Google, Vertical Integration, and Beer
First, Google had the audacity to include a map in search queries suggesting a user wanted a map. Consumers liked it. Then came video. Then, they came for the beer:
Google’s first attempt at brewing has resulted in a beer that taps ingredients from all across the globe. They teamed up with Delaware craft brewery Dogfish Head to make “URKontinent,” a Belgian Dubbel style beer with flavors from five different continents.
No word yet from the Google’s antitrust-wielding critics whether integration into beer will exclude rivals who vertical search engines who, without access to the beer, have no chance to compete. Yes, there are specialized beer search sites if you must know (or local beer search). Or small breweries who, because of Google’s market share in search, cannot compete against Dogfish Head’s newest product. But before we start the new antitrust investigation, Google has offered some new facts to clarify matters:
Similarly, the project with Dogfish Head brewery was a Googler-driven project organized by a group of craftbrewery aficionados across the company. While our Googlers had fun advising on the creation of a beer recipe, we aren’t receiving any proceeds from the sale of the beer and we have no plans to enter the beer business.
Whew. What a relief. But, I’m sure the critics will be watching just in case to see if Dogfish Head jumps in the search rankings. Donating time and energy to the creation of beer is really just a gateway to more serious exclusionary conduct, right? And Section 5 of the FTC Act applies to incipient conduct in the beer market, clearly. Or did the DOJ get beer-related Google activities in the clearance arrangement between the agencies?