re: Google Escapes Antitrust Shackles
Anti-trust law is a very tricky domain. The rules for determining if a market has been harmed start with the definition of the market and then a test to see if the so-called monopolist controls or monopolizes the market. For example, when Microsoft was put to the test (and I'm not talking about the charges brought against Microsoft, but rather, just the test of whether it monopolized a market or not, which by itself is not a crime), the market was defined as "Intel-based PC operating systems." Had "Intel" been left out, Microsoft might not have passed the test because there were other operating systems on the market at the time that ran on non-Intel hardware (eg: Apple's Mac OS). But the trust-busters narrowly defined the market in a way that Microsoft passed the test and was declared a monopolist. Some would say the market was conveniently defined so as to make sure Microsoft was declared a monopolist. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. This is why anti-trust law has a lot of grey area.
Once it is established that a company is a monopolist, then comes the next set of tests which are to determine if the monopolist abused that power. Whereas monopolizing a market is not a crime, abusing or maintaining the monopoly position violates antitrust law and this is where the harm comes in. The question isn't whether Google has a monopoly or not (or whether other companies like Microsoft are free to compete with Google). Most search logs would support that Google does monopolize the search market. The question is whether Google is illegally maintaining the monopoly or trying to build another one on the back of the first to the detriment of would-be competitors. For example, requiring integration with Google+ in order to achieve a favorable search ranking could be viewed as an attempt to leverage Google's monopoly in search to harm other social networks. That could be an example of where Google is abusing its monopoly in search.... if it is so-deemed to have one.
Lots of questions.