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In antitrust trial, former Google employee details history of search deals

The Justice Department used its first full day of questioning This is an antitrust trial against Google on Wednesday to establish that the Internet giant had long been seeking the agreement to become the default search engine on mobile devices, which the government argues could be used to illegally limit the company’s grip on online searches. Was done to maintain.

Google responded by highlighting evidence that the companies that signed those agreements – including smartphone makers, browser developers and wireless carriers – did so in part because its search product was better.

Chris Barton, a former Google employee who testified Wednesday, said the company was primarily willing to pay mobile companies to become their exclusive default search engine. “That’s the primary goal of the partnership,” he said of the agreements.

The testimony came as the federal government’s first antitrust trial of the modern Internet era began Tuesday. The Justice Department and a group of 38 states and territories have accused Google of illegally ousting competitors and monopolizing online search by using billion-dollar contracts with companies like Apple and Samsung as the default search engine on smartphones. is charged.

Google has argued that its success in online search was the result of having a better product, not default agreements. In an opening statement Tuesday, Google’s lawyer said it is easy for people to change their search engine and that smartphone and browser makers also promote other search engines.

Any decision in the trial, which is scheduled to last 10 weeks, could have wide-ranging implications for the technology industry that has defined communication, culture and the search for information online. A government victory could limit Google, a $1.7 trillion company, and put other tech giants on notice.

The case is likely to be the first of many government monopoly trials against the biggest tech companies. The Justice Department has filed a second lawsuit against Google, arguing that it abused its monopoly on ad technology, and the Federal Trade Commission is pursuing a case claiming that Meta copied Instagram and WhatsApp. By purchasing it, the nascent competitors have been ousted.

On Wednesday, the Justice Department began the day in court by questioning Mr. Barton, who worked at Google to create settlements with mobile companies. He was asked how Google’s early agreements with telecom providers and smartphone manufacturers prioritized exclusivity as the default search engine on mobile devices.

Mr. Barton’s job, he said, was to meet with executives from telecommunications and smartphone makers, persuade them to sign agreements to distribute Google Search, and see those agreements through to a final contract. The goal, he said, was to “maximize the opportunity” for users to discover Google and start using it regularly.

Google also paid a share of its revenues to certain mobile phone manufacturers and telecommunications carriers as part of the agreement. Mr. Barton said “the main thing” is to determine whether another company would have agreed to make Google its default search engine exclusively if it had been paid.

Google’s lead petitioner, John Schmidlein, used his questions to suggest that the quality of the company’s search engine was important to those who signed search distribution agreements.

In a 2009 email, Mr. Barton speculated to a colleague that T-Mobile might consider changing its default search engine to Google because of Google’s strong brand, among other factors. Mr. Barton also told Mr. Schmidlein that while he led other companies, he focused on Google’s “better product” and “better monetization.”

The Justice Department then called Google’s chief economist Hal Varian, who testified Tuesday about the power of being the default search engine and how Google views its position in the marketplace.

The trial is expected to last until November and will include testimony from executives from Google, Apple and other companies. Some testimony is likely to be sealed to the public because it involves information that businesses consider confidential. A portion of the evidence displayed in the court has also been redacted.

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