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> not even pretending to support consumer choice

By my way of thinking, your choice of language (not because of you, the person, but of how the words have become ingrained) is indicative of the problem: "consumer" versus "customer." We consume what the various companies choose to offer to us in the way they offer it. We are not treated as customers, valued or otherwise, in a competitive landscape. There exists a one-way flow, from the company doing the advertising to our eyeballs to consume it.

Look at the businesses people claim to like: local shops, service providers like Fastmail, and the like. In those cases the people giving them money are treated as customers who have other choices and who have made the voluntary choice to continue to associate with that business.

That's what is missing. Customer instead of consumer.

When someone raises this concern, I ask who hosts their personal email. 30-50% use a legacy free Google Apps account or Gmail. When I ask why, it's a variation on "because FastMail costs ~$40/year."

Of the rest, more than half host their own MX. While that's totally reasonable, it means the percentage of people willing to pay just $3/month to be a customer is even smaller than it seems. And $40/year is the cheapest that one could ever hope "being a customer" would cost.

So, lots of people say they want to be customers, but even when doing so is close to free, very few actually do.

(Nothing wrong with using Google because it's free, only while concurrently claiming to want to be a customer. I agree with your point and I'm a happy FastMail customer. I'm amazed FastMail can make a profit at $40 and it's a huge credit to them that they can.)

I wonder, if we were proper customers of Facebook and paid them to transport our messages, whether it would open the possibility of a Ma Bell-style antitrust lawsuit. Force interconnectivity to allow the little guys to play too.

WhatsApp is paid (after a year), but it doesn't help with supporting any open IM standard.

Yeah, I've never understood this. I've seen it now-and-then when installing WA for family members, but I (and they) have never, ever had to pay for it after using it for multiple years.

It's free since Facebook bought them. I've had Android friends mention payment screens are still on their WhatsApp though.

It was free before Facebook brought them too. It just nagged people to pay once a year, but if one didn't pay, it just kept working.

s/Customer/Citizen/ and you've hit on a large portion of the problem with representative democracy.

What about Comcast? What about airlines?

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