Google has been in hot water with government authorities time and time again, most recently when it comes to its acquisition of Fitbit in the EU. Now it looks like Google might have more tough times ahead in its home territory as the US Justice Department is reportedly considering forcing Google to sell the Chrome browser along with parts of its advertising business.
Chrome is the dominant browser right now, used by over 65% of people around the world. This, combined with Google's gigantic ad business, could be cause for concern, as it allows the company to “effectively set standards for the industry,” according to an antitrust report released by the House Judiciary Committee.
In the investigation, the DOJ and state attorneys are hearing from Google's competitors and other third parties about their views on what businesses Google should be forced to sell, if any. There are also talks about whether existing competitors should be prohibited from participating in a potential Chrome sale, as that could just shift the arguably unfair advantage whether than ending it.
The news comes as the Justice Department and state prosecutors prepare for an antitrust legal battle against Google. Separating Chrome from Google wouldn't be the end of the world, as the open-source Chromium browser it's based on has plenty of other companies invested in its success. What still remains to be seen is how a decoupling could impact the Google experience within Chrome — with all the account syncing, browser add-ons, and more on the line.
While the DOJ hasn't officially announced that it will try to force a sale, multiple people have confirmed that it is being discussed internally as a way to limit Google's market power as the antitrust lawsuit moves forward. If this is the path regulators choose to take, it could make history as the first court-ordered break-up of a US company in decades. Maybe Microsoft can buy Chrome and rename it Internet Explorer? 😏