Google chairman Eric Schmidt yesterday defended the company's practices to a Senate anti-trust panel, but admitted it was a near-monopoly.
When committee chairman Senator Herb Kohl asked Schmidt whether he felt that Google constituted a monopoly or had a particularly dominant power in the market, Schmidt replied: "I would agree, sir, that we’re in that area".
Google argues that companies like Yelp, Expedia and Nextag are simply aggrieved that they're not appearing at the top. "We've not cooked anything," Schmidt said.
At the hearing, he was also quizzed on everything from whether the company uses its market dominance to undercut competition in mobile apps to whether it had knowingly helped illegal online pharmacies buy ads.
"In examining these issues, we recognize the incredible technological achievements of Google and the need to avoid stifling its creative energy. At the same time, we need to be mindful of the hundreds of thousands of businesses that depend on Google to grow and prosper," commented Senator Kohl.
"We also need to recognize that, as the dominant firm in internet search, Google has special obligations under antitrust law to not deploy its market power to squelch competition."
There were numerous references to the 1998 investigation into Microsoft on similar grounds. Schmidt said that Google had 'learned from the mistakes' of that era.
Like that case, though - which only closed this May - this one could take a very long time.