Last week, the Obama administration declared a sharp break with the Bush years, vowing to toughen antitrust enforcement, especially for dominant companies. The approach is closer to that of the European Union, where regulators last week fined Intel $1.45 billion for abusing its power in the chip market.
In this new climate, the stakes appear to be highest for Google, the rising power of the Internet economy.
The new antitrust leadership, legal experts say, is likely to scrutinize networks — technology platforms that become so dominant that everyone feels the need to plug into them. The advantages to the companies that control such networks snowball as they attract more users, advertisers or software developers. Internet search and search advertising, like personal computer operating software, is one example, said Herbert Hovenkamp, an antitrust expert at the University of Iowa law school. “Google is a dominant network, as is Microsoft,” Mr. Hovenkamp said. “Networks become competitive only if everyone has the same chance.”