story published on Saturday. They claim that three people with knowledge of the discussions have confirmed that the forced sale is on the table.

The DOJ and and several state prosecutors are investigating Google for alleged antitrust violations, and rumours of a move to address tech giant market power by “breaking them up” have been swirling for some time.

The giant gorilla of the browser world

Google introduced Chrome in 2008 and the browser now has the largest market share in the U.S. Chrome has also figured prominently in the accusations coming from Google’s competitors. They claim that Google uses the browser’s access to users’ web histories to aid its advertising business.

The forced sale of Chrome would represent the first such court-ordered breakup of a US company in decades. It would also pose a major setback for Google, which does in fact rely on its control of Chrome to aid the search engine that is the key to its fortunes.

Indeed, the global market for online digital advertising is now worth $162.3 billion, and a recent U.K. study showed that giants like Google could be sucking up 42% of that turnover.

Google faces antitrust battles around the world

Google is facing the threat forced sales on both sides of the Atlantic. The EU, for example, has introduced a new version of its Digital Services Act (DSA). EC Commissioner Thierry Breton has said the Act gives the European Commission “the power to impose structural separation.”

China is also preparing to launch an antitrust probe into Google. Many see the move as retaliation for the Trump Administration’s treatment of Huawei.

Google has so far declined to comment on these latest rumours. But in a September blog post Sissie Hsiao, the company’s VP of product management, defended the search giant’s market practices.

“To suggest that the ad tech sector is lacking competition is simply not true,” said Hsiao. “Competition is flourishing, and publishers and marketers have enormous choice.”

Politico’s report notes that discussions about how to resolve Google’s dominance are “ongoing” and that no final decisions have yet been made.