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Are Google, Amazon and others getting too big? (bbc.com)
249 points by happy-go-lucky on June 10, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 333 comments



I agree they should be regulated. The world is a better place with lots of smaller companies.

These big companies turn regular people into corporate livestock to serve the wealthy.

If you were to analyze Facebook as if it were a country, the wealth gap among employees would be atrocious - The top 1% would own maybe 99% of the wealth of the country and everyone else would earn a minuscule fraction of the total value that they produced.

If we let monopolies take over, then the economy of the world will start to mirror the economies within these large corporations.

What's worse is that the social aspects will also be mirrored. We will gradually lose freedom of speech, in the same way that employees of large corporations don't have the freedom to say what they really think to their bosses.

Many who have worked for a big corporation will know how suppressing the environment can be. I'm really glad that I live in a time when there are still alternatives.


Disclaimer: I work at Google

> The world is a better place with lots of smaller companies.

[citation needed]

A lot of things Google does -- a lot of the things people actually like about Google -- are possible only because it's a huge monolith. Divorce the ad-making money machine, and say goodbye to all the services consumers like that are nowhere near as profitable: gmail, maps, photos, chrome, android, translate, youtube, drive, waze, where do you think the money for this stuff all comes from?

Of course, if you're one of the uber technerds that thinks that Google is unabashedly evil and Linux is going to take over the desktop any day now, that probably sounds great to you. I just think the average consumer would have a different take on it.


> Divorce the ad-making money machine, and say goodbye to all the services consumers like that are nowhere near as profitable: gmail, maps, photos, chrome, android, translate, youtube, drive, waze, where do you think the money for this stuff all comes from?

This needs a citation, as well.

This is assuming Google hasn't starved out potential competitors who would have provided the same service, or better service, had the playing field been more level.

My unsubstantiated opinion is that many talented folks are/have been dissuaded from trying their hand at anything that may go up against Google, et. al., unless their looking for an aquihire. (And we know how Google treats those after a few years.)

And there's another argument to be made: that Google's habit of purchasing competition stifles the innovation since it's nipping it in the bud.

(I majored in Econ in uni.)


"This is assuming Google hasn't starved out potential competitors who would have provided the same service, or better service, had the playing field been more level."

There are alternatives to many of these already.

Firefox (and other browsers) for Chrome, Openstreetmap for maps. Vimeo for youtube. Flickr for photos. Dropbox for drive. Never heard of waze, so don't know what's an alternative for that, but I would be surprised if there wasn't one.

I'm also of a rare breed who thinks Android is total an utter garbage compared to Palm OS, and much prefer the latter. I wish Google and Apple had never gotten in to the phone business. It's been an utter nightmare of spyware and bloatware ever since.

I personally would not miss any of these products execept for youtube, and that only because of the content which is provided by users, not by Google. That content could be moved to another platform, and I'm sure if Google disappeared entirely and permanently tomorrow, just as good or better a storehouse of video content would be rebuilt to replace it.


Waze is basically Google maps with a Skinner Box on top to make you contribute data to it for points and gold stars.

Since Google bought them, they canibalized the crowdsourced data for Maps anyway, and have never updated the Waze UI so it looks like a Fisher Price toy today. There is really no reason to use it over Google Maps.


I don't know about Google maps in the US but in Europe it doesn't warn of dangers on the road (cars on the side of the road, blocked roads, etc.). Waze do.


It warns about police checkpoints as well.


It also has better community mapping as of a few years ago. Everyone in Costa Rica uses it because some of the roads just aren't on GMaps. Also works better with e.g. Road closures due to trees falling in the jungle (and because everyone uses it).


Skyrocketing acquisitions by big companies also justify half VC economy (the other half being AirBnb-style dominance over a sector). It would be interesting to know, if the exit events were smaller, whether the seed/VC capital eould redirect to more conservative positions like old industries or emerging markets.


Or you could see a bunch more smaller companies that still make acquisitions, and a whole lot of smaller IPOs that return a decent profit.


Congrats on your degree in econ. You would think that someone with a degree in econ would believe it wise to first establish what the negative externalities are and what externalities regulating away the existence of large business would produce before defending the idea of doing so.

We already know that with the existence of Google we get free products like search, mail, video, etc. Do you have evidence that when we destroy google that we will still retain all of these benefits?


Even if we assume that allowing Google to exist as a monopoly does bring better services, that's a small price to pay for not having to be subjugated by a conglomerate.

Countries can already barely withstand pressure from big companies, by allowing them grow even further everything would just turn in a way that would allow such companies to make even more money, whilst increasing the gap between the rich and the poor.

And with regards to better services, I think the open source community has shown us that it's possible to make great services without having to work for a company. In many cases even better services because the prime objective is to make a program that would help the user, not make money for the company.


> Even if we assume that allowing Google to exist as a monopoly does bring better services

How is google even a monopoly? Bing exists, yahoo still exists. In Asia Google isn't even the most popular search engine.

Want me to show you how google is not a monopoly? A company with monopoly power would be able to raise the price of its service to the price the market can bear. If google put search behind a pay wall, Bing would destroy it in market share.

> that's a small price to pay for not having to be subjugated by a conglomerate.

So now you are not using economic arguments but appealing to emotion.

I just need to point this out

First you felt the need to off hand mention your (clearly undergraduate) degree in economics which had absolutely zero relevance to the discussion.

Secondly, you are using appeals to emotion without any basis in fact. "Google is an extremely successful company and we use them in so many things! They must be evil!"

Try using evidence. I'm not going to argue against your fear mongering only point out that like almost all fear mongering, it is not based on fact.

> Countries can already barely withstand pressure from big companies

There is absolutely zero evidence of this. None of your arguments are based on evidence. The US just fined Volkswagen billions of dollars. The EU is ready to fine Google billions of dollars. Apple paid japan hundreds millions of dollars in fines. All the banks responsible for the financial crisis in America and the EU paid hundreds of billions

> In many cases even better services because the prime objective is to make a program that would help the user, not make money for the company.

Again you have no evidence of this. If smaller businesses were able to provide better services people would be using dedicated email providers, not gmail. They would be using flickr instead of google and apple photos.


> First you felt the need to off hand mention your (clearly undergraduate) degree in economics which had absolutely zero relevance to the discussion.

That was a different person.

>There is absolutely zero evidence of this. None of your arguments are based on evidence. The US just fined Volkswagen billions of dollars. The EU is ready to fine Google billions of dollars. Apple paid japan hundreds millions of dollars in fines. All the banks responsible for the financial crisis in America and the EU paid hundreds of billions

Precisely, EU, USA and China(ones that I know, there might be more) are the ones who can actually fight back from the pressure. Once they're able to pay enough politicians even more to coax them into bringing laws that help them further, we won't even have that(like that hasn't happened before).

Additionally, you need to consider if the fines are actually painful enough. Sure, sometimes it's enough to make them stop doing offences, but sometimes the companies are left with a net profit from illegal actions.

> Again you have no evidence of this. If smaller businesses were able to provide better services people would be using dedicated email providers, not gmail. They would be using flickr instead of google and apple photos.

Look up Linux. Whilst big companies did have a hand in making it, it's still driven a lot by the community. Compare how Linux performs against Windows(fast, no intentional backdoors, free, almost limitless customisability) and MacOS(no upgrades that make your completely fine hardware useless in 3-4 years after purchase).

I neither use flickr not google/apple photos so can't judge the discrepancy in quality. But I do a lot of messengers, text editors, email clients and so on, and they're completely fine. You need to consider that perhaps people are using them because they didn't bother to look up alternatives and just went with what the company offered them because "hey! it's 'free'! and it's right here."

You seem to be giving off some belligerent vibes, so I'm not going to argue much further, all I'm asking is that you consider that companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft and so on are not in the business of making people happy, but in the business of making money. And if that means the best path to that is to manipulate governments and try to control every aspect of people's lives for their own profit - they'll do it. If you break them apart you give them much less power to do that.


A pattern I notice on this site, and reddit: that it's far easier to ask left-and-right for evidence than it is producing your own or going on a limb to make a point in your own words. Is open discussion discouraged on HN?

Now, I don't provide a lot of hard evidence on HN, if only because this probably isn't the right type of forum for a courtroom. I like to keep it a bit more casual.


> A company with monopoly power would be able to raise the price of its service to the price the market can bear.

The 30% share Google takes from sales of Android applications is completely arbitrary and they could probably even increase it further without suffering any consequences beyond negative PR.


So then under this definition, apple is also a monopoly, as is pretty much any walled garden app store company (ie. Valve, arguably Amazon, Microsoft, and any other company with a platform that allows third parties to use that platform for a cut)?

To be clear, in the US, there is at least one major competitor to Google in that space (Apple), so a price increase would lead developers to leave the platform. And in much of the rest of the world, sideloading APKs is a very, very common way of installing, so google taking 50% or 99% would lead to more third party app stores (note some of these already exist) and users sideloading APKs without Google taking any cut whatsoever.


Apple isn't actually much of a competitor where it matters: OEMs only have one choice which OS to license, which is why without major government trustbusting action, dozens of manufacturers have no choice but to build Android phones.

Google has no competition in this space, and any company that tried to break from them would go under.


That's a different conversation (hardware licensing vs. app store). Also I'm curious, I see you posting pretty often, and about 80% of your comments are anti-Google specifically, is there a reason for that?


First of all, you need to acknowledge the vertical integration. Google has a lock on manufacturers, who have no option put to license Android, and as a requirement of that, must include the Play Store, where Google has a complete monopoly on all devices in that market.

Second, I wanted to address the accusatory notion of the back half of your comment, and point out the hypocrisy of Googler coming in here and suggesting others have ulterior motives for their comments.

- I do not work for nor am paid for any company with skin in this game. My opinions are very literally my own. I speak a lot about Google because a lot of people disproportionately speak positively about Google even though they should not.

- You are paid by a company being directly suggested to be destroyed/broken up, in this article. As Upton Sinclair once said: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”


>First of all, you need to acknowledge the vertical integration. Google has a lock on manufacturers, who have no option put to license Android, and as a requirement of that, must include the Play Store,

You mean like the Kindle Fire, which runs a custom version of AOSP and doesn't include the play store? You have it backwards. If manufacturers want to access to the play store on device, they need to meet minimum standards, not the other way.

But again, that's beside the point. No matter what, there's less vertical integration on the android side of things than on the Apple side of things, which has no alternate play stores, and which requires you to pay apple to be able to sideload apps.

And even that's mostly beside the point, because what we're talking about is a cut being taken from purchases of paid apps on the play store. That has nothing to do with devices at all. And what I said is true, if the price that Google took from app manufacturers increased, app developers would raise prices or leave the platform, and as a result users would too, and move to iOS or Windows Phone if it came to that. Or, they'd do what many people already do and sideload APKs via other app stores, like the Amazon App store or F-Droid.

So again, there's one ecosystem with multiple hardware provides, multiple appstores, and the ability to sideload apps entirely, and another ecosystem with one hardware manufacturer, one app store, and no ability to sideload apps without paying additional money, and the manufacturer and app store are the same entity, but your argument is that the first example is more vertically integrated?

>Second, I wanted to address the accusatory notion of the back half of your comment, and point out the hypocrisy of Googler coming in here and suggesting others have ulterior motives for their comments.

What hypocrisy? I don't hide that I worked for google, and generally make an effort to reveal that when I'm posting on google-related topics (and I do so in this thread) Ulterior implies hidden motives. I'm not hiding anything.

>I speak a lot about Google because a lot of people disproportionately speak positively about Google even though they should not.

This cleverly avoids actually explaining why you rail against Google so much. You're begging the question.

>You are paid by a company being directly suggested to be destroyed/broken up

Indeed I am. Given that I'm very forthcoming with that, I don't see why that should matter though. Its not like this thread will have any effect on my livelyhood.


I'm glad you bring up the Kindle: The Fire Phone failed, as I pointed out, because you can't succeed on Android without Google Play. Funny enough, it was rumored their next attempt will support Google Play. And since Google's MADA prohibits manufacturers from selling forks, it means Amazon would also have to give up the Kindle Fire. So Amazon is soon to be another example of how you can't fight Google.

If you'd like a detailed opinion of mine about Google at large, feel free to message me, my contact info is in my profile. I don't think the mods would appreciate an in-depth on my issues with your employer here.


> And since Google's MADA prohibits manufacturers from selling forks, it means Amazon would also have to give up the Kindle Fire. So Amazon is soon to be another example of how you can't fight Google.

This is wrong. The anti-forking clause applies to Open Handset Alliance members only: a group which Amazon does not belong to.


Actually, you are wrong, it's a requirement of the MADA contract, and you can see an example here: http://www.benedelman.org/docs/htc-mada.pdf

"Company shall not... take any actions that may cause or result in the fragmentation of Android, including but not limited to the distribution by Company of a software development kit (SDK) derived from Android or derived from Android Compatible Devices..."

Please don't claim people are wrong without any evidence, especially when the evidence that exists disagrees with you. ;)

Also, while the Open Handset Alliance page is no longer updated, OHA members are the companies who have signed the MADA. The OHA is a thinly veiled cartel for Google to exert control over the industry. If Amazon releases a Play Store-supported phone, they'll have to kill the Kindle Fire line... or make them Google Play-included Android devices... which would mean being forced to include a competing eBook store, Play Books, on Kindle devices.

This is the very definition of illegal tying, and hopefully the US government will finally take note.


> If google put search behind a pay wall, Bing would destroy it in market share.... if smaller businesses were able to provide better services people would be using dedicated email providers, not gmail

By using Google services you are Google's product, not Google's customer.

Google's services are free attractions, provided in exchange for highly-profitable surveillance capabilities.

In other words, the value an individual may derive from a interaction with Google is decoupled from the profit Google can derive from that interaction. This breaks the key assumption behind classic "free market" models. For Google, the two are related only in aggregate and in abstract, via network effects, largely as proxies for monopoly status and capital accumulation.

18th C. arguments about "free markets" and competition naturally springing up from animal spirits don't work very well for the modern technology industry.

> There is absolutely zero evidence of [technology monopolies exerting pressure on governments]

Examples of companies paying fines in exchange for breaking the law (a pretty generous punishment considering what happens to non-corporation people) is evidence that companies have not yet taken over from governments, but I don't think that was the parent's point.

The largest gripe from governments is flagrant tax avoidance/evasion. If you need "evidence", I'd recommend keeping tabs on technology news in the 'mainstream media' (e.g. various EU governments re: Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple tax evasion; Tim Cook pretty openly asking the US to change tax law for him because he's got a lot of money, and is happy to deprive his countrymen of it).


> How is google even a monopoly? Bing exists, yahoo still exists. In Asia Google isn't even the most popular search engine.

Not a monopoly is not a high enough bar. They are dominant in search, browser, and mobile.

> Try using evidence

Evidence like using their position in search to shove Chrome in our faces, then using that position to help shove DRM on us.

Evidence like their ridiculous plans with the ad blocker?


Oh, I take that into account. There's only so much time/effort I can put into HN comments! But there is a lot more to consider besides what I wrote.

> Congrats on your degree in econ.

Thanks.


> Divorce the ad-making money machine, and say goodbye to all the services consumers like that are nowhere near as profitable: gmail, maps, photos, chrome, android, translate, youtube, drive, waze, where do you think the money for this stuff all comes from?

Hey. I'd be happy to pay for a gmail, photos, maps if that removes the creepy ad-business.


+1 I agree!

Usually (when not traveling) I try to avoid Google's free services like search, the excellent Google Assistant, Maps, etc. That said, I use Google constantly for stuff I pay for: Google Cloud Platform, buying movies and TV shows on Google Play, pay for a YouTube Red + Play Music family plan, and use their One a Day charity site.

I would be delighted to pay $10/month for the current 'free' Google services if they strongly protected privacy.


But I don't want anyone doing this just for themselves. We need the creepy ad-business removed for everyone because it affects society overall. Google wants to have it both ways: pay them and they won't advertise at you (maybe eventually agree not to track you as much even), or for that matter, you can use an adblocker etc. as long as you keep using Google so they retain their dominance and can then track and advertise at others.


> A lot of things Google does -- a lot of the things people actually like about Google -- are possible only because it's a huge monolith. Divorce the ad-making money machine, and say goodbye to all the services consumers like that are nowhere near as profitable: gmail, maps, photos, chrome, android, translate, youtube, drive, waze, where do you think the money for this stuff all comes from?

That's not true. Google is using their ad money to subsidize those services and kill off competition. If Google weren't offering ad-supported, "good enough" services then even more people would pay for the alternatives.

Even with Google's anti-competitive behavior, people still pay for Dropbox, Fastmail, SmugMug, etc.

You're also assuming people understand and accept the level of privacy invasion that goes on when they use Google services. If people knew just how much information Google collects about them, and how they use it, I don't think they would be okay with it. Of course only Google can disclose that information, and you won't.

> Of course, if you're one of the uber technerds that thinks that Google is unabashedly evil and Linux is going to take over the desktop any day now, that probably sounds great to you. I just think the average consumer would have a different take on it.

That's great. Keep "average consumers" totally in the dark about the creepy ways your company is tracking their every move online, and then portray people who don't drink the koolaid as wacky conspiracy theorists and "uber technerds".


Suppose there was an organization, "Creation", that did mass surveillance on everyone on the planet. They don't disclose what they do with this data.

Let's say as a result of Creation's sharing of this data with local governments, crime is nonexistent.

Based on only what we've said is that a good or bad deal? Also, all of your examples were either purchased or have alternatives, so, yeah.


How do you know that Creation has the right definition of "crime" or that such a definition even exists.


To be fair that's all based on morality which is subject to vastly differing viewpoints depending on circumstance, time period, etc.

I think most of the people here would say that's a bad deal - but I don't think there's any way to say definitively that such is the case.

It's possible a more open society with less secrets is a better society - but I don't know that, and I don't know that the opposite is true.


Yes and suppose I have a magic spell, the incantation of which just requires sacrificing a few children, then it will get rid of all the evil in the world. Good or bad?

Your scenario is way too terse to yield some actual insights and honestly seems aimed for a particular outcome. Questions that remail open, e.g.: What kind of crime? How can the governments get rid of crime using data alone? What side-effects does the data-sharing have? Are those side-effects less or more severe than the crime used to be? Can you know all potential side-effects for the future? there other approaches to solve the crime problem?


I wouldn't evaluate it on those terms. Whether the ends justify the means depends on the specifics of the means.

Not all bad means are equally bad. E.g. Taxes are a necessary evil that we accept, but we don't, as a general rule, let agents of the government just take whatever they want (hence the recent controversy over civil forfeiture).


If you look at China, they have because of their protectionist policies practically thriving clones of many big US tech company. It seems likely that the same would happened in other regions if some of Google services were blocked.


Yeah, USSR also had clones of European and US cars produced. Ask anyone who lived there whether they would prefer Lada to a Mercedes.


How about comparing Baidu and Google, Twitter and Sina Weibo or Didi Chuxing and Uber? Don't think the Chinese are underserved in this area. Besides some geopolitical considerations, why not have make it "locally" or nationally?

I am not arguing for protectionism per-se, but more out of a shared concern that wealth (including opportunity, work and power) in the broadest sense should distributed. A few companies dominating prohibit this – Apple has over $260 billions in the bank. Or Amazon having more than half of all online sales.


Wal-Mart's Q1 revenue was $117.5B vs. Amazon's $35.7B ought to put that into perspective.


Please Google what the top selling cars in India and China are. They are not American or US companies. Once you do that go look into how that happened.


>gmail, maps, photos, chrome, android, translate, youtube, drive, waze

I think there are alternatives for all of those, many open source.


But none work together so seamlessly.

I'm with that guy: the ease of life is amazing with Google. I'll buy movie tickets online then get an alert about driving conditions and when I need to leave to arrive on time. That's something your open source maps program can't do because it doesn't have access to my email.

And if it did I wouldn't use it because it'd be sitting there combing my email constantly which isn't efficient to do on my phone.

Google's ability to personalize data is without compare honestly. It comes from being huge... And I'm OK with it.


Open source could work together flawlessly like that, but it'd need open, standard protocols to do so - and an adherance to them.

A closed system just makes it easier for someone to do - because they don't have to care about any standard protocols and can hack together whatever they want and everyone will just deal with it.

I'm not really arguing against you - but I think it's important to note that what we have is possible, just not _right now_.

Of course, _right now_ is when we all want it.


It has always bugged me how desktop Linux has never developed a "share" feature akin to what Android has - URIs and URLs that get indexed against a database of services to handle them, then presented to the user as consumers of the data.

There have been a lot of attempts at dbus-based services to advertise or invoke other processes for various tasks but it never became as pervasive as share buttons and never had the UX.


Reminds me a lot of some attempts by google to create a JavaScript API for that sort of thing.

[1]: https://www.w3.org/TR/web-intents/ [2]: https://github.com/WICG/web-share


But you need to consider the amount of data Google is amassing from people using solely their services. And then sells that data to advertisers. If this trend continues eventually they'd be able to know more about you than even the closest of your friends.

Is this really such a great price to pay for your privacy? For it to be easier to look up your friend's phone number from your email list?


I'm just curious, what data do you believe google gives to advertisers? I work at google, and I see this trope on HN a lot, and I always like to see what data people think is given away, since a lot of the time they seem to be under the impression that either Google's privacy policy is different than it actually is, or that Google's privacy policy isn't actually something that Google follows, or that it doesn't protect them from something for some reason. So, what data do you think google gives to advertisers/third parties, and what do you think Google does with the data it does have about you? (and by you I mean the generic you if you personally stay away from Google, and by Google I mean Google, but fwiw, you could probably replace Google with Facebook or Microsoft and ask the same exact question)


Alright, let's say that I have a general mistrust of corporations just because from some modest reading of history I know that if someone has power they'll abuse it for their own interest. So my opinions about Google and others are admittedly influenced by that. It has happened before - all it takes is for someone who stands to profit from a law to make it happen, and then suddenly it's the status quo and everyone's fine about it, not even thinking about the alternatives.

But since you said that what applies to Facebook could also apply to Google here are some examples - http://www.salimvirani.com/facebook/.

Finally, I'll admit that I have no concrete evidence that Google mishandles users' privacy. I will research that in the near future and perhaps my opinion will change accordingly. However, just the fact that they have access to all that data is insane. Potentially, Google and other advertising companies can know more about you than your closest friends and family. If that would be true wouldn't that bother you? Even if they don't abuse the data now who says they can't do it in the future if that would make them more profit and they could get away with it?


So, I asked you for examples of Google (or Facebook) sharing your information with third parties. While I agree that Facebook's practice of advertising via "Josh liked XYZ product" is not something I want, it is not an example of facebook sharing your data with advertisers. That happens entirely within the facebook platform.

I think its a misleading way to present the information, but its not sharing any information (your likes) with anyone who didn't already have access to that information (your friends).


Even if it happens within a platform it's still a very concerning problem.

If a company decided to put cameras in people's homes to improve "customer service" that business would be out of business the next day. And yet companies are able to get much more information about us by having access to what we do on the internet and everyone is fine about it.

I understand that this is a result of people not wanting to pay for access to websites and online-services but, in my opinion, that's because they don't understand the ramifications. I don't have a solution for this problem, but I hope we'll fine another way, one that doesn't involve companies knowing so much about you.


>Even if it happens within a platform it's still a very concerning problem.

I don't necessarily disagree, but "Xcorp is presenting personal data that you've released publically in a misleading way" very different than "Xcorp is giving personal data that you assumed was private away to third parties". I think the second is a lot more serious than the first.

>If a company decided to put cameras in people's homes to improve "customer service" that business would be out of business the next day.

I'm not sure I agree, given the popularity of smart TVs and the recently announced Amazon Echo Look. I make no judgement of whether this is good or bad (I personally don't have any always-on recording devices), but I don't think its true.

>I understand that this is a result of people not wanting to pay for access to websites and online-services but, in my opinion, that's because they don't understand the ramifications.

See, and I disagree here. There are certain kinds of services that money cannot provide. Google Now recommends news articles to me, it can give me reminders about upcoming events from my emails and Google gives me some personalized search features (ie. if I type "frequent flyer number" into the default google search bar, my number appears, scraped from an email years ago). Those features have a utility that I couldn't get from an application that didn't track information about me. Potentially I could self host something with that level of utility, but it would take a research lab and millions of dollars to create.

On the other hand, reddit, which tracks comparatively little information about me, reliably recommends trending posts that are of zero interest to me.


>Google Now recommends news articles to me, it can give me reminders about upcoming events from my emails and Google gives me some personalized search features (ie. if I type "frequent flyer number" into the default google search bar, my number appears, scraped from an email years ago). Those features have a utility that I couldn't get from an application that didn't track information about me.

And I think that's the main difference between our viewpoints. Personally, I'm not ok with a company having so much information about me just for the sake of convenience. I'd rather have to write my own scripts to scrape through news feeds or just continually check blogs that I like rather than a company having all that data about me.

We are living at a time, imo, when data is the most important asset. And companies like Google are one of the biggest purveyors of it. It's dangerous when a company could have enough information about you and have the tools to know exactly what makes you "tick". They could provide services to make "specially crafted" advertisements that would manipulate you at a scale even more than they do now. "You like tall blondes? Here's a computer generated tall blonde that talks about the new eau d'toilette and how it seduces her! Buy it!"

It's bad enough that companies are using methods to addict their users to make their apps more profitable now, imagine what a world it'll be when they'll have the technology and ability to do it to the point that no one could possibly refuse their advertising.

Now I realise that this is taking it to the extreme, but my point here is precisely that we need to consider these possibilities in case they don't catch us unaware and when it's already too late to do anything.


>And I think that's the main difference between our viewpoints. Personally, I'm not ok with a company having so much information about me just for the sake of convenience. I'd rather have to write my own scripts to scrape through news feeds or just continually check blogs that I like rather than a company having all that data about me.

This is a fair view to hold (I think the rest of your post goes off into slippery slope land, but its based on a realistic fear), but at the same time, I think you need to be aware that you (or I) won't be able to recreate some of the things that these companies can do, no matter how much time or effort we invest.

Its also worth realizing that you're essentially stating that these experiences should be inaccessible to those who are nonexperts. That is, if in your perfect world, MiGooBookZon doesn't exist, and you make due with a set of scripts that you wrote that scrape some RSS feeds you care about and order articles based on some ratings you hardcoded for personal use, where does that leave all of the people who don't have the technical chops to write a set of personal scripts to scrape the news sources that interest them?


Ideally, they should be packaged in an accessible format. Sort of like how in the Linux world Ubuntu is doing pretty well with making Linux accessible even to people who are not technology-inclined.

The problem in "my perfect world" would be not that people with less technical ability won't have access to the tools, but that the tools would be less efficient(but as I've stated in another comment, a program being (F)OSS doesn't necessarily mean it's worse, sometimes quite the opposite), due to not having all that integration.

And I consider it to be a good deal. If some people don't then I'd like for it be an option for both parties to make their decisions based on pros and cons, however, the issue with monopolies/oligopolies is that too often they don't leave you a choice. They'd buy up all the small companies that have good ideas, integrate them into themselves and so on, until there's realistically no other option but to actually start using them.


I agree with you: There is a misunderstanding here.

Google obviously gives no data to advertisers... they sell targeted ads. The difference is vast. As an advertiser I would purchase an ad targeted at 20-something male video game players, for example. I would not get to read their emails to get better insight into their minds or anything insane like that.

And if that started happening at Google they'd die, and they know it.


Aggregated?

They can cross reference one's data across all their services.

So, let's say your Android phone let's Google know where you live, work and hang around by checking maps history and gps records, and they accumulate all the search words and they know who you are, really and check every email for finding who is related and they can really come up with a model of what kind of person you are at any specific moment.

Group together, see what the citizens are like in a certain area, I think that alone is already valuable for targeting.

And they surely randomly get hidden gems where it can't possibly go public but use for their own merit.


But that's not what I asked. Let's assume for a moment that you trust google completely, and believe that they won't do anything untoward with your data on their platform. But we all know that google gives some data to advertisers. I'm asking what you think that data is, hence I asked

>I'm just curious, what data do you believe google gives to advertisers?

It sounds like you're saying that Google has a lot of information on you, which is probably true, but how much of that gets given to third parties? (and if you're claiming that the information you described is given to third parties, I'm confident that you're mistaken).


> a lot of the time they seem to be under the impression that either Google's privacy policy is different than it actually is, or that Google's privacy policy isn't actually something that Google follows, or that it doesn't protect them from something for some reason.

Sorry, last year we've seen how several large car makers have had systematically undermined environmental regulations for years. That does not exactly inspire a lot of faith regarding self-policed, "we'll promise really really hard" privacy policies to me.


So just to clarify, because a different company, in a different industry, did something illegal that had nothing to do with privacy, you don't trust privacy policies?


Yes, pretty much this.

That scandal has shown that self-policing doesn't work if all the incentives point into the opposite direction. I don't see what significant differences at Google would make them immune to the forces that were at work at VW.


I think there's a very simple one: google employees, by and large, use google products. If google is mishandling user data, that means that they are mishandling my data, and my boss's data, and my boss's boss's data.

That is, unlike with VW vehicles, individual employees are directly negatively affected.


Given that Google can revise their privacy policy unilaterally at any time (and, as far as I know, they are under no legal obligation to delete or restrict access to data collected under previous iterations of the policy) I don't see why any of us should feel comforted by the existence of some mutable words on a webpage somewhere.


>as far as I know, they are under no legal obligation to delete or restrict access to data collected under previous iterations of the policy

(obviously IANAL) I'm fairly sure that they cannot without your permission, although they can assume your permission if you continue using the service after they change the policy (and you're informed of the change), and at least with the changes I can find online, Google at least generally seems to give users the chance to opt out of changes.

Edit: a quick search for examples backs up my claim, I can't find any situation where a company could modify its privacy policy in a way that would affect existing user data, and apply that new policy to users who were no longer using the platform. Either its not legal, or companies voluntarily don't do that.


I trust Google for privacy a lot more than I'd trust 10 different little specialized services that are fighting for their lives financially and don't have the decade of experience as the biggest target on the planet with no bad breaches.


And that's a big part of the problem: People don't realize privacy is essentially about fragmenting your information. 10 different little specialized services are far more private, even if they're subject to more breaches.

Thinks like your coworkers not knowing every last detail of your family, nobody you know IRL knowing about your weird online kinks, etc.

Your privacy is largely reliant on your different social circles being separated, your various identities being apart, and Google has made it so they can link all of your data together.

(EDIT @joshuamorton: Security and privacy are actually distinctly different concepts with very different implications. A former Googler told me this is not well understood inside the company.)


Why edit your post instead of responding? That's such an odd way to do things and breaks the order of conversation.

>Security and privacy are actually distinctly different concepts with very different implications.

True, but you cannot have privacy without security. That is to say, if I pieces my personal information to 5 different groups, but all of them are vulnerable, your data, all of it, is vulnerable, and an untrusted Nth party can attain all of it. On the other hand, if you give all of your personal information to a single secure party, you know who has the data.

Obviously, its a bit more complex than this because often times larger groups are single sources of failures, but still.

For a nondigital metaphor, your list of kinks is less likely to get out if you put it in a safe deposit box than if you rip it into 4 pieces and tell your closest friends to put their piece under their mattress, even if no friend as the whole list and you trust each friend more than your bank, because an adversary can probably figure out that you gave it to your friends, and can break into their houses, but won't be able to crack the vault.


I edited the post because I hit a rate limit on HN. I don't like it either, but I have to choose my use of replies carefully.

The problem you miss is that people have different identities. And people want to interact with others, to communicate with people, through those identities. Locking up your kinks in a vault isn't really an option if you want to share them with a community of like-minded individuals. But just because you do, you don't necessarily want your family to be able to look them up on Google.

People have different even potentially public personas, that they still want to keep separate. Under a variety of names, I'm involved in a variety of different communities, some of which I don't really want people I know IRL to know about, some which I don't mind. But all of them are out there on the Internet, because that's how I interact with them.

Actually, apart from the Google-centric notion of it and the lack of multiple identities (exacerbated by Google's "real name policy", Google+ was probably the closest Google got to getting this right: I could put specify which Circles people belonged in, and share information with each independently.


This is by definition security by obscurity, is it not?


You mean Google would give up digging deep into their gold mine data just because they have another steady revenue stream? Hell no. They know about you better than you do. You don't remember what you were interested in on each month, Google does.

They may not sell all of those to third parties but what does it matter if they know all of it.

What is a privacy anyway after you've already revealed who you are constantly on multiple Google products.


Data selling from big tech companies is the least of your worries tbh. It's all presented in aggregate form and protected very well. It isn't even really data selling, although if you want to argue semantics and model it as such, it would be data selling limited in scope in that the only action an advertiser can use the data for is presenting you with an ad.

It's the financial industry that you have to worry about. The finance industry has atrocious security and access to very personal information on you. Finance companies (your bank, credit card, etc.) sell your information to the highest bargainer with much higher privileges (physical mail and junk emails) and don't allow you to opt out.

Edit: And also the health care industry. Super personal information with archaic tech and paper thin security. Data might not be sold but the risk of bad parties gaining access to your information is high.


...until they lock your account without giving you a reason and without recourse.

This is why AmaGooFace is so dangerous, because the way things are going they will have unprecedented insight and control into global populations. Multinational corporations are a much more dangerous threat to humanity's future freedom than governments.


> many open source

please. Name the open source alternatives that don't require my grandma to set up her own VPS.


Actually, many open source app platforms like Sandstorm and Cloudron offer managed hosting as well!


Email provider: https://posteo.de; online maps: https://openstreetmap.org. More on https://prism-break.org (no affilation with those).


It's not even funny to compare the quality of Google maps to anything else.


I disagree. I am using openstreetmap for everything and did not have any problems whatsoever. Of course, it depends on the location. In Europe the coverage is almost perfect.


Coverage is one but it's missing street view, fly-by view, satellite view, navigator and floor by floor building map.

In my Japanese urban region, the building where I live which has been there for 8 years is a flat land in openstreetmap including other neighboring buildings.

Apple's map is better but it's still far behind Google's.


Yeah and they're less popular largely because they suck for the average consumer.

I used to work on photos. Nothing right now is as good overall -- free autobackup, search, auto creations/assistant, general usability -- and it's not really close.

Open source is particularly weak here, you think the average person wants to manage their own photo/video server? In fact just in general OSS seems to usually be weak at services because contributions aren't just fire and forget.


Make quality comparison?


Even in the uber technerd sphere, a huge amount of the services that we take for granted are done by large companies. For example, Steam is the entire reason why gaming is becoming viable on Linux. Sure, a lot of work (by large companies) has gone into the backend to make it easier to write games for more libraries, but that work wouldn't have happened if there wasn't an enormous distribution platform that sells games for Linux.


You're right. And I agree with you on the point that some features that even someone who doesn't like corporations uses and loves were made possible by said corporations.

What I'm worried about is corporations becoming so powerful that they can just change the whole economic landscape in their favour.

For example, I'm a HUGE fan of Steam, but if Valve grew large enough that you can only buy games from Valve, the only programming jobs available were at Valve for 20k$ pa whilst "Lord Gaben" was close to becoming a trillionaire along with his shareholders I'd definitely stop using their platform, even if that meant I can't play games as conveniently or not have access to them at all.

Bottom line, companies can do good, but governments need to keep them in check if they become too powerful.


>> > The world is a better place with lots of smaller companies. >> [citation needed]

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/bigger-corporations-are-m...


Email, maps, photo viewers, browsers, online storage, streaming video, and taxis all existed before they were ad supported.


> A lot of things Google does -- a lot of the things people actually like about Google -- are possible only because it's a huge monolith. Divorce the ad-making money machine, and say goodbye to all the services consumers like that are nowhere near as profitable: gmail, maps, photos, chrome, android, translate, youtube, drive, waze, where do you think the money for this stuff all comes from?

Yes indeed. So eloquently said. You can't have one without the other. With scale comes unprecedented ability that cannot be attained any other way.

I'm a huge supporter of google and what you've accomplished in such a short time. Do not feel discouraged with some of the negative feedback. Kudos to you and keep up the good work. What you're doing is truly impactful. I as well as a billion other users enjoy your products immensely.


The real issue is power. The point of splitting up companies is to reduce their concentrated power. We could alternatively reduce their power through regulations of other sorts. Surely we all want the positive things that come from the cases where concentrated power is used for good things, and we don't want the power used for not-so-good or worse things. Ideally, we figure out how to maximize the good part and minimize the bad, but sometimes we have to decide to take it all or leave it all…


How are gmail, maps and chrome not profitable? It's a gold mine for data mining. As long as personally identifiable data is out of public's reach, Google is free to trace part of people's life and sell anonymized data to ad targeting or whatever company let alone the gov that's interested.

If you're not paying, you're selling yourself.


Sure, Google can monetize from these products. But they don't seem to choose to capture those values yet, as long as "Don't be evil" credendum still holds.


I won't really miss any of those things when they are gone, because others will come and take their place.

> if you're one of the uber technerds that thinks that Google is unabashedly evil

as opposed to the people who worship at their altar?


IMO breaking up Google or Amazon makes as much sense as breaking up a tumor in the body without removing any of its cells and declaring victory. Go ahead, make some arbitrary cuts between Amazon, Lab 126 and AWS. Or go split Google into Android, Search and Cloud. That's a huge buying opportunity in both cases IMO. But if you really want to talk about a current monopoly in the valley, look no further than NVIDIA's 100% ownership of the DL/ML processor space.

Even then, I consider the election of Donald Trump and the existence of his base a far greater threat to freedom than the worst of Google, Amazon, and Facebook combined.

All of these companies could be disrupted just like Google disrupted Microsoft 20 years ago and Facebook half-disrupted Google. And I have worked for multiple big corporations, I have found their culture in general to be far less "suppressing" than the startups I worked at once money got tight.

You wanna join the evil 1% in the valley? That's relatively easy. Learn how to code and ship working systems, especially big data and machine learning systems. That ability alone is worth high six-figures income to Google and Facebook (cue people insisting that's not the case because they don't make that kind of money). If you establish a reputation, you can then double or quadruple upon that. Public evidence below or just who do you think is buying all those $3-5M houses in Palo Alto and SF?

http://www.businessinsider.com/a-google-programmer-blew-off-...


> You wanna join the evil 1% in the valley? That's relatively easy. Learn how to code and ship working systems, especially big data and machine learning systems. That ability alone is worth high six-figures income to Google and Facebook (cue people insisting that's not the case because they don't make that kind of money).

Lol what the fuck are you smoking? Making 7 figures is de facto NOT relatively easy and NOT standard for any engineer (in the Valley or otherwise; even with RSUs). I mean, even the article says it's very rare.

> Even then, I consider the election of Donald Trump and the existence of his base a far greater threat to freedom than the worst of Google, Amazon, and Facebook combined.

Donald Trump is gone in four years, GOOG, AMZN, FB will be around for a very (very) long time. The comparison is lacking at best.


you don't need 7 figures to join the 1%. last i heard it was around $450k/year; there are a lot of people at Apple/FB/Google/etc that make that much or more, but still far less than $1M


He said 1% in the Valley, not in the US. Also, I think it's better to compare total wealth rather than income (which can easily drop dramatically).


The thing is, there's a lot of us who don't want to join the 1% in the valley. We don't want to join these parasitic companies which are turning the industry into a boring clone-the-other-big-co greedfest.

So for a lot of us, just work hard and join the crowd isn't really a solution. Not to mention, if you find Trump a true threat, please realize he is a threat made possible through the echo chambers of SV tech, which is either so incompetent as to not anticipate it or too greedy to stop it.


So GTFO of Silicon Valley then? The place is feeding on itself at this point IMO and I'm just about ready to leave myself because happiness > $$$$$$$ past a point. See also my libertarian friends who live in SF, constantly kvetching about the politics, but who all refuse to live somewhere else.

Meanwhile, Austin's nice and it's still affordable on a moderate six-figure income. Not to mention the relatively undiscovered gem of Portland and its fantastic food truck culture. Then there's the option of going abroad. It's a big world out there. Don't limit your options.

Overall point: don't fight the herd, you will lose, go start your own instead.

Finally, I don't blame Facebook or Google for Trump in any way whatsoever. I blame the overarching intellectual incuriosity of most of the American people for that one, independent of party affiliation.

Biased evidence: I grew up denied access to advanced math and science courses because I was pegged as someone with ADHD and potentially mildly retarded by the same sort of idiots who elected Emperor Orange. This was because I displayed near OCD w/r to writing code from the age of 6 and little interest in anything not relevant to that task.

That inclination was discouraged by my school system all the way to college whereupon it suddenly became useful and the rest is profitable history.


Good words.

Side note based on your personal experience; I was taking to my friend last night. He's got serious ADHD and only recently has realized that and been treating it at 35. He barely graduated high school and while not especially educated is very intelligent, especially socially. He's finally experiencing what it's like to unlock his potential.

It's a bit of a tragedy that it took 20+ years for him to get diagnosed and receive proper treatment, and it makes you wonder how many millions of people are in a similar boat.


Nice going, man! I'm also a bit in the same boat that all I'd like to do is program, but the current education system doesn't allow one to get what they want unless they jump through hurdles.

It's nice to see someone who made it.


"We don't want to join these parasitic companies which are turning the industry into a boring clone-the-other-big-co greedfest."

When has it not been a greedfest? People have been trying to clone big, successful companies forever. Google was hardly the first, and won't be the last. This has been going on for many decades. Welcome to capitalism.

Something that is new, though, and much more troubling is their massive spying on their users. That could have a very significant negative effect on society in the long run, and is one of the main reasons that I personally would never want to work for these companies either.


> look no further than NVIDIA's 100% ownership of the DL/ML processor space.

[Disclaimer: I work for Google, opinions are my own]

Google has their TPU that they are letting others use via Cloud services[0]. It may not be the same as buying hardware, but they are giving Nvidia a run for their money.

https://cloud.google.com/tpu/


I would love it if you licensed this technology to the other cloud providers. IMO it would be an awesome embrace and extend play both in terms of HW and in making TensorFlow faster than its competing frameworks.

Otherwise, you guys seem locked in an expensive Red Queen's Race with NVIDIA's 1000+ engineer HW team.


And yet, only very large companies are able to make a certain class of investments in infrastructure and services — that push technology and society forward as a whole — that small to mid companies due to lack of capacity never could, and governments due to lack of vision and political will never would.


Not quite sure i follow. Do you mean like self driving cars, neural networks, mapping the human genome, or perhaps the internet?

I guess IC's might be a good example, but the air force was really the only buyer that could afford them.

I dunno, maybe we're moving to a new model. the 20th century way seemed to be to pour massive amounts of money into research at universities, then commercialize whatever whatever happened to work out.

Corporations do interesting work, but they're sooooo resistant to change, it seems like their inventions always die on the vine. Kodak digital cameras for example.

Are you thinking google would be willing to risk their ad revenue for a cool new tech? Or microsoft their os/office money? or apple and phones? etc.


> Corporations do interesting work, but they're sooooo resistant to change, it seems like their inventions always die on the vine.

Some do, others have been able to remain relevant for a very long time. Thankfully we have a societal mechanism to prune unproductive companies, it's called bankruptcy.

> Are you thinking google would be willing to risk their ad revenue for a cool new tech? Or microsoft their os/office money? or apple and phones? etc.

So far they have. Google for instance started its self driving car project in 2009, at the height of the recession. It would have been the easiest thing in the world to dismiss the project as wasteful spending when everybody else was tightening their belt.


24 billion in the bank (cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities), revenue up 2 billion ~10% from 2008. So brave [1]

And they of course started the project by hiring the DARPA grand challenge winners. Which, yes, corporations can refine original research, but it's very rare they try something new. And if they do try something new, it's incredibly vulnerable to being defunded. Google is exceptional, kinda. I hope they'll get more milage out of their special project than bell labs did.

[1] https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1288776/000119312510...

edit

And more to the point, the kodak example is key. Kodak made money selling film. Digital cameras were a direct threat to selling film. Google can do some interesting things, but if anything useful is a direct threat to ad revenue, it'll be killed.


Google is making tremendous strides in AI research, they're betting the company on it.


This is the same Google which was started to commercialize the NSF-sponsored work that Larry Page and Sergei Brin did? The same one which hired many of the DARPA grand challenge winners to work on self-driving cars? The one whose AI efforts are being performed by a number of prominent researchers whose work and training was significantly supported by federal research grants?

Google is great but I see them as an example of the public / private pairing working out well and generating far more new economic value than went into that foundational spending.


I was responding to this particular question:

> Are you thinking google would be willing to risk their ad revenue for a cool new tech?

University and government research is also super important. Google publishes papers not code, whereas universities often publish their code and that's doing more to move AI forward than Google.

But Google is willing to make large research bets too.


Yeah, I'm definitely not saying Google isn't doing important work. I just think this highlights the key role government funding plays in ensuring that businesses don't have to pay for all of that basic research and training.

That's basically the answer to that question: Google isn't risking their core business on this because so much of the foundation has been set. If, say, in 2003 they'd gone to investors and asked for money to fund AI research it'd have been seen as too risky, especially since the collapse of the 1980s AI bubble was still well within living memory. Once NSF, DARPA, et al. had continued to fund the scientists, however, things matured to the point where it has a more acceptable level of risk to get in on a huge field.


Yeah so awesome that the whole world can coast to success now that DARPA derisked the future.


“derisked” is [willful?] misrepresentation. This isn't a hard argument: board early research requires a lot of speculative work which doesn't pan out for everything which does, not to mention tons of basic training and equipment investment. Companies have a hard time justifying that and, unsurprisingly, the record shows they largely don't. Government funding operates with different incentives and timescales and has a lengthy track record of success getting ideas to the point where companies are willing to foot the remaining development costs.


On the other hand, jet engines were developed by private concerns and only when flying jets were demonstrated were governments interested in it.

The idea that government funding is necessary for funding disruptive new technologies is not supported by historical evidence.


Most of the 20th century's defining technologies started that way, from microchips and the internet to biotech. You don't need to get everything to say that the model can support a few misses.

The jet engine case seems especially hard to claim as an exception since early development was predicated on military sales and, for example, a quick trip to https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_jet_engine shows the origins of both the British and German programs being a RAF officer's patent-worthy idea.

Remember, I'm not saying that the government invents everything but that basic reasearch and major long-term development is hard to do when you need to show profits right now. The history of your example shows many examples of that process where the government funding allowed things to reach the point where they could be successfully commercialized for other purposes.


The financing of Whittle's and Ohain's jet engines did not come from the government, nor did government finance their incorporation into working, flying aircraft. Whittle's idea he had on his own, not as part of a government research project.

The US military even ordered Lockheed to stop working on a jet engine, and concentrate on piston engines. This changed after being faced with the ME-262.

The transistor, too. Airplanes. Liquid fueled rockets. Communications satellites (Arthur Clarke). Radio. TV. Einstein. C. C++. Java. C#.

And the glaring absense of defining technologies coming from communist economies, where it was 100% government doing the research.

The US government spends megabucks on R+D. It would be astonishing if that produced no results. But it is an error to thereby conclude that new technologies could not otherwise exist.


Concretely, us spent 150B/ 70B non-defense.

Google ~14B, Amazon ~14B MS ~10B Apple ~10B and FB ~6B for about 50B all together.

So, concretely, we should expect just the big five to produce roughly 1/3 as much as publicly funded science, assuming they're of equal quality. More like 2/3's if we exclude military research. Although you don't come out and say it, you're implying private is more efficient.

I dunno. I think the feds get a big discount by using grad student labor. Fundamentally, the perform different roles. Doctoral research is foundational stuff that corporations take and refine. Sure, i can quibble over each one of your examples. But that's not really the point.

I don't think any corporation was going to go looking for gravity waves, or Proxima B.

So many problems are a tradeoff between exploration and exploitation. Broadly, public funding tends to fill the role of exploration. Private funding tends to fill the role of exploitation. There's no crisp line. Corporations surely explore, and universities surely exploit. But again, broadly, i think the public exploration/private exploitation split is a good one, and i think it's how the 20th century worked pretty much worked.


My argument is with the notion that if government didn't fund X, X never would have happened. The existence of the internet is the epitome of this kind of thinking. It's like saying if someone paid by the government had an idea to connect two towns with a road, therefore nobody would have ever had such an idea otherwise.

This fallacious reason is obviously false, as FidoNET proves, but that doesn't deter the notion.

The cherry-picked examples are classic confirmation bias, and are non-falsifiable because nobody can go back in time and defund a government project.

There's plenty of non-government money being plowed into basic research - just look at the endowments of top universities like MIT. There would likely be much more if the government did not fund it, just like I'd not be willing to fund a road between A and B if there's a way I can get the government to do it for me.


It's not a claim that things would never happen but that it'd take much longer. Yes, private investment exists but it's so much smaller — MIT is legendary, one of the top schools in the world, has a full-time development office getting donations, etc. but the bulk of their research is federal by a large margin.

I note that you dismiss the foundational technologies of the last century as cherry-picking but fail to present any data to support claims which are well outside the mainstream. Do you have any sources to back those assertions up?


> but it's so much smaller

Right, because there's much less point to private investment if you can get the government to foot the bill instead.

> Do you have any sources

The technologies I mentioned are well documented. Are you not aware of FidoNET?


That's true, but it's not clear which way the causality runs. If wealth were more evenly distributed, ordinary people could pool their resources to make the same investments. They can't do that now because they have no disposable income to invest.


VCs are agents of ordinary people who have pooled their resources to make investments, just separated by many fee-taking layers of Wall Street bureaucracy.

Wall Street ultimately gets its money from American workers' retirement investments (whether personal 401k and IRA accounts, or institutional pension funds).


While totally true, there are systemic issues here. Any individual worker has little choice of what to do with their investments for retirement unless they get into taking tons of time and energy to be activist investors or go out of their way to avoid the path of least resistance and invest in unusual ways.

Point is: it's not like workers are all supportive of the VC decisions or anything. It's the concentrated power of the people who manage all the funds that matters, and not the fact that a bunch of otherwise disconnected individual workers have put their money in.

Of course, stuff like openinvest.co seem at least a good direction…


But people do in fact make their own small investments when they opt for one provider of a service or the other.

For a multi billion dollar infrastructure project, your capacity to contribute with either 50K or 50$ would still amount to less than a drop in a bucket. For a massive multi billion infrastructure project to succeed it would still rely on either a state actor or a very large number of investors, or, as is the case I'm making, a large amount customers.

If I opt for your company as my provider of a given service, and very large number of other people do too, we're enabling your company — via the pooling of our payments — for you to do further investments and improvements to your service.


That's true, but it misses the point. Capitalism and democracy work best when there is competition. Monopolies -- both economic and political -- generally lead to bad outcomes. When ultimate decision-making power becomes too unevenly distributed, it becomes very difficult to prevent monopolies from forming.


I agree, but then that's why we have governments and why monopolies are all but outlawed in most democratic countries.


I don't know about other countries, but in America, being a monopoly is not at all outlawed. The criminality associable to monopoly here is when a monopoly abuses their monopoly power.

If I am the only company in America that produces widget x, I have a de facto monopoly, but I am not guilty of anything until and unless I attempt to exert my monopolistic influence to prevent competitors from taking my market share. If I am a pure monopoly, then it's possible that just running a loss-leading sale could result in antitrust violations, but if I am not a monopoly, or if I am a minority provider of widget x, then loss-leading sales are a presumptively lawful activity.

Edit: I believe closeparen makes this point more precisely with his post in this same topic:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14528355


> If I am the only company in America that produces widget x, I have a de facto monopoly

That's not what monopoly really means. Peter Thiel (for whom I have lots of criticism) makes these things really clear in the way he discusses them. You could open up a British Food restaurant somewhere and be the only one in town. That doesn't make you a monopoly because the actual market is for all types of dining. There's not specific British Food market that you've captured. When businesses want to taut their power and monopoly status (whether to delude themselves or to get investors or whatever), they will pretend that the market is as narrow as their particular product. When they want to convince regulators that they are just one in a competing market, they'll widen the market as much as possible…


The US hasn't enforced its anti-trust legislation in over 30 years. Some link Reagan's "assault" on anti-trust to the breakage of the American job market. There's been zero net job creation in the US between 1999 and 2009, a time which also saw significant consolidation.

Small businesses drive net job growth, and they are also more innovative, producing more patents per employee than large firms.

Not to mention, smaller businesses allow more people to own capital. I'm sick of economic discussions that focus on jobs and wages - ownership is what gets people out of serfdom.

But, little guys are feeling the squeeze. "The Goliaths of today are so big and so adept at protecting their turf that they leave few niches open to exploit."

So, this isn't only about privacy, or the false perception that "big is evil." It's about economy as ecosystem. "Biodiversity" in the economy creates robustness against hard times and distributes resources in ways that allow many participants to thrive. Monocultures are extractive, and ultimately fragile.

Edit: source - http://bit.ly/2rhPiXp


> more innovative, producing more patents per employee than large firms

Patents are not correlated with innovation. Tons of innovative things are never patented, and the majority of patents are largely bullshit. The patent system mostly gives tons of money to patent lawyers and power to companies who know how to use their patents to threaten innovators.

It may be true that small businesses are more innovative, but we simply can't use patents as a measure of innovation.

I happen to agree with the rest of your comment.


Point taken. Thanks for the call out.


Not only that, if you (only) have a large number of small investors, there will often be a lot of conflicting ideologies and interests, sometimes diametrically opposed. Hard for a company to have any long-term direction that way.


Why talk in terms of one big company? Maybe small investors with conflicting ideas and interests would like to own and run small companies. Except, a couple of big companies are making that very difficult.


At that point the pool is mirroring a large corp. while it's still in the small so to speak, it has the same ends and reaction to the same stimulus


With the major difference that the ultimate decision-making power would be more widely distributed.


Maybe. Depends if they set themselves up as a co-op. They could instead essentially start as a highly focused VC. At that point the control will probably rest in the hands of the board and management.


But the investors have the power to replace the board. This is called "representative democracy" and it's widely considered, despite its flaws, a better way to govern human affairs than dictatorship or oligarchy.


That's not necessarily a good feature.


True, and startups seem to be where most of the innovation is happening right now. I think universities (and the Internet) do a pretty good job when it comes sharing the deep domain knowledge required to innovate.


> and governments due to lack of vision and political will never would

Governments (US and Soviet) went to the moon. The Internet would not exist without massive military (i.e. government) sponsoring.

But yes, when I am looking at our governments right now, it's hard to find something as progressive as this, except that marijuana is on the rise, Macron has a 50:50 women government and invited scientists from the US to France. The other governments seem to be racing full speed in reverse for me.


> The Internet would not exist without massive military (i.e. government) sponsoring.

Yes, it would be called FidoNET instead.


They push society forward along THEIR agenda. That agenda can be the most open, inclusive and diverse agenda ever, but it's gonna be the agenda of a corporation nonetheless. In my ideal world, you know who should be in charge of such a push? American friends, please, breathe deeply: The State should.


I'm largely a social democrat, but LOL if you think the government would be even a quarter as competent as Google at pushing technology forward.

Just read any description from people who've worked at both normal government IT shops (really anywhere that's not 18F or the USDS) and private industry how they feel about governmental technology culture and processes.

Like okay, investing in infrastructure, like putting fiber everywhere? Sure, I'm down with that. Everything else, I think the private sector has shown itself to be plenty more capable. Let's let the government stick to its strengths, shall we?

Disclaimer: I work at Google


> I'm largely a social democrat, but LOL if you think the government would be even a quarter as competent as Google at pushing technology forward.

> Just read any description from people who've worked at both normal government IT shops (really anywhere that's not 18F or the USDS) and private industry how they feel about governmental technology culture and processes.

The governments brought us MP3. (Fraunhofer is funded entirely by their own patents and the German government).

The governments brought us many more technologies, standards, algorithms, etc.

Alone the projects funded by the German government have brought more to the tech world than Google ever has, or ever will.

Then look at the projects the US has funded.

For fucks sake, the US Government gave us the Internet!


This. But of course US Americans (including foreigners living there long enough) will just interpret the World according to the usual equation: US == World. It's not your fault guys and we love you the way you're wired, but for god's sake, could you sometimes consider there's some form of Intelligent Life outside of your borders?


You're assuming our current goods and ills are somehow inherent. This is what happens when people don't study history.


Luckily for the government, Google's innovation in mass surveillance helps them fill in the gaps.


I'm largely a X, but I will now proceed to say something that is totally the opposite of what X stands for.

:)


I don't necessarily disagree with the premise, but I take pause at the notion that the American state does not have its own agenda.

We've seen the state infiltrate encryption standards to deliberately weaken them. We've seen the state deny and attempt to suppress dissident truths. We've seen the state spy on its citizenry using loopholes and non-standards. We've seen the state fund drug cartels, collude with the media to influence the public, pass cronyist legislation to benefit campaign donors, etc.

Why should their agenda be considered any less self-serving than that of a corporation's?


In theory and in an actual democracy the state would represent the will of the people, and its agenda would align with the citizenry.

In the US at least I don't think it is so much the government doesn't represent the people than 2 centuries of usurpation have established a system to produce enough brainwashed drones to the will of power that they can act with the facade of democracy while actively harming the indoctrinated. It seems not to actually take a majority to create an environment where the state acts against the interests of the people, just enough of a minority to give voice and legitimacy to regressive ideology.

I think this century might be the time when all us intellectuals have to come to terms with how, in the same way you cannot get everyone into STEM to handle automation eating the economy, you cannot get everyone into enlightened politics where voters inform themselves with fact and evidence. At best, a minority, and today, a majority of people are either naturally or nurtured (often intentionally) to be incapable of participation in science and rational debate. And as long as you have this uninformed, illogical portion of the population (and of course the smaller it is the more functional your society is) it will erode democracy and liberty through powerful people taking advantage of that weakness.

What we see in the US right now is that weakness in Democracy instead being a gaping wound that has been bleeding - probably since the founding of the country, made worse by many events in history (the civil war, great depression, 9/11) that make the wound bleed greater, yielding the state from being a democracy to an oligarchy ruled by ideological indoctrination and exploitation rather than good will for ones fellow man.

That was long winded, but my point is don't throw out the notion that nations can act to improve the circumstances of their people in the general case - the US is demonstrably not doing that for observable reasons that could be fixed, but would require everyone to want to fix it.


[flagged]


Government /= State


governments due to lack of vision and political will never would

Yes, remember that time General Motors sent humans to the moon?


Be fair, we're no longer living in the 60's, and as we all know the impetus to reach "the stars" was driven by as much as national pride as well as show of force and muscle flexing to the rest of the world. I concur that the state has been massively important in terms of research and investment from the 50's to the 90's that enabled most of what we're enjoying today, but if the past 10-20 years are anything to go by, the paradigm has shifted from state driven innovation to private driven innovation.


No. Previous post articulated a general principle which I showed to be flawed. 'Things are different now' is just moving the goalposts.


As the author of said post I disagree. Given that the original post to which I commented refers to Amazon, Google and others — entities born in mid to late 90s operating to this day — any analisys of state action vs these corporations must be done within the context of this timeframe and not before.

In regards to "moving goal posts", I have not, and will not ever do such a thing, as to me a debate is not about winning anything, but clarifying points of view. If I wanted to move your own "goal posts" I would point you back 200-100 years, and talk about the Industrial Revolution, Railroad construction in the US, Telegraphs and Phones, invention of flight, among many others all but initially driven, built and financed by private money.


Having been on the internet since before Linux or web browsers existed, and studied a good deal of economics and history going back to antiquity, and having grown up in a town founded 1500 years ago, you're really not telling me anything new here. I'm sorry but I disagree with your approach of making sweeping statements of economic theory but limiting them to the timeframe of a single generation. I know your original comment was not meant to be exhaustive, but I found the economic analysis superficial.


> Having been on the internet since before Linux or web browsers existed, and studied a good deal of economics and history going back to antiquity, and having grown up in a town founded 1500 years ago, you're really not telling me anything new here.

Fantastic credentials.

> I'm sorry but I disagree with your approach of making sweeping statements of economic theory but limiting them to the timeframe of a single generation.

Given that we're discussing the impact of a specific set of companies that brought societal/economical issues that are new — such as data privacy/control —, and have no other examples in history to guide us in dealing or discussing them, we must focus on this period. Regarding "sweeping economic theory", I do not hold to such presumption.

> I know your original comment was not meant to be exhaustive, but I found the economic analysis superficial.

Reading comprehension. I should probably have added an emphasis in "a _certain class_ of investments". I find your analysis of my comments superficial, and clearly you do not want to discuss and clarify points of view but to "win an argument". That's a game I won't play, so by all means, consider yourself victorious.


That's not the only way. People engage voluntarily in cooperative, yet temporary agreements, to work on projects for the benefit of the whole group. Companies join in trade groups which are somewhat similar. So possibly a new class of temporary corporation, in which corporations invest, for a specific life time and goal purpose, where they can share resources and a common goal, without any one company basically railroading local, state, or national politics. Or any one company's business being disrupted means the end of that venture.


It depends on the perspective of what "large" means.

If "large" means "rich", then you are right.

However, if "large" means "comprised of many employees", then this is not necessarily true.

So perhaps a first good step is to put a limit on the number of employees. This also enforces a "modular" style of working, where companies can more easily be swapped for other companies, and more reuse of "company-modules" can happen.


An employee cap would benefit big tech companies hugely. Tech companies would receive an even greater share of investment than they currently do, as even the largest tech companies pale in comparison to say Walmart (in terms of employment)

Also no politician would ever support this.


it's not 'lack of vision and political will' that stymies government initiatives--that's some TED talk bs. and i shudder to think that we're necessarily dependent on the benevolence and 'vision' of large companies to drive society forward.


Then what does? Most of the innovation we have witnessed and enjoy in our society for the past 20-30 years has not been driven by governmental money or agencies but by private money.


Just stream of thought here:

Why don't we have a "government YC" (yeah, I don't mean DARPA-like, or the other mechanisms for finding funding from the government, which requires way too much navigation f bureaucratic paper-work and hoop-jumping) - an office of the government that can allow any individual to apply for seed funding for ANY idea in ANY industry that they can see through - make the process nimble and quick. Ensure that there is infrastructure/systems to allow for accurate tracking and reporting on the spend of monies given - think an EDD card that the startup entity gets and all expenses are tracked via the transactions on the card. Integrate it with banks and other private and public sector services with credits, like compute credits from amzn/goog etc... tax services, payroll etc...

And when you apply - it effectively sets-up an individual LLC in your name as the defacto entity to track your startups progress with giving you an EIN etc...

Heck, this should be a simple thing to architect if everyone in the business/startup world were truly supportive of, and willing to actually be, the "innovation" unicorn they all claim to be.


Examples? The internet, web & search, gene sequencing & engineering, deep learning, self-driving vehicles, VR, 3-d printing, modern batteries, wifi, etc. all followed the same path where massive government research funding and with e.g. the humane genome project or DARPA grand challenge even more direct support.

It's true that private investment was also important but that generally only enters the picture when something is developed enough to the point that investors can see an eventual payoff. As a simple example, Google, Yahoo, and Lycos were all direct results from people like Larry Page getting NSF research grants:

https://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=100660

That story repeats all over in every high-tech industry.


Go read The Dictator's Handbook.


Will do, thanks for the recommendation.


The capital requirements are generally low in the tech sector compared to traditional industry.


Not really. Search engines, Warehousing infra-structure, operating systems, compute clouds, marketing to achieve critical mass are pretty expensive.


Typically, isnt the largest expense for a tech company payroll? Companies like the big 5 may be anomalies because they operate a number of their own data centers


To my knowledge and you are exempt for expensive industrial equipment. Now you have a sitation where Whatsapp is more worth than a big global enterprise like Sony, but haven't required nowhere near the same amount of workers or capital.


Yeah. We have those tiny things called governments too. You might know them for some investments such as, the US interstate highways, space flight, the Internet. It's amazing how the collective will of the people has managed all of that without forming a very large company.


do you have any evidence that your suggestions will actually improve the consumer experience or are you just suggesting killing businesses because of a gut feeling and some anti corporate sentiment?

>If we let monopolies take over, then the economy of the world will start to mirror the economies within these large corporations.

None of these companies can be said to be monopolies.

> We will gradually lose freedom of speech, in the same way that employees of large corporations don't have the freedom to say what they really think to their bosses.

This is the slipperiest slope I've ever seen.


If Google doesn't have an effective monopoly then I don't think I understand the word. The only search engine relavant to my search results is Google and I don't here to many people talking about optimizing their SEO for bing.


It's not necessarily illegal to be a monopoly, it's illegal to behave in certain anti-competitive ways. For example:

- Rockefeller made deals with the railroads that shipped Standard Oil to charge higher prices to other prospective oil shippers.

- Rockefeller bought any competitor that was undercutting him and raised its prices so it stopped being a threat.

- "Competing" firms met and drew up an agreement that neither would undercut the other on price.

- "Competing" firms met and drew up an agreement that certain regions belonged to Firm A, while other regions belonged to Firm B, and they would not enter each other's territory.

- Microsoft sabotaged its user experience for users who removed Internet Explorer to dissuade them from using Netscape.

- Microsoft sabotaged its APIs with the deliberate intention of breaking Netscape, Java, etc.

It's illegal to use your market power to beat competitors in ways that aren't: produce a better/cheaper product that people choose because it's better/cheaper.


I made a similar point upstream from this, but I believe you said it better, so I've linked to your comment from mine.


- Google bought out it's only competitor to Google Wallet at the time (Softcard) and shut it down.

- Google just announced that it'll block competitors' ads on it's web browser by default. And charge people who use other ad blockers money.

- Google has a secret agreement with every mobile device manufacturer not named Apple to use their product on their terms, and seek their permission for all device releases. And set Google's already dominant software as default on every device.

(EDIT @closeparen, yes, market forces are part of the monopoly Google has constructed. It's impossible to succeed in building a non-Google OS phone. That's the point. Google doesn't have to prohibit them from doing anything they know the licensees can't succeed at doing.

As Androids are woefully insecure, all consumers are hurt by Google's monopoly. Android is an example of an inferior product succeeding through monopoly control.)


- Trying to own the mobile wallet space is mildly interesting, but only mildly, since there are so many offerings now.

- Do you have reason to believe that Android licensing stifles competition or hurts the consumer in any way? We see Android licensees put out phones with other OSes, though they're not popular and quickly die off. We see carriers that carry Android phones carry others.

- Getting dominance over the browser space and then using it to reinforce its dominance in advertising is probably a compelling antitrust case, and frankly I have no idea how their lawyers didn't tell them so.


It isn't just a company trying to abuse market advantage as tool to exploit consumers and crowd out the sector - it is if they are successful at it.

I don't feel locked in to Google Wallet. That is changing, since there are only three "blessed" mobile payment systems now in Samsung, Android, and Apple Pay (rather than what we should have, a standard mobile payment API handled by ISO). But before, Paypal and Amazon Checkout both provided payment solutions that were rivals, with significant market shares, to Google Wallet.

The ad blocking in Chrome is obviously anti-competitive, but it waits to be seen if Google has actual monopolistic power in the browser space where this change doesn't drive consumers to competitors. If the advertisers Google is trying to bully fight back by having their affiliates block Chrome, either those businesses die or Chrome loses market share. We will have to see what happens, but I generally think if consumers want to use a web product, they would get another browser to do so and stop using Chrome in the same way we got 40% of people to drop IE for Firefox.

And finally, Google also doesn't have any agreements with Amazon. That is why you have to manually download their app store APK, and why it doesn't have first class installation support as a generic app like the Play Store. But Amazon is also making their own Android devices without Gapps, and Samsung is in a position to at least try it themselves if they wanted to, since they have their own app suite as well. And all Google does is require that all their apps be installed if a manufacturer wants to include any of them - which while heavy handed isn't anticompetitive to do.

If anything, a real domain of monopoly exploit by Google is how they will punish companies they disagree with in SEO, when they do have an overwhelming majority of the search market, and it has been proven in the last 2 decades of business that consumers treat Google like gospel - if its not there, it might as well not exist. People don't try using alternative search engines if they don't find what they are looking for on Google.

> Android is an example of an inferior product succeeding through monopoly control.

Android is first mover advantage. It has the same vicious feedback loop that gives Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc their monopolies - they act as middle men to third party products and services, and by capturing the audience capture the mindshare of retailers. It doesn't matter if its user and app developers, users and websites, users and friends of them, or users and actual goods retailers - each one has dominance in their market because they have the mindshare.

I don't see how Google is being particularly abusive with how they run Android. Nobody has to use their Play Store, and nobody has to develop against the Play Services thus bonding their app to the Google Suite. It is just consumers want the apps on that store, so developers use the services and ignore the competition and create a self fulfilling prophecy of monopoly.

And I'm not arguing Android doesn't have a monopoly - just Google isn't really exploiting it by only requiring all their apps come if someone wants the Play Store. The OS itself is liberally licensed, and anyone could either reuse Dalvik or write their own implementation to run APKs. I'm not sure how you would legislate to avoid the natural monopolies caused by things like the Play Store, Google Search, Facebook, or Amazon.


Carnegie wasn't involved in Standard Oil that was John D. Rockefeller's company.


Thanks, corrected. Get my robber barons mixed up sometimes.


Google is not a search company they are an advertising company. Their search product is a value add, it is the reason people go to google but it is also not what they sell. A business with a monopoly can raise the cost of their product to the price the market can bear. Google cannot raise the cost of their ads because advertisers will simply go to other ad platforms.

TLDR: Google is selling space on its website for advertisements. They do not have a monopoly on that. If they put their search behind a paywall Bing, Duckduckgo, etc will replace them.


You say that "a business with a monopoly can raise the cost of their product to the price the market can bear" which seems to be exactly what Google has achieved with their competitive pricing model. If they charged more then they would lose buisiness. If they charged less they'd be leaving money on the table. This leaves no room for a competitor and therefore it is a monopoly, both in theory and in practice no matter how hard you want to argue against it.


While Google monetizes its core web properties such as google, gmail, and youtube via a closed advertising system. That doesn't mean the worth of the company is held in AdWords. If Google decided to shutter AdWords and use a third party the third party would still need to pay billions per year for exclusivity.

However, Google does leverage their ad business into non-google properties via vertical integration eg. I can buy ads on CNN via AdWords but I can't buy ads on Google search from DataXu or other DSPs.


They do have a monopoly in search. If they decide to delist you, you're f*cked.


To my mind, something as subjective as consumer experience is difficult to objectively measure. I'm not sure what would count as valid evidence.


We can't measure it perfectly but there exist statistics that we can at least say approximate it. One of which is price and currently there are price wars occurring all the time between the tech giants.


i believe that happy customers would count as valid evidence.

when i use google or amazon, im usually pretty happy with the service they provide.

when i have to stand at a walmart cashier for half an hour while the lady has to yell for the manager because she needs to issue a $1.20 refund, im not as happy.

when I have to go to the library of alexandria to find a piece of infomration that im looking for but then they tell me that it burned down 2000 odd years ago, im not as happy.


Right, but how to measure that?

For example, do we know a company's customers are happy because the company has grown to be large?

Like Comcast. Comcast has a lot of customers, maybe they're happy ones? Otherwise how did Comcast grow to that size? (See what I'm hinting at?)

There are different interpretations of Comcast's success at customer growth and retention.


its because comcast is a monopoly.

google was not a monopoly when it became popular. it was the idiot 12th search engine that nobody needed.

i get what youre saying, but its pretty obvious why a company gets big. its either holding some form of monopoly or people want it. there are not many other options to be honest.

you dont become the most popular car manufacturer by producing a bullshit product that people neither need nor want.

besides, why is comcast even a negative example? why did you pick that? its because you KNOW FOR A FACT that everyone hates comcast. even I know that. and i have nothing to do with america. people hate comcast. that may as well be a dictionary example sentence for the word "hate". how do we know that everyone hates comcast? because people say so every single day. just measure that. if you want to know whether a company is loved or hated, just ask their customers.


You've made a lot of claims. Do you have any evidence to support these:

- Facebook's 1% owning 99% of its wealth

- The economy of nation states mirrors that of its corporations (and not the other way around)

- Social environments of corporations somehow influence the general public

There are many reasons why mega-corporations are bad, and I personally don't think these are them.


> The world is a better place with lots of smaller companies.

I would tend to agree. What's troubling to me is central banks pouring money into the big tech companies. How are small companies supposed to compete with a printing press?

Even if a world with lots of smaller companies serves consumers better, consumers' votes don't matter when central banks can steal their votes via a printing press and give money to the big tech companies.

http://www.reuters.com/article/swiss-snb-stocks-idUSL8N1B738...

http://www.businessinsider.com/1-trillion-in-central-bank-as...


Also, an increasing amount of people does not tolerate critizism against their beloved Zuckerberg, Bill gates, etc... :

How you dare criticize him when he is bringing free internet to Africa?


I don't understand what you mean by analyzing facebook as a country. You're saying facebook employees are citizens of the country? And their salaries vary so much?

According to this[1] facebook employees make $277k. And this[2] says facebook has 17048 employees. Multiply those, and we get $4.7B of compensation. This[3] claims Mark Zuckerberg made $5M in a year. So he made about 0.1% of facebook's salary expenses. Not 99% like you are claiming.

Or are you referring to existing shares that people own going up in value? It's obvious that if someone owns more shares than someone else, and all shares go up in value, the person with more shares makes more profit. Are you saying it is unethical for someone to own more shares that someone else? And if you are referring to shares, you should be talking about shareholders, not employees.

[1] https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-average-total-compensation...

[2] https://www.statista.com/statistics/273563/number-of-faceboo...

[3] http://www1.salary.com/Mark-Zuckerberg-Salary-Bonus-Stock-Op...


Having worked at big companies and small companies, my experience was that working at a large company was easier. People could almost forget that you exist. That never would happen in a small company. So I suspect that the whole post-war Michael Moore ideal economy with big companies, big unions, and stable jobs was based on this dream of people not noticing your incompetence. I suspect that is also why government jobs are prized.

So big corporations may be terrible for all sorts of reasons... invasion of privacy, lack of consumer choice, inefficiency, etc... but dehumanizing workplace environment is not really one of them... at least not in a relativistic sense. Small companies can be much more totalitarian.

I've heard the same point made in reference to the difference between local governments and federal governments. Local governments can be all the more tyrannical precisely because everyone knows everyone:

https://thinkprogress.org/freedom-and-the-weak-state-c9a31f5...


The way to compete with big companies is to make new ones, and create an environment that fosters new ones, like making affordable healthcare.

There is no reason for breaking up Google or Facebook. Their only monopoly is over advertising, and most people don't care about that. Advertising isn't a thing people crave.

If anything, break up the ISPs like Comcast!!


>These big companies turn regular people into corporate livestock to serve the wealthy.

That's weird, I thought they were all building robots to serve the wealthy by replacing everyone's jobs?


I can't take it anymore! I have to speak out.

>The top 1% would own maybe 99% of the wealth of the country and everyone else would earn a minuscule fraction of the total value that they produced.

What is up with all this egalitarian nonsense? There is an obsession with equality that I just don't get. Where is all the envy coming from(because that's what it is)?

This is an affront on capitalism which has served to lift so many out of poverty. It is unacceptable in my books.


>What is up with all this egalitarian nonsense?

Just the wish to have a society that is able to evolve, to have all of us go forward as a species instead of concentrating the power in the hands of few.

>There is an obsession with equality that I just don't get.

That's called being a bit of a sociopath, but it gets better.

>This is an affront on capitalism which has served to lift so many out of poverty.

Good! Capitalism did a lot of good. Now it's time we go past it, because it is not appropriate anymore.


Well at least we can get that out of the way; it is an affront then.

These 4 companies (and more) have done more good than all the goodness of your heart will ever do. We have to be pragmatic and not just be bleeding hearts because it is endearing and it will make us popular.

>to have all of us go forward as a species instead of concentrating the power in the hands of few.

This is the problem you and others that think like you have; your assumption is that it is perpetually a zero-sum game. That for some to win others must lose. No. This is just flawed. These companies should be left to be as big as they can get.

You can also start your own conglomerate! Free markets aren't stopping you but because you have a closed mindset, the only way you can see a good future for humanity is by attacking people who wake up earlier than you, push harder than you and take more personal responsibility than you.

This is wrong. Plain wrong and I'm unashamed to say it. Why do we want to repeat failed experiments with egalitarianism. Every where it has been tried, it has failed miserably. Empirically, anti-capitalism has been a disaster.


I don't understand your logic.

If companies are allowed to get as big as they want, then it naturally constrains other smaller companies from competing. It's not a free market anymore, it's a few big fish in a small lake. Good luck not being a predator.

This has happened before. We had massive conglomerates in the late 1800s. Thankfully some leaders with vision (Roosevelt) broke them up.

Egalitarianism does not == the USSR or other failed experiments. Those became anti-egalitarian as soon as the party vanguard took control in the middle of the revolution. Egalitarianism is an ideal state that can coexist with capitalism. What you are advocating is some kind of dystopian future where monetary might makes right and society is run by a few non democratic organizations.


>If companies are allowed to get as big as they want, then it naturally constrains other smaller companies from competing.

These big 4 weren't always there. There were other players before them. In fact they're relatively VERY young.

How do companies get big? By solving customers' needs in a free market and doing so at scale. No one forces you to use Instagram over a Kodak; you have a need, Kodak, once big, could no longer meet your needs. They went way.

My point is, customers make companies big. The bigger they get, the more they can solve customers' needs. Trying to solve these needs any other way leads to disasters.

I mean, what are we doing here then if the goal isn't to be as big or bigger than google? To do more than they have. This takes resources and many resources at that. How else do you propose getting satellites to orbit and mapping out the earth and it's terrain?

Let's not sit here and pretend we don't like using GPS or chrome or google maps or android or iOS and soon self-driving cars... When companies are at a certain scale they can solve different types of problems than smaller companies.

Smaller companies can solve different sets of problems and with time may be they too can become large companies.

Trying to say they should be split or spoken against shows a lack of growth mentality and being stuck in the past as opposed to trying to conquer new territory. There are still so many problems to solve not just what these 4 have done. It's insane, the number of things that need to be solved.


I don't agree with that because big corporations could not even exist in an anarchist society.

These big corporations only exist and thrive because laws and regulations are designed in this way. To suggest that these corporations grow organically and that they should be allowed to follow their natural course is wrong. They are as unnatural as it gets.

The laws need to be tweaked to change the economic environment so that it favors smaller companies like it used to.

Corporations are extremely inefficient.

Maybe not communism, but socialism is working very well in countries like Sweden.


>it is an affront then.

You'll live.

>These 4 companies (and more) have done more good than all the goodness of your heart will ever do

Oh, certainly. Can we start listing all the bad they've done now? Because I can't, not even in a hundred lifetimes, do as much evil as those four.

>That for some to win others must lose. No. This is just flawed.

Indeed. If you're living in a dream.

However, in most of the cases, many people are losing, and few are winning.

>These companies should be left to be as big as they can get.

It went so well in the past! Employees working at the company, paid in company scrips, eating at the company store, sleeping in the company bed. Corruption at the highest levels. Look at Samsung's level of involvement in South Korea's government, certainly something you want, right?

>You can also start your own conglomerate!

Absolutely! Unless you are poor, not living in a first world country, not living in a place where you have any chance of getting your company to a sizable level, ... Also, hopefully said conglomerates you are challenging will not do anything to crush you, because they have the ability to do so, a thousand times over.

>people who wake up earlier than you, push harder than you and take more personal responsibility than you.

I know people who make up earlier than me, who push harder than me and take on more personal responsibility than me. They're bricklayers. They're artisans. They're cashiers. They're working two jobs. They're working infinitely harder than you, I or Larry Page have ever worked. And yet, here we all are, in better health, with more money, with more free time and a more satifying job than them. Go tell them they aren't at this level because they aren't working hard. I fucking dare you.

>This is wrong. Plain wrong and I'm unashamed to say it. Why do we want to repeat failed experiments with egalitarianism. Every where it has been tried, it has failed miserably. Empirically, anti-capitalism has been a disaster.

Two things:

* You seem to be assuming I want communism. You're wrong. Unless we're getting fully automated luxury gay space communism, in which case, yes.

* I am not advocating anti-capitalism. I am recognising the merits of this system. I am also recognizing its flaws, and the need for it to evolve.

You're putting more value on the accumulation of wealth to a few people than to the well-being of society. I have those swapped around, and think your ideas are utterly fucked up, that's all. You're more than welcome to think the same of my ideas. You are being beaten with a whip, but somehow feel the need to defend your masters bnecause after all, you're not beaten that much. Not only is it stupid, you're forgetting the other people getting beaten, much more than you.


>> You'll live.

Millions have died from the perils of ideas such as yours so forgive me if I don't take your word for it.

>> Can we start listing all the bad they've done now?

You bet. List said evils and I guarantee you the sheer weight of the good in comparison will invalidate your claims.

>> Indeed. If you're living in a dream. However, in most of the cases, many people are losing, and few are winning.

Actually wealth over time has increased for majority of humans so you're WRONG. Things are getting better.

>> Look at Samsung's level of involvement in South Korea's government, certainly something you want, right?

Again, one simple instance of something that's gone awry that's incomparable to the magnitude of good that Samsung has done for the people in its country and around the world.

>> Absolutely! Unless you are poor, not living in a first world country, not living in a place where you have any chance of getting your company to a sizable level

I come from and live in a 3rd world country in Africa. I've had a mentor and director in my previous start up who started with nothing (I mean dirt poor) and built up a company that makes something in the order of tens of millions of dollars per year. Certainly no Amazon or Microsoft but no mean feat either. He in turn has friends who do way better than him. Point is, if he can do it, anyone in the world can do it and people should just stop complaining.

>> They're working infinitely harder than you, I or Larry Page have ever worked. And yet, here we all are, in better health, with more money, with more free time and a more satifying job than them. Go tell them they aren't at this level because they aren't working hard. I fucking dare you.

I'm a web developer now. I wasn't always. Before this, I did some of that hard labor you're talking about. I welded and did grunt work all while I took Lynda tuts by Kevin Skoglund to learn PHP.

>> You're putting more value on the accumulation of wealth to a few people than to the well-being of society.

I'm putting more value on common sense. My brother and I are avid readers of Austrian economics. Hans-Hermann hoppe even corresponds directly with my brother via email. I'm so glad we came across these works; they provided a level of clarity that I only see embodied in the valley by Peter Thiel. The reason I bring this up is:

We were recently discussing the dynamics of the economy of a local town nearby and here's what we noticed; there was a cycle with which resources moved about in the town; my brother runs a supermarket, he has a barber and gets a haircut, pays the barber. Some local suppliers will pass by while dropping of shipments and get a haircut, they pay the barber. The barber will at the end of the day need some groceries; he'll get them at the supermarket. And the cycle goes on and on. The most likely reason for someone not to earn a living in that town is that they aren't working - providing a good or service to someone else. That is all money is. There is very little dignity in handouts. There's nothing more fulfilling than rightfully earning what's yours.

I've noticed that what most people call the far right is basically a rebellion against common sense and basic rules of economics. I'm glad Trump won. If not for anything else, just as a statement that however far the left has gone, a subsequent and compelling statement had to be made. That statement was Trump.


>Millions have died from the perils of ideas such as yours so forgive me if I don't take your word for it.

I'd count the deaths due to capitalism deeming a cause not profitable enough to solve its problems, but you are going to ignore it anyways because it doesn't fit your world view.

Also, you are once again assuming I want communism, and that the only viable alternative is capitalism. You're wrong on both points.

>Actually wealth over time has increased for majority of humans so you're WRONG. Things are getting better.

Yet it has concentrated even more in the hands of the few. And quality of life, for many, has been down. I see you have a passion for cold hard cash, but basic things such as being able to live with dignity with a job, being able to get your illnesses treated, having good mental health are to be ignored.

>I come from and live in a 3rd world country in Africa. I've had a mentor and director in my previous start up who started with nothing (I mean dirt poor) and built up a company that makes something in the order of tens of millions of dollars per year. Certainly no Amazon or Microsoft but no mean feat either. He in turn has friends who do way better than him. Point is, if he can do it, anyone in the world can do it and people should just stop complaining.

I assume I know which country you're talking about from your history but I can't type it out because dear @dang will be angry otherwise.

I have a few questions:

* Do you believe all the people he grew up poor with and are still poor stayed poor because they're lazy ?

* Do you believe there is seriously an opportunity for every single person he grew up poor with to build a $10Million business?

* Do you believe all his friends that are making more are here because they were all poor people and they all worked hard, or simply because having money means that you are now always around people who also themselves have money?

* I thought we were talking about building conglomerates able to rival Amazon or Google? :^)

>I'm a web developer now. I wasn't always. Before this, I did some of that hard labor you're talking about. I welded and did grunt work all while I took Lynda tuts by Kevin Skoglund to learn PHP.

So you know exactly the path that is needed, how hard it is to take it, and still you disregard the need to provide everyone with good standards of living. You're the living embodiment of the "fuck you, I got mine" mentality. You've been beaten by the very system you are praising, and instead of wishing for the next generation to have it easier, you are telling them to look at how good things are for you now! But considering you are praising Thiel after, that's not exactly surprising.

Also, big news, not all of us can be developers. I'm not talking in a mental ability point of view. We still need a ton of people doing the manual labor you speak of. And we're not going to need millions of people building the next shitty CRUD app when their jobs have been automated.

>There is very little dignity in handouts. There's nothing more fulfilling than rightfully earning what's yours.

Yes. People are not enjoying handouts. I've had handouts, it's been some of the worst times in my life. You go through crippling depression, isolation, are being judged by everyone, including people like you calling it "handouts" when it's a basic goddamn right in the country I live in. You can't do anything because you barely have any money.

Now apply that to the people under poverty levels who ARE working. Go tell that to six million germans. Go tell that to the millions of americans living through that.

>I've noticed that what most people call the far right is basically a rebellion against common sense and basic rules of economics. I'm glad Trump won. If not for anything else, just as a statement that however far the left has gone, a subsequent and compelling statement had to be made. That statement was Trump.

Mmmmh, delicious white supremacist statements. Lovely racism and authoritarian reactions. Sexy removal of whatever healthcare the country had, leaving millions to die because they are still poor even though they are working, sometimes multiple jobs. Oh, wait, weren't you talking about millions dying from the perils of my ideas? You lived in a country that, until a few decades ago was one of the most egregious examples of how bad racism is for society. But hey, if it proves one of your points, who cares about the people who will actually be impacted by his decisions.


I'm from Kenya. I'm black. I don't think Trump is a racist. Anytime there's no valid argument to make against conservatism, it comes down to; they're all a bunch of racists.

Today, more and more people are coming out of poverty. I see it everyday and it's remarkable. It's all directly attributable to free enterprise and technology (or shitty CRUD apps like you call them).

Not too long ago, the level of poverty all around me was just at crazy levels. Not so much today. I'll tell you what it feels like when a people have to rely on government handouts and foreign aid; it's dehumanizing. When people actually earn what's theirs, they have joy and pride in themselves. They feel capable. Something changed in my country, in a big way in the last 10 - 15 years. Government got out of the way of free enterprise at least on some level. Corporations that were owned by government were privatized and left to businessmen to run them. They thrived. They became big corporations that hired many many people. What's even better, not only did they employ, they supported SMEs buy becoming their biggest produce buyers. Some of these SMEs (or cooperatives) grew so quickly that they became even bigger than the corporations they were supplying produce to. All of a sudden millionaires sprung up everywhere (they weren't programmers either).

Not too long ago, when government run them, they were dying.

There's such a spirit of entrepreneurship and capitalism today that it's all people talk about. When you tune into vernacular radio stations, you'll notice one thing, the most consistent topic of discussion is wrapped around how to grow businesses. How to increase their agricultural yield. How, where and when to sell their produce. People want to be self sufficient. It gives them dignity.

When I hear people talk about how government should intervene in the affairs of private enterprise, I cringe. Today, the biggest corporation we have in terms of market cap is Safaricom. You might have heard of one of their products - MPesa. The corporation has grown to be very big and important. Would you then recommend that they should split it into smaller companies because it is getting bigger and bigger by the day? They're able to offer better service and incredible products such as M-Shwari (a credit facility that's helped millions). Let me tell you about a time when government intervened in telecoms in a previous era. Before Safaricom, there was Telkom Kenya a government owned and run corporation. It was horrible. Their employees would make long-distance calls with your phone line and you would get an enormous bill at the end of the month. You couldn't trust your phone either - government could be listening in. We had a REAL authoritarian leader called Moi and he would use these govt corporations to further his influence into people's lives. Everyone and I mean everyone was scared of him to the point that people couldn't have any private conversations and not worry. Our grandparents still feel that way sometimes and it may be funny to us but you can see that they take it seriously in their hearts.

Anything government touches becomes horrific. For this reason, philosophically and fundamentally, I will always oppose government intervention and involvement. Government produces evils as far as I'm concerned and there should be less of it. If I was an American, I would be a conservative advocating for less and less government.

When Obama came to Kenya, our President basically told him off with regards to imposing values that were inconsistent with our African beliefs and culture. When I look at black leaders that I would support in America, Ben Carson comes to mind without a doubt. I salute Ben Carson and what he stood for in his campaign. He was stellar. Here's a black man starting from the bottom and look at what he's done (again, not a brogrammer). If he can do it, nobody has an excuse. When I think of America's heritage and what makes it great; the Kochs come to mind. Their dad, incredibly paranoid of communism, started something that they took and grew to what I'd call a utility to many Americans. I salute the Koch brothers (classical liberals - the best kind of liberals). What they've done should be praised not shunned. Yes, I salute Peter Thiel too. I learnt so much from him and most importantly, he introduced me to the marvelous works of Hans-Hermann Hoppe who in turn turned me up to Ayn Rand, Edmund Burke, Murray Rothbard, Ludwig Von Mises and Joseph De Maistre.

You made me go on a Yeezy-esque rant but there you have it.


>Point is, if he can do it, anyone in the world can do it and people should just stop complaining.

https://xkcd.com/1827/ via https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14163589


May be. But it's better to be hopeful when that's all you have. Stay positive always.

EDIT: Goes back to the pragmatism I alluded to earlier. We can choose to either rely on chance or hard-work/self reliance. I choose the latter. And yes, most times it is mutually exclusive.

It seems I can't win with you. Before I disclosed my location, it was implied that I couldn't understand because I probably hadn't been through tough times and as such I couldn't sympathize. After I talked about my history, now it's survivorship bias? You want to have your cake and eat it.

In any case, your comparison between coin flipping and putting in the effort towards meaningful work is disingenuous. Bad analogy in my thinking.


First, I am not the person you have been discussing with. I only responded to your concrete sentence which is in my view incorrect.

>But it's better to be hopeful when that's all you have. Stay positive always.

>We can choose to either rely on chance or hard-work/self reliance.

In this wording, I totally agree and am following the same path myself. However, it does not mean that everyone who follows it will be successful, or that we do not need to improve our system to increase the chances. There are definitely billions of hard-working people who deserve a better life but do not get it.


What do you recommend to replace capitalism. I've seen a lot of the other attempts and they have not been pretty.


Which version of capitalism and which attempts? The form of capitalism inside USA isn't the same as Scandinavia, China or Africa practice it.


A complete model? I don't have any. I have bits and pieces of things. And so do you. So does your neighbor, so does the CEO of Microsoft, so does the government worker in his office, so does the guy sleeping in the street. Get people together. Have them talk and debate.

Making a new model is the work of a society. Not one person. I do not believe communism is the solution, I do not believe capitalism or neoliberalism are the solution.


The masses are feeding it because they don't know better. Yet they want regulators out of their way. We can't win!


This sounds like something James Taggart would say.


I think your comparison of companies with states is really far fetched. An employment contract is completely different from citizenship. The freedom of speech comparison is particularly odd, obviously if you are a trouble maker in your company, they rightfully conclude that your value to them decreases.


Agreed. People can talk freely. People can also be dismissed freely. Freedom of speech, freedom of market.


Govt should regulate market capitalization of corporations;


And yet to protect your precious rights and freedoms from the greedy and evil corporations, you turn to the government - the biggest monopoly there is...


Can we vote on the governance of facebook and google like we do with the government? (where every person's vote is equal)

if so, where can I register to freely vote

edit: since it doesn't seem clear, my comment is sarcastic


If you vote, you probably have zero effect. The same person will win regardless of you vote.

If you stop using Google/Facebook services you deprive them of small amount of revenue.

Ergo, you have more influence by changing the servies you use then if you vote.


Sure, it's called the stock market. You buy a share and you get a vote.


facebook class B shares (the ones that Zuckerberg and other company insiders own) has 10x the voting rights of class A shares which you or I can own. They plan to issue new class C stock that will have no voting rights. this is the same structure in place for alphabet.

So it's not nearly as simple as you make it sound.


You can still buy alphabet shares with voting rights, they trade at a ~3% premium. (GOOG vs GOOGL)

Facebook is a different case, but in the examples prominently mentioned in the article, Google and Amazon are featured and they both give voting rights to stockholders, as does Microsoft.


Every country that has a functioning democracy has realised that money is not speech.

Every sensible person also realizes that this is not a solution. Have more money than someone else? Well, tough shit, your vote shouldn't be worth more. Stocks work the opposite way.


> Every country that has a functioning democracy that money is not speech.

You missed a verb. And in case you missed it, every democracy has elections, and in that case, money is equivalent to speech. Good luck in getting airtime/a platform without paying money.

> Have more money than someone else? Well, tough shit, your vote shouldn't be worth more.

In a company, that's absolutely not the case. Taken to the logical extreme, should I have the same say in the operations of Exxon, even though I have no financial interest in them, rather than a shareholder with 3% of the stock?


>You missed a verb.

As if I such a thing. Thanks.

>Good luck in getting airtime/a platform without paying money.

Funnily enough, I was talking about that in a previous HN thread. You'll have to explain to me how my country (France) functions then, giving equal air time to candidates, no matter their size, or funds. We even have communists! The state pays part of the campaign, and to give you an idea, the 2012 campaign cost a grand total of 227 million euros (or 400, depending on what you count in). That was with fifteen-ish candidates, let's say five major ones and 10 smaller.

For an entire month before the election, each candidate has equal air time. No matter their budget. No matter their size.

>In a company, that's absolutely not the case. Taken to the logical extreme, should I have the same say in the operations of Exxon, even though I have no financial interest in them, rather than a shareholder with 3% of the stock?

If I have one share and you have ten, you have (or can be assumed to have) more money than me, and your vote is worth more. Exxon is an easy example because their actions have a very visible impact on society through, let's say, global warming to only give one example. In that case, you bet I should have the same say. Let's take a normal company. Let's also take a more reasonable amount of shares for a major shareholder, such as 40%. (See how Facebook distributes its shares, for example, and the end result is not far from it).

* If that shareholder decides that he wants to submit to a vote taking all that you're earning through your share and redistribute it to him, should you not have the same say as a shareholder? If no, why? Because he invested more money? And that allows him to get even more money?

* If that shareholder decides to dump their waste in the local river, should you not have the same say as a resident of the town this river goes through? No? You didn't invest enough, so society gets to suffer this person's actions?


> You'll have to explain to me how my country (France) functions then, giving equal air time to candidates, no matter their size, or funds

Is this article true? https://www.thelocal.fr/20170309/rules-of-the-game-what-rule...

In that case, you'll have to get 500 signatures of elected officials. That seems even more chilling, because then you're on record for having supported a candidate, and if you're backing the wrong horse, there should be repercussions.

Also, it seems that now your airtime is proportional based on your performance in the last polls and election.

> Let's also take a more reasonable amount of shares for a major shareholder, such as 40%.

That is not more reasonable. Major shareholders for most large public company (pension funds etc) have percentages of the company in the low single digits.. Here's GM for example. http://investors.morningstar.com/ownership/shareholders-majo...

Most tech companies are relative newcomers and outliers. And they also seem to be outperforming older companies in the market. Perhaps centralization of control based on money and equity has its upsides?

> If that shareholder decides that he wants to submit to a vote taking all that you're earning through your share and redistribute it to him, should you not have the same say as a shareholder? If no, why? Because he invested more money? And that allows him to get even more money?

That's a good point, and it's addressed in "world on fire" where strict property rights and strict democracy always clash. Like it or not, most societies have a pyramidal society when it comes to power/wealth distribution. They're almost fungible - in communist societies, the powerful become wealthy and in capitalist societies, the wealthy become powerful.

The example you bring up (vote taking all that you're earning and redistribution); how is that any different from voted taxation? The vote of the masses is voting to take away the wealth of a small percentage of very wealthy people to "redistribute" the income.


>Is this article true? https://www.thelocal.fr/20170309/rules-of-the-game-what-rule....

>In that case, you'll have to get 500 signatures of elected officials. That seems even more chilling, because then you're on record for having supported a candidate, and if you're backing the wrong horse, there should be repercussions.

Yes and no. It's missing a few details.

First off, elected officials that can give their support can include our 36000ish mayors, and around 10000 other servants. The repercussions come from your own electors, yes. But don't be too afraid, unless you're cosigning on the FN's project (in which case you will most likely be a FN mayor yourself), repercussions are limited. You have to face your electors with the fact that you signed on for a particular candidate, but this is almost universally seen as part of the regular flow of our elections, and very little as partisanship.

>Also, it seems that now your airtime is proportional based on your performance in the last polls and election.

This is an absolutely terrible decision that we're fighting the best way we know (which, you guessed it, is protesting), but bear in mind that it only applies to legislative elections, for the national assembly. And since it is based on previous year's results, Macron's party gets something like 5% of airtime, compared to the PS which gets 30ish percent. It seems to be pissing off enough people that things will probably change.

However, I do agree with you, this particular law is utter crap, and should be removed.

>how is that any different from voted taxation? The vote of the masses is voting to take away the wealth of a small percentage of very wealthy people to "redistribute" the income.

The key difference is the mass. Yes, that's tyranny of the majority. But I prefer that to a single person having the voting power of many.


> You have to face your electors with the fact that you signed on for a particular candidate, but this is almost universally seen as part of the regular flow of our elections, and very little as partisanship

To the electors perhaps, but aren't there unspoken repercussions from party leadership on not toeing the line? Also, if a particular party/ideology controls the media, it's very easy to enforce conformity with the party line.

> But I prefer that to a single person having the voting power of many.

You're fundamentally going to have that anyways. No matter what, if you have power/money, you're able to influence great quantities of the electorate by throwing around that power.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-election-idUSBRE...

If the ruling party/entrenched elite is able to influence the elctorate like that, the tyranny of the majority is absolutely terrible. Sure, TVs were really cheap for a few days, but now no TVs are ever imported again.


Feels like it's getting worse too. For example, things like Google Home and Alexa discourage choice. "Order me a pizza" means they are now either kingmakers in the space, or incented to open their own pizza business.

I'm not a fan of big government, but at some point depending solely on their goodwill seems dangerous.


In general, I agree with your warning that Alexa and co. could limit choice. But is really anyone ordering just "a pizza" or "a lightning cable" by voice without further specification? Isn't customer satisfaction key for using the assistant in the future again?

If using a virtual assistant for ordering, I'd instruct Alexa (or Google or Siri) to order a specific pizza in a specific size from a specific pizza delivery. And if not satisfied with the result of a request, I'd want to be able to specify: "Never order again from the delivery you used last." - or I'd never use the assistant for this task again.

But most likely, I'd just order by hand or phone (instead of voice assistant) as long as I can't tell the voice assistant to just order "my standard pizza" based on my order history.


But Alexa extracting a 5-10% (or even 30%) fee on all pizza places through that access definitely hurts all pizza businesses, anywhere. And those that opt out will miss that business.


How is it definitely? It may hurt or may not. Credit card systems also charge a commission and yet every pizza place prefers to pay it rather than accept only cash, because of the benefits credit cards provide.


Justeat is an online pizza ordering service from Denmark which also requires pizza shops to sign up for it and pay a fairly large fee. This started out very well, but when it gained massive traction they ramped up the fees and pizza joints started complaining that it was killing them. Of course it was too late to opt out since all the consumers had gotten used to going to the website.

The fee started out at 10% and went up in steps up to 20%. At several points pizza shops tried banding together and staging mass "walkouts", but it never worked.


They should increase prices then. If customers like ordering through a voice assistant then make them pay for it. Any supplier for a pizza place can raise prices at any moment -- ingredients, rent, utilities. It's just business, nothing new. As long as it's not a monopoly it won't hurt businesses.


The internet ate into profits of paper media, the car ate into profits of horse carts, the mechanical loom ate into the profits of those operating hand looms (hello Mr. Ludd), the printing press ate onto the profits of scribes.

Should we have kept the scribes?


How can adding the Alexa business harm the pizza place, and opting out also harm them?


Protection rackets are funny that way.

Edit: Yes, that's a bit exaggerated. Just noting that a dominant outside force can change your fortunes whether you choose to play or not.


People choose defaults even when they can change them, even for important products, like a maps app.

So for household commodities ? sure they'll choose the defaults.


"order me a pizza from domino's." "order me a pizza from papa john's."


Right, but you see the difference from a Google web search for "order a pizza", right?


Right, but what if I want Google Home or Alexa to make the decision for me because it can make more informed decision than me. Assuming, Alexa/Google has the pertinent information such as user reviews and has approximate data on how many people visit the store.


"AI" bots offering marketplace auctions for fulfillment on things like "order a pizza", "call a car", etc. is the next field in advertising. I'm sure it will lead to lots of money, not sure it will make the world a better place or how much it will further entrench the dominant players.


How is that different from a yellow pages?

If you are going to say "amazon only offers you one choice" that is an assumption you could make of yellow pages as well (it's a commercial publication, they don't have to list everything). The yellow pages chooses to accept payment from competitors to offer more choice. Amazon could do the same.

And if you are going to say "what is yellow pages?" then damn am I old :)


I'm specifically referring to the voice interface of Alexa and Google Home. Voice doesn't lend itself well to listing out choices. The yellow pages has many listings for pizza.

There are fair ways to implement it, sure. We're depending on their goodwill though.

However, this specific thing is just one of many ways it's getting worse. Google, for example, is slowly, but surely pushing organic results down the page, for their own benefit.

I'm saying that in general, the problem is getting worse, for a variety of reasons.

Edit: Yes, there are workarounds, like using the App. I'm not talking about how to solve this for myself though. I'm talking about the collective effects.


..then use the app? Echo actually gives you multiple options in the app in response to a voice query about commercial establishments as a general rule. Would be a good application for the Echo Show as well


yellow page publishers don't actually know the details of my orders.


Indirectly they do because the more orders you make through yellow pages, the more a pizza place will pay to be listed

Also are you complaining that Amazon will be able to order the options it gives you based on your personal preference?


"...are you complaining that Amazon..."

No. You asked "How is that different from a yellow pages?"

That's a pretty big difference, imo.

" the more orders you make through yellow pages, the more a pizza place will pay to be listed".

Huh? They might pay that, if they feel they're getting a good return, and/or to block a competitor from a particular page/size/etc. But they don't automatically pay more the more pizzas they sell to people who found them in the YP.


I am ultimately skeptical of companies that get all of their revenue from advertising and who fail to make money from sales of products. The value of online advertising is massively inflated.

Of the tech giants, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft seem to be in the best shape at the moment. They make their money from selling real products and services to real end users.

Amazon is strong but not unbeatable. Walmart in particular, as well as a hypothetical alliance/merger of supermarket chains, are well positioned to break Amazon's dominance of e-commerce. But they will need the ambition and ruthlessness that has served Bezos so well. Few large American corporations still have the vigor and virility of Bezos's Amazon.

Microsoft (full disclosure: my former employer) too is strong but not unbeatable. All of their products are facing tough competition from Apple (in OS and hardware sales), Google (in online services), and multiple others (in business software). Microsoft's wins are hard fought and fair, and the competition never lags too much.


> Microsoft's wins are hard fought and fair

No, they were unfairly fought. Don't let the fact that it is your former employer cloud your vision.

Not many companies have such a sordid history of unfair competition as Microsoft does.


I'm sorry but I laughed. Amazon and Google are doing things today as we speak that are as sordid as anything Microsoft has done. The warehouse conditions and pressure cooker culture at Amazon have been repeatedly reported to be appalling and Google's planned Chrome ad blocker and compensation scheme is outright abuse of their dominance in search and ads.


Two wrongs don't make a right.

Microsoft was ruled an abusing monopoly (though the remedies were exceedingly limited).

Google is presently operating under a US DoJ consent decree. I'd have to check what the status for Facebook is. IBM saw its court actions. AT&T was a regulated, monopoly-abusing entity from the 1910s, and the only reason you're making heavy use of Unix-based systems today is that AT&T's 1949 consent decree (one of several in the company's history):

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2011/07/should-we-thank-...

There were similar battles involving Westinghouse, Edison Electric, RCA, NBC, Xerox, and Land, in the tech field, and Standard Oil, numerous railroads, etc., in other fields.


The point is not to excuse Microsoft's past behavior. The point is the common "Microsoft is the most villainous tech company that ever existed and ever will exist!" meme among older techies is basically ignoring the fact that, once a company gets to that size, nobody's hands are clean, even good old "Don't be evil" Google. To constantly repeat that meme is to demonstrate that one is living in the past instead of facing the reality of the present.


I did not say anything about Amazon, Google, Apple or other companies because those were not the subject. Note the 'not many' in the comment you replied to. The fact that other companies are bad does nothing to diminish what MS did (and I haven't seen Google finance a lawsuit against Linux yet, for one thing).

The reality of the present is that Microsoft is still at it with their telemetry, forced upgrades and piggy backing of things that further drive their business on what are supposed to be security updates.


> The fact that other companies are bad does nothing to diminish what MS did (and I haven't seen Google finance a lawsuit against Linux yet, for one thing).

Well, let's revise your original words to take that into account: "Not many companies have such a sordid history of unfair competition as Microsoft does, merely almost all of the ones of the same size and influence."

Rather takes a lot of the rhetorical weight out of it, doesn't it?


But Amazon and Google are power-abusive sordid companies that make GREAT products. In the past, it was easier to recognize Microsoft's bullshit because their power-abuse was combined with shitty products.

I think it was Eben Moglen I heard point out that the places in which software freedom has won over Microsoft turned out to be easier than might have been suspected 20 years ago because it was easy enough for free software to outdo Microsoft garbage. Now, with Google, Amazon, and Apple the power issues remain but the products they make are so much better, it's much harder to compete.

It was easy for Firefox to beat IE, not so easy to beat Chrome. And lots of people who were pissed off about Microsoft's power abuses give Google a pass because it's easier to go explore Google Earth and ignore the issues compared with just frustration about Microsoft's shitty software. Unfortunately, Microsoft is just as into abusing their power but has learned to be a bit less shitty in their product quality…


If the Justice department hadn't bungled the antitrust case over the wrong target (focusing on IE instead of their OEM rebate strategy used to corner the market) Microsoft might not have existed today in the same form.


The problem with that is that those companies can use the ad revenue to dump prices in other field and essentially drive any possible competition out of the market. This can cause a dangerous snowball where a few huge corporations control several markets and competing is impossible because they don't need to earn profit (or earn anything at all) on those secondary markets.

Add vendor lockin and you just created a corporate monopoly which is terrible for consumers.


And what will happen to these companies as more people start blocking ads? Apple introduced an ad blocking framework into iOS a year or two ago and this year they are going even further with blocking tracking cookies and letting users default to reading view.

So sure the "unwashed masses" will see ads but ad buyers are going to start losing their most affluent audience - the people who are willing to pay not to see ads whether it be buying an iPhone or subscribing to ad free services.


Well, you start making your own ad blocker to block their ad blockers. And then you charge people money to see content if they're using third party ad blockers.


As a business owner whose entire revenue comes from adwords leads at this point, I can tell you it isn't a massively inflated cost. Sure, it's 90% of my expenses and half of what I even make, but I pay this because I still make money.

This may not apply to all types of ads, but I'm happy paying what I do, and I can't imagine anyone else would be paying if they weren't making money.


Google earns a lot from advertisement, but they're not just showing ads, there is a difference. You're actually paying them to find the right customer to show the ad. And that probably will always be valuable. Much different from a game that exists for the sole purpose of showing ads from google between games.


> Microsoft's wins are hard fought and fair

Was giving Internet Explorer away for free along with Windows and bankrupting Netscape fair ?


I think you have rose colored glasses on about Netscape around the time that IE was given away for free. I remember an article that came out in the late 90s comparing how badly NS crashed on every platform that it ran on.

Why is it anti competitive for MS to give away IE for free but not anticompetitive for Google to give away Chrome and Android for free or Apple to give away IOS/MacOS for "free". Every tech company "commoditizes their complements". IBM supports free operative systems to sell hardware and services, Apple gives away IOS updates to sell hardware, Google gives everything away for free to sell ads, etc.

Is it also wrong for open source software to be free?


Yes.


Why? Also, that's not the view of the court within the EU antitrust case against MS.


For consumers this later lead to other great free browsers.


Yes.


But online advertisement is what drives sales of the companies which produce products. You won't sell your product if you don't advertise them. Especially for new businesses that sell products it's almost impossible to get noticed unless you advertise


Naw, we have an attention economy here. This is a zero-sum situation. Newcomers have to compete on the same terms specifically because all the advertising noise from others drowns them out unless they advertise too.

Google lists plain facts like the existence of a business without any advertising even. If all the restaurants in a town decided in solidarity to never advertise on Google, people could still look up the restaurant directory and learn about the options. All the restaurants would save money. But when some advertise at Google and got prominence, they capture more of the market, which forces others to do more advertising in order to not lose market share.

And a restaurant having their own website is informational, but that's not what we mean by online advertising. We mean when third parties pay to have their ad promoted to people who aren't directly connecting with their business.

If all third-party advertising went away, it would be such a shock to the internet economy that it's hard to describe. But ignoring that aspect, we would see net GAINS in new businesses being able to have people notice their products or in customers being able to find the products and resources they want.


> people could still look up the restaurant directory and learn about the options.

Then you will have premium listings in the directory. Businesses will always try to increase their revenue and advertising is and will be a tempting option for them.


Yeah, but maybe you missed my point. In principle, like a union / cartel, a whole sector of businesses in a market could decide together to never advertise, and the reduced overhead for everyone would mean more profit. In practice, it just takes a few deviators / scabs etc. to undermine this for everyone.

Reality is more complex. Organizing in solidarity is hard, deviation is easy… the whole non-cooperative games theories etc. Markets aren't all zero-sum.

But a bunch of restaurants in a town could all just promote the idea of eating out and promote their directory, and if no premium access or other advertising happens, then it will be best for everyone.

The core point is to reject the simplistic argument that ads are all just information and somehow fine and productive. Maybe you just meant that, in practice, businesses need to advertise. But if we get rid of a whole form of advertising, it can just help businesses rather than harm them. Each additional means to advertise creates yet more burden in a zero-sum race-to-the-bottom fashion.


My original comment was an argument for the parent thread which said "The value of online advertising is massively inflated." I was not saying that ads are good.


Okay, sorry for the confusion. Your response didn't seem pro-advertising per se, but it seemed to suggest that advertising was a necessary evil maybe. I wanted to clarify that it isn't actually necessary systematically, it's just necessary in a race-to-the-bottom zero-sum game where each player has to accept the necessary evil given the assumption that others are doing it.


I disagree. Advertising has been around since the 1800s and I don't really think it'll be going away anytime soon. And besides, Google is diversifying its portfolio these days anyway (GCP, Google Home, Waymo, and tons of moonshots).


Actually, Google's diversification efforts haven't amounted to much. There was an interesting article recently that compares the revenue streams for the top 5 tech companies:

http://www.visualcapitalist.com/chart-5-tech-giants-make-bil...

Interestingly, Microsoft has the most diversity in that regard.


Actually advertising has been around alot longer in one form or another. The need has always existed to somehow inform consumers of the availability of products and services:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_advertising#Pre-mod...


Correction they are trying to diversify but they are still making 90% of their profit from ads.


So you're skeptical of every TV station and radio station too?


Yes! I am. They are getting ravaged by the likes of Netflix and HBO.


Good point actually.


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