The limits on third-party apps are legal, not technical. It is not technically challenging to build an application that collects Facebook credentials and then presents alternative views and features. It could, for example, finally be possible to see a time-ordered view of your friends' posts (Facebook doesn't allow this since it reduces engagement).
The development of such applications would serve as a threat and check on the market dominance of Facebook. A popular third-party application could consider adding its own features that Facebook does not have. It would also reduce Facebook's revenue.
What stops this? In the US, it is primarily the CFAA (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_Fraud_and_Abuse_Act). Once Facebook formally tells a company to stop accessing their servers, they are in violation of federal law if they continue to do so.
It seems premature to pursue trust busting action while we still have federal laws that encourage and cement the dominance of a single provider.
"Forced open APIs" is an interesting idea in terms of actually bringing value to users - its almost on the level of nationalizing a company though in terms of being anti-business. Why Facebook would front the cost of running a service they can't monetize though is a big question.
Isn't fixing that the promise of distributed apps?
That's... I... Well. :0
...though I may formally delete my account now. That's just... I'm going to be sick. That's Hostile Architecture if I've ever seen it.
I'm growing increasingly weary of this type of offensive programming. I've never felt or understood the need to actively make something as hard to consume and process as possible. Again though, it really speaks to Facebook's view of their users: 'Look, but don't touch!'
Then again, I tend to build by the maxim 'it is vain to do with more what can be done with less'.
Suppose the CFAA wasn't applied so indiscriminately, but Facebook still didn't want third-party clients to access their data and there was no requirement for them to do so. So they make sure there's no publicly-available API, at least with any terms of service that let you build a true third-party client. Assuming there is still some legal mechanism to make unauthorized access to computer resources illegal, then tapping into Facebook's private APIs counts. Doing what 3Taps and PadMapper did -- just scraping data -- can be a Terms of Service violation (as can the private API access, presumably) and could conceivably even be charged as a copyright violation. It's asking for trouble. It's also potentially a constant cat-and-mouse game. And, last but not least, there's no guarantee that data scraping will actually get you the data that you need to do a good job of building a new business on top of Facebook's social graph.
What would be better, if you accept the original premise, is not new regulation, per se, but antitrust action specific to these companies forcing them to build open APIs. Simply saying "hey, Facebook can't sue you for data scraping anymore" just won't cut it.
But it seems mistaken to use anti-trust regulations to break up or regulate companies when there are still laws on the books that help facilitate market dominance. Repeal those first and see what happens before doing anything else.
Any legal rule that makes legitimate HTTP requests illegal (i.e. requests whose purpose is not solely to commit harm ala a DDoS) ought to be repealed.
Cute phrasing, but what this really means is "why not force anyone who develops a product to allow others to capitalize on it?"
> It seems premature to pursue trust busting action while we still have federal laws that encourage and cement the dominance of a single provider.
You mean "allow a product to exist as a unified product". "Provider" is 100% misleading language.
Facebook could still prevent third-party applications from functioning, but it would have to do so by methods inside of the HTTP specification rather than legal ones. For example, it could simply ban users who authenticate via a third-party app.
Or maybe that could be the form of trust-busting: by default, you don't have to give the access to the data, but if you're found to be an abusive monopolist, then you can be forced to.
. . . why not though? I don't see how permitting monopoly rents in perpetuity is an economically or socially desirable outcome.
Monopoly is defined loosely and based on the idea of market power, not being a sole provider. The Wikipedia article you cite even mentions Microsoft and Intel as examples, and they had less market power over their fields than Facebook does.
What's more, this is a conversation around individual users. Facebook's economic rent is paid by their customers, which are advertisers and not the subject of this conversation.
Except it is, because it's able to leverage its market power to dictate terms to the market. If you prefer the term "oligopoly" rent you can do that, but there isn't much point. Their network effect and capacity for lock-in allows them to collect economic rents, which is the point here.
>Facebook's economic rent is paid by their customers, which are advertisers
No. Loss of privacy, surrendering your data and information, and platform constraints are all forms of rent paid to Facebook by consumers.
I view this the same way as I view ad-blocking.
Building on top of Facebook only strengthens their monopoly and does nothing to reward their competition.
And given that Facebook can break such "apps" on a whim, via simple and justifiable changes to their UI or APIs, you haven't gained anything, while reinforcing their monopoly.
Why not have the third party app access exported archives and not Facebook servers?
This way users could at least be made aware of the features they are missing. Ones that might be better for users but not necessarily better for Facebook.
For example, organising and searching through past data could be made much more efficient, reducing the time users need to spend on the Facebook website/app.
> Why not have the third party app access exported archives and not Facebook servers?
For the most part, those archives only contain data that the user has personally uploaded. They contain little to no data about their friends or their friends activity. A third party app that only works with a user's archive will not be able to function as an adequate Facebook alternative.
They have already shared the content of the archive via Facebook.
Nor was I thinking of a "Facebook alternative" (neither was the parent comment). What I was thinking is that one could demonstrate certain features in an app that one does not find one Facebook.
Users would then become familiar with features that are possible but that they are not getting on Facebook.
Back in the day AOL was the Facebook. The first browsers were ehh, but the idea of owning your own domain really appealed to people and the Web killed AOL which is no longer around as the world’s centralized social network.
That’s what we are doing at https://qbix.com . Watch the video there. We are inspired by Wordpress which powers 30% of all websites - we just wanted to build a true alternative to Facebook, not just a blogging platform.
Example app: https://davosapp.com
PS: I see a few steady downvotes every time I suggest that we need an open source alternative to Facebook and link to meaningful efforts in that direction. I would definitely prefer to hear what is wrong with what I said, rather than silently downvoting.
I don't think you were downvoted because you suggested an open source alternative to Facebook, but rather because the bulk of your comment was a plug for your own project.
You'd probably get a better reception if you made your point, and ended your comment with a very short plug along the lines of "PS: I'm working on one at https://qbix.com."
To me, after a reasonable period for them to capitalise on their innovation/higher quality execution, any company making huge profits in an area with few competitors should be subject to a range of measures designed to reduce barriers to entry to make it easier for new competitors to emerge.
Some natural ones would include rules about standards, providing apis, user portability, etc.
What we dont want to incentivise is regulatory capture, entrenched power, rent seeking behaviour.
For the most part, big tech companies provide amazing service. I can't think of another industry that has a product as good as the tech companies of today have. Yes there may be some fakes on Amazon, and DDG in some use cases may be better than Google, but for the majority of consumers these companies provide excellent service.
We really need more scrunity when it comes to acquisitions, the fact that Google was able to acquire YouTube and Facebook was able to acquire Instagram shows a real lack of foresight on regulators. Perhaps this is because when you're busting up Standard Oil you have more tangible view of what the monopoly looks like: the oil company owns the fields, the railroads, the refineries, the whole damn stack. When it comes to tech everything is a data play, Google (a search engine) and YouTube (a video site) look like distinct industry, but at the end of the day the main resource being competed for is attention and data.
If you don't look at the public face of the companies and look at their balance sheets and income statements instead, you get a very different view of things, and they certainly look monopolistic and/or monopsonistic in some key areas. (Monopsony is the buy-side equivalent of a monopoly, where a market has only one buyer.) Advertising is a pretty significant one. An example of monopsony is that right now, while there's a crapton of places you can host your own video streams, only YouTube is an effective mechanism for monetizing them, which is why they can get away with all their shenanigans.
Once you look at it from the balance sheet perspective of these companies, and potentially from a monopsony perspective, there's a lot of avenues for a highly-active government attack against these companies, even if they never claim "the general public" is a direct victim.
* We can't because they made their services so they can't be broken
* They're smarter than the regulators so its no use trying.
I feel like both of those are cop-outs, and to be unchallenged makes me wonder if the two talking have a vested interest in keeping the bigs together (one as a marketing professor and the other being an equity researcher... it seems like they're not ones to push too hard against the status quo).
Point 1 seems silly - if the whole business is structured in such a way to be anti-trust proof, doesn't that mean the management is so worried about a real possibility of being broken up that they've been working to shield it? "Well they've centralized their revenue generation so there's no way to take it apart"? It seems incredibly possible to do so.
Point 2 is tactical - and that can change at any time. With the generational shift starting to happen in politics, the argument that representatives and senators don't understand the business or their products will cease to be true. I'm sure there's plenty of people in the justice department that understand it well enough as well.
Half the network is worth less than half of the original network.
Silly as it is, that's just not how antitrust law works in the U.S.
You can see this playing out now in comments about autonomous vehicles, AR/VR and blockchain. No regulators would have blocked Facebook's Oculus acquisition because virtual reality was basically a non-existent market at the time. If in 10 years we're all wearing Facebook owned AR devices someone else will make the same claim "they have too much power we should have never let them make hardware", but there is an equal chance that we're not and no one cares.
You could advocate that big tech should not make acquisitions, and also attempt to regulate internal R&D and product development, but I think then you're making the case that these companies need to be maintenance mode zombie utilities that can't adapt. Its easy to block an acquisition that has immediate anti-trust issues, and hard to block an acquisition that might have issues after 5-10 years of company funded R&D...
If you look at the press reports from around that era, Instagram's domination was far less assured - Color got tons of funding, PicPlz raised $5 mil, the press favored Hipstamatic, and every day a few new apps with their own twist on photo sharing would launch.
By early 2006, YouTube had substantial peering in place. It's easy to prove: they talked about their programs at NANOG (https://www.nanog.org/meetings/nanog37/presentations/bill.no...). Without those, they would have folded already. They were acquired by Google only at the end of the year.
Google doesn't own all of its fiber. Also, some ISPs have made public claims of being paid by Google for transit traffic. Google, but also ISPs, saves a lot of money through peering or the Google Global Cache. This is also why YT had peering in 2006: remember that traffic moves across multiple ISPs and it wasn't just YT's costs that were going to go up with their exponential growth.
Last but not least, consider that Netflix doesn't own fiber – or at least haven't announced any – and they haven't been sunk by network costs, thanks to peering and edge caching.
[I used to work at Google and knew at the time quite a bit about YT's infrastructure. The above is all public information.]
I mean, this is not unheard of in Silicon Valley.
Be it YouTube or some other company, truth is online user-generated video was bound to be huge given the growth in bandwidth capacity and improvement in smartphone cameras.
The fact that specifically YouTube is what it is right now might be because it operates under the Google umbrella. Had the acquisition not happened, I'm sure we'd have at least a couple online video unicorns feeding off the huge demand for video and supply of people wanting to share.
By this logic Netflix shouldn’t exist because it doesn’t use Google’s network assets. I’m pretty sure YouTube’s advertising revenue should cover its cost of building out CDN and transport infrastructure.
Even if that's true (which I doubt), Google is not the only company that owns fiber.
> If you are taking a consumer benefit angle I don't see how you conclude that Google should have been prevented from buying YouTube.
The GP was talking about a "shift away" from the "'consumer welfare' view of anti-trust," because that view permits acquisitions like that of YouTube by Google.
Would you rather have Verizon owning YouTube?
Every single telco has tried to launch their own YT. They launched, and every single one of them failed.
The reason they keep failing is that they are telcos, their core capabilities do not play well with an open, network agnostic, consumer-driven video service. They'll prioritize their own content and their own network (look at Verizon and "Oath").
If you "deleted" YouTube, and both Amazon, Google, Verizon, AT&T launched video services, which ones do you think would succeed? Definitely Google's, maybe Amazon's, definitely not Verizon's or AT&T's.
Google happens to be a "third-party content access monetizing" company that owns infrastructure, not an infrastructure company trying to be a "third-party content access monetizing" company.
>Even if that's true (which I doubt)
Literally one hour ago Alphabet CFO went thru some advanced mental gymnastics to avoid straight answers about youtube profitability:
- No youtube breakout of revenues, Again not a bullish sign for that division, stil nothing on youtube on the call.
- EDIT on the earnings call they did talk briefly about Youtube, no real new numbers though, just their assurance that youtube is crushing it
- Porat is doing gymnastics to talk about youtube but not actually say anything about youtube. Are youtbue numbers really that bad????
So, it seems that OP is mostly correct in his assumption. Normally CFO of public companies are not shy talking about their successful bets.
Google is probably the only non-telco who owns significant infrastructure. So other than Google, the only other option for YouTube would have been a telco.
Are you sure you'd want a telco owning YouTube? Can you imagine how awful it would be?
Vimeo is owned by IAC, who then owned AskJeeves, TripAdvisor, HotWire, LendingTree and today owns Tinder, OkCupid, Match.com, The Daily Beast, etc.
You sure you'd want the top video website owned by IAC?
What about Amazon or Microsoft?
How about: once you hit a certain market share, you're no longer allowed to acquire businesses that compete with you in some feature category? There could be some processes where a court adjudicates what the feature categories are in each case and whether or not they're the same.
There's already some concept about how to do this, since it's not uncommon for a company to be forced to divest a division or two during a merger.
Standard oil is a great example but your describing vertical integration.
Lets take an amazing example of vertical integration that you might experience often but take zero note of. YKK zippers: from the metal smelting for the finished product to the machines they are made ON YKK owns all of it! https://ykknorthamerica.com/the-ykk-difference/vertical-inte...
Do other people make zippers? Sure! But use of YKK is costly and a statement of quality on the product around it. Google at this moment isn't any different. If you cut yourself off from google your cutting off lots of secondary companies that use their services (No maps, no uber, no Lyft as an example).
Google looks a hell of a lot more like YKK today than standard oil.
It's unclear how you'd break them up in such a way as to meaningfully increase competition in a search market where consumers reflexively turn to Google.
Business being what it is, even if you simply fork Google, both new halfs are immediately going to seek out some way to differentiate themselves, so I think it's less silly than it sounds.
This just doesn't make sense. No American politician would even purpose that for (rightful) fear of their career.
I don't think it even requires that. If we're paying for these services with our information and attention, more sophisticated tracking and increased data collection are a form of price increase. The anti-trust argument only requires that put a price tag on the data collected or inferred by Google/Facebook and it becomes obvious that "prices" have been going up for years because of monopoly power.
The first step towards saner attitude towards tech is stopping with this glorification of tech.
With the exception of Google or say wikipedia, who have made knowledge accessible in unprecedented manner, modern technology companies (the name is imprecise, because it is really just digital technology) have not as much impact as we think they have.
I can think of a lot of technology products that are much older that have much more impact. The car for example, or something as trivial as the soap, or penicillin and vaccines or the conveyor belt.
If we measure the impact of technology by its influence on economic growth and productivity, human welfare and health, then most 'tech companies' don't make it high up the list. It's not clear that social media actually enhances welfare or productivity. Slack, one of the most valuable companies in recent years, is a reskinned IRC that eats more RAM. I'd say if hard benchmarks are any indication, we're de-innovating.
Sure, there's the argument hat AI is around the corner and soon we'll see an explosion in wealth and pull out of our sluggish growth, but I'll believe it when I see it. Up until then I think the first step is to bring the tech hype down to sane levels.
in a certain sense you're not wrong, but this is almost infamous-Dropbox-comment level of missing the point. IRC is a great technology and is pretty useful if you only need to communicate with other tech nerds. it's not a very inviting technology to lay users and businesses though. on the client end, the default config exposes your IP address (at least, this was the case when I last used mIRC). on the server side, you need at least one person who actually understands how IRC works to configure it and keep your communications secure. for a fee, slack takes care of all this for you. it's also a lot easier to share stuff that isn't text over slack.
Yes, Slack no doubt provides some value by easing access to some technology for people who previously could not access it, but if this comes at the cost of deep innovation and hard performance, it will compound long term issues.
This seems to be a general theme of the web. User acquisition and comfort is placed above all else, while performance and structural innovation are neglected.
If aerospace engineers would build planes the way we build webapps the planes would double in size and fuel consumption every five years. If those engineers were employed by a web startup we would tell them not to worry as long as the user numbers grow and the seats are comfortable.
when it comes to anti-trust, and evaluating technology in general, we need to be a lot more critical of consumer welfare as a meaningful measure. Yes. 'dropbox guy' was wrong when the metric is collected startup money and user convenience. Will he have been wrong in 30 years when we evaluate what the web is and what it could have been if it was built with more rigor?
I'm all for it. But how can we achieve this? I think the main problem here is the mysticism over tech. There are probably two major fronts: complexity and secrecy. We should bring them down. How can we do it? Well, for one thing, we can demand more openness and thorough understanding of everyday tech we use, while educating the public that these things will bite us eventually. I don't know how we can achieve this at a legislative level, but the law is mere reflection of our attitude toward things. First we have to say that these things (both over complexity and secrecy) are not cool because they hinder reasoning. It's an idea that I think worth spreading.
The question is under a jurisprudence of "consumer welfare", how can you go after a company that can ship you anything you want in 2-4 days?
Since the RBOCs were local monopolies, it wasn't the breakup which resulted in the opening of the network.
They didn't have competition until 1996, when the local loop was unbundled, allowing CLECs to appear. The tradeoff was that if they could demonstrate local competition, they were allowed to enter the long distance market.
It was FCC regulation which allowed interconnection of non-approved devices . "In the 1960s and 1970s, the FCC gradually relaxed regulation of telephone terminal equipment (e.g., telephone handsets, private branch exchanges), known as customer premises equipment (CPE)."
So, yes, it's an argument for regulation, but not for breaking up a monopoly. :)
There are many good reasons to break up monopolies, but their thesis is that the 1984 breakup led to the development of ISPs because people were all of a sudden allowed to plug random things into the network.
 Carterfone Decision:
however in the mindset of ATT and telco management, all these things are linked. It's like when Microsoft supported Apple or soft pedalled some of it's legal case against linux in the late 90s and early 2000s - it wasn't directly linked to the government suing them for bundling a web browser circa late 90s, but in the management of Microsoft, they had to gauge their decisions against whether the government might object to their behavior, essentially whether their "brand" with the government regulators would be damaged if they, say, systematically obliterated linux the way they did Dr Dos in the late 80s/early 90s.
However, that wouldn't support their thesis. Their thesis is that looking at consumer cost reductions is the _wrong_ way to look at monopolies.
The article did not mention technological intervention in this situation. I believe we will eventually move past the technopolies and decentralized technologies will play a large part.
In my opinion the power and scope of some companies overlaps with or even effectively supercedes government in some ways. To me these are demonstrations of the obsolescence of current government structures.
The all-encompassing networks provided by these monopolies are extremely useful and I believe the main reason we tolerate them. They provide a platform.
Decentralized technologies are becoming increasingly capable and popular. The only realistic alternatives to the giant monopoly companies are platforms built on decentralized technologies. I also suspect that for government to be able to keep up or be effective it also needs to be decentralized and possibly integrated in some way into the decentralized systems or metasystems.
A useful example is craigslist: a company with virtually no innovation for decades that still dominates the classified listings space. Other companies that try to offer a better experience face the hurdle of creating their own network or attempting to scrape craigslist’s items (and then being kicked off by their lawyers). What regulation would allow meaningful competition? A policy that requires craigslist to provide an API to competing firms for reading and writing at a reasonable price, and a requirement that changes to the network not favor craigslist vs. other firms.
It is currently illegal to build third-party applications once the first party tells you to stop.
Craigslist actually was involved in the court case that cemented this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craigslist_Inc._v._3Taps_Inc.
No, it is illegal to access the data of a third-party with your own app if that third-party doesn't allow you to do so.
This graphic is out of date, and even just a cursory look at it reveals dozens of firms that are missing, but we should maybe be thankful that craigslist has decided to focus on a low-cost, low-revenue model for so long:
I don’t think so. For one thing, requiring established networks to be interoperable can enable other companies to create their own enhancements with additional features (e.g. 3Taps, PadMapper, MSN Messenger), so the original network is not the only game in town and is incentivized to innovate faster. For another thing, requiring open protocols does not mean the process needs to be slow; there are slow standards consortiums (e.g. W3C), and there are reasonably fast ones (e.g. WHATWG). I’m not even sure that a consortium would be required; perhaps a company can satisfy its interoperability requirement simply by documenting its API and authorizing competitors to use that API.
It's not possible to understand the first order effects (let alone second and above) of regulation. Doing so without using the mighty/crude hammer of antitrust would presume that one knew how to organically disrupt these companies. "Oh! If only other people were to prevent Google from making all of these acquisitions we would have more competition in search!" "If only small companies could build 'third-party apps' legally!" Once you substitute out the ever-wise HN commenter with a member of our legislature does the absurdity of these statements become clear. Can we at least have the humility to say that we don't know how to disrupt these companies? There is already a massive profit incentive in the form of the net profits to be competed for. The answer to the question "How do you beat Google?" is for the market to answer.
Before trying to come up with a regulatory solution, it's worth stepping back and realizing that if you knew exactly how to beat Google, you'd hopefully try and do it.
Have there been any studies or anything on how having or breaking up large companies affects a country's competitiveness on a global scale? I feel like an extremely large company may be more competitive but this may come at the expense of other companies in the same or other industries.
FWIW I personally agree with using antitrust to break up companies that don't harm consumers despite currently benefiting from the system.
It would probably be better to deal with issues of other country's power via trade agreements and political pressure.
Doesn't it creep you out that one company has a monopoly on the social graph? When we busted up Ma Bell, we basically put into place standards for interoperation. What if we had a law mandating social graph companies open themselves up for interoperation once they reach some critical threshold of size? Basically, the idea is that once you're massive enough in social media, you don't get to hold onto your lead purely through the network effect. Staying at the top, just because you're at the top doesn't really promote the general welfare of society or motivate people to make better products.
The main reason that competitors to Google don't do well is that people will just use the search engine that returns the most relevant results (unless your internet connection is censored).
At home, I use Duck Duck Go. It gives good enough results but comes with a better reputation with regards to privacy.
If we open up Facebook's data to other companies, what makes you think those companies are willing and capable of securing the data and respecting user privacy?
Facebook having all of that data is bad enough. Requiring Facebook to share it with other companies would not make that data more secure -- but it could definitely make it less secure.
But also, and maybe more importantly, interoperation does not really necessarily require any sharing of data. Think the telephone network: All telephone network operators world wide do interoperate, which is why it doesn't matter where you are a customer, you still can call any other telephone on the planet. But that doesn't mean that those telcos somehow share data of their customers, apart from the particular calls that happen between customers of two different telcos.
Also, one way in which Facebook could be forced to share data would be for migration to a different service: If you think Facebook is abusing your data, you could move to a different provider, and Facebook would have to allow them to pull your data over and then delete it on their side--and all that without you losing contact with people who stay on Facebook thanks to enforced interoperability.
DRM actually has a potential for societal good. We should make companies like Facebook subject to DRM around our data. DRM is subject to the same asymmetry as privacy. Privacy for individuals is a societal good, in contrast to governments and big public companies, which should be as transparent as possible. Likewise, DRM used by big companies and organizations against individuals is bad for individuals and societies. However, DRM used on behalf of individuals to protect them from big companies would be a societal good.
What does help is simply encryption and decentralized services, no need for DRM.
Putting in another hoop for abusive corporations to jump through does have a function. There would be additional opportunities for whistleblowers to spot it happening, opening up the company to legal and regulatory action. Also, it wouldn't necessarily have to be centrally controlled. 3rd party companies could be hired to do the administration.
DRM could well be implemented as encryption and decentralized services.
In which case DRM doesn't do anything, but regulation and whistleblowers do?
> DRM could well be implemented as encryption and decentralized services.
How would that work? You don't have control over your own machine, but everyone else does?!
DRM is the idea that your property has a function that controls what you can do with your property based on instructions from a third party ... who would that "decentralized third party"(?) be? And what would even be the point of that? I am not sure I even understand what kind of construction you have in mind that would qualify as DRM and also be useful for the end user in any way.
What's the point of making _my_ data accessible? AFAIR under GDPR facebook already can provide you all your data in downloadable form, at least if you are in EU.
If we want to break Facebook network effect, you need much more.
I, being early adopter, move to new service, called Bookface, and now I want to talk with my friends, who are still using FB. So I ask Bookface to connect to FB and suck the latest updates about these 1000 people, because they are my friends. Hmmm...
To me that sounds like legally-mandated proliferation of sensitive user data. The Cambridge Analytica scandal is essentially a case of Facebook being too open with their data.
The fact that you do so, with no additional effort needed, kinda breaks the entire trust/monopoly argument, doesn't it?
Maybe we can get the EU to pass some data probability laws and force Facebook and Google to share...
You could just split Google in half into Goo and Gle and force them to publish protocols their services use so they can share the network. This could also allow smaller players to join the network.
At the beginning you could bounce people going to google.com at random to goo.com or gle.com until they start prefering one or the other for whatever reason and go there directly.
And who knows ... maybe at some point Gle could attract more users by being more precise and less intrusive with their ads.
Until there is one Google, there is one strategy that can be tried at one time. This harms progress.
I mean, have you seen the full list of google chat apps? You call it "one strategy that can be tried at one time"?
If what google monopolist does to try new things was best or even sufficcient then planned economies would thrive.
And between your examples there's also XMPP.
I mean, not sure how sensible that would really be, but I think it's worth considering that Facebook is not some PHP script with a small local MySQL database behind it either, but rather a massive distributed system in itself, even if under the administrative control of a single entity.
Unfortunately, regulating ethics tends to lead us to exactly what is starting to happen... Even centrist and center-left commentators and journalists are starting to see some fallout from the gatekeepers of money/donations/subscriptions online. Most of it is far-right targeted, but there's some bleed and it may expand.
I'm not a fan of extremist points of view. I'm more opposed to censorship as I feel it's far more dangerous than letting idiots talk. When a handful of companies serve as the gatekeepers to the world, it's more important that censorship is minimized, even if they are "private" companies.
They're in a potentially tough position, however they have an unfair level of power. I'm not sure how they could reasonably be broken up.
The problem is that Facebook is allowed to buy out any potential Facebook-replacements, too, and thus be allowed as a company to continue its monopoly almost indefinitely. If Instagram is the "new Facebook" then Facebook shouldn't have been allowed to touch it. And if it already touched it, the government should split them up, as they did AT&T, for the public good. Same with WhatsApp.
My guess is Facebook wants to integrate the three now primarily because it wants to use the excuse that it "can't" neatly separate the platforms anymore and that users will rebel against the government if they attempt that. So if politicians plan to bust Facebook, they should do it soon.
While I think regulation definitely needs to be on the table to control the perverse incentives that would affect all Baby Facebook's, I don't think the network effect makes Facebook resistant to trust-busting. If a breakup mandates the successors to:
1) share the core IP (e.g. the Facebook brand and facebook.com, etc),
2) create and participate in an open federated social network protocol to blunt future network effects, and
3) divide Facebook's current userbase in a way that does not follow the contours of the social graph
...then I think the network effects will be muted enough to prevent the current monopoly situation from reoccurring.
I think there's a very important truth in this sentence!
then the state should manage it
Do states have such a good track record with Internet tech.? I'm thinking of Korea and their mandated shopping encryption ActiveX.
IoT security is another are where lots of bad things are happening and an argument for state management could be made. How about the control of all IoT things, like webcams and smart assistants, go through government infrastructure? That way, they can 1) enforce security practices and 2) actually implement Orwell's total surveillance state from 1984.
The state could abuse its power: companies do abuse their power, because to do otherwise would reduce shareholder profits.
You could have said the same about AT&T. When they broke it up, they split it into distinct entities. There is no reason we couldn't split it back up into Instagram, WhatsApp, and its other various apps. It also has tons of individual functions and features that are only bundled together because of path dependence. The Marketplace, the news feed, the home page, and the discussion forums/groups are all potentially distinct companies. You could still even have one company in charge of managing identity and authentication and make everything interoperable between the distinct branches.
Setting things up that way would make it look more like a federated platform and would take no small amount of work, both from the private companies and the government (to establish standards). But as things are now nobody has an incentive to design an internet that works like that.
No you couldn't have, you could use your telephone to call any other telephone on the planet. Even if AT&T did not own the wires.
THAT is the behavior we have to stop. Breaking up tech companies does nothing to solve that problem.
Silos need to be made illegal if you want to stop the tech companies. (And even if you make silos illegal, good luck keeping your social network from knowing what you are searching for on your search engine. That's another one of the fundamental problems not addressed by break ups. Privacy.)
What? The telephone exchange (run by Bell) had to actually make the connection for you. If you were not paying them for phone service your calls weren't getting connected. And they owned the entire vertical stack for phone service, from producing the handsets to leasing/selling the phones to owning the wires and operating the exchanges.
There were numerous reasons why it was just not viable to have an alternative business to AT&T. They owned all the infrastructure and it would have been impossible for any upstart to compete because you just can't build rival infrastructure overnight, and nobody wants to have a second-rate phone service.
Breaking it up IS how they solved that problem, for a little while, until technology moved ahead of the regulations and began consolidating again.
>That's another one of the fundamental problems not addressed by break ups. Privacy.
Break ups don't address climate change either. What does any of this have to do with the price of tea in China?
Also, if your social network isn't the same business as your search engine, why would they be sharing data with each other? This objection of yours makes no sense.
Exactly, and Facebook will not make an open connection for you to another social network. Any connection is strictly limited to protect Facebook's sovereignty over you. It would be like At&T making a connection to Sumatra for you, but only if you confine your discussion to the size of pants you wear. No other information would be allowed to be discussed. If you tried to even say your name, AT&T would automatically mute those parts of the conversation.
You cannot openly connect to another social network and move your data wherever you please. If you switch without moving your data, you cannot openly talk back to your friends who may still be on the old social network. ie - these are SILOS. And that's the behavior we should be targeting. You could go through the AT&T network back in the 70's and talk to someone in Sumatra, or Paris on a completely different national network not provided by AT&T. If you want to openly connect with someone in Sumatra or Paris via social network today, you have to be on the same social network. These networks are not open. What we need are laws obliging them to be open.
Trust busting does not do that, all it does, at best, is give you multiple siloed social networks to choose from. (But it probably wouldn't even do that. It would likely just separate, say, youtube from google. Or separate instagram from facebook. We're still left with silos.)
Yes. This is why I said you need to make it a condition of breaking the trust. To open the platform and create general standards for interoperability is part of the point. You're arbitrarily constraining the definition of a breakup to only refer to dividing up administrations, even though almost every instance of actual trust busting involves making all kinds of requirements about the conditions of subdividing operations to help make sure the same problems of consolidation and collusion don't repeat.
I used to feel good about donating to EFF, ACLU, and FSF but I have reduced my donations because I don’t feel like they are doing much good. I have read Tim Wu in the past and although he helps us understand the power dynamics of monopolies and controlling platforms, I don’t really get any actionable suggestions from him. Same could be said for this article: a good read, but left me wondering what, if anything, I can do to help.
2) If raising the issue, why start with these 2?
Many bigger and much more entrenched fish in our sea
I would suggest a partially privat solution. Meaning. The public owns such projects, once the investment was returned.
Sort of a lease from the allmende, that always returns -as rewards for the maintenance of investment.
And any company can temporary (1 year max) own this infrastructure, once it contributes signifantly to it.
Seems modern tech monopolies have it much better, with far more control over the information the public sees and can share with each other. Particularly when they start buying up newspapers. Whatever the practicalities of going against them in this way, that's going to cause complications.
Free markets are like any hierarchy, and if theres no regulation mechanism the powerful will dominate the less powerful. I think history and established economic and game theory is fairly universal on this point.
I'd be interested to hear an argument that these international megacorporations without meaningful competition don't need to be broken up.
I’m assuming you’re referring to Facebook implementing stories? Preventing them from implementing them would be anti-competitive.
So, Libertarianism blames regulation itself as the cause of monopolies because they look mainly at regulatory capture, which is done through greed-based corruption of government. Libertarian philosophy would view reducing the regulation, and thus any constraint on Facebook's avarice, as the solution to Facebook's monopoly.
So, you shouldn't, as a libertarian, propose trust-busting regulation for Facebook, as this is the opposite of libertarian.
I think that decentralization of power is one of those profoundly libertarian ideas that is not often explicitly recognized as one.After all, a corporation in which power is extremely centralized is hard to differentiate from a government. Furthermore, if there is no one keeping it in any kind of check, what is preventing it from becoming a totalitarian government?
Markets work best when there is at least some level of decentralization. In other words, when you don't let any entity acquire a significant portion of total power.
I agree that what you described is the opposite of what I described, but I don't think what you described is in any way representative of Libertarianism. Money is thought to be a good motivator because it's inherent and other people's desire will counterbalance and propel everyone forward.
What you're describing sounds more like sound bites from the 1%\99% movement than any political or economic philosophy I've heard or read.
Here are some pretty standard arguments:
I'm curious, is there a particular sect of libertarianism that you identify with? I don't think I've heard any of the mainstream branches make the argument you did, and I would like to see how your line of thinking fits into the larger libertarian cannon.
These seem like they can be summarized as regulatory capture
I definitely agree this exists. However, totally free markets can be dominated by monopolies through different mechanisms. new technology is monopolistic in nature because it often starts from a single/few place(s). Incumbent corporations can amass orders of magnitude of wealth making it functionally impossible to compete. This has become less prolific in the last 2-3 decades, but has been painfully true at every other point in human history when physical resistance (violent or nonviolent) was the only way to affect change.
This, by the way, assumes no purposeful anti-competitive behavior. Current anti-trust law requires houses where I live to be serviced by mutiple ISPs, so me (and almost everyone I've ever met, residence or corporate) have a huge menu of choices from company A, or a 56Kbps line from company B. What a coincidence -.-
> I'm curious, is there a particular sect of libertarianism that you identify with?
> I don't think I've heard any of the mainstream branches make the argument you did, and I would like to see how your line of thinking fits into the larger libertarian cannon.
I think most Libertarianism has become a refugee camp for people recognizing and fighting government corruption rather than a conscientious political philosophy on it's own.
The attempt instantly becomes a political battle. The moment a politician takes sides, the other party opposes, and the initial politician's party backs him up. Politicians collect lots of money. There is then a highly politicized court case which the company drags out until there is a change of political power. Once political power changes, the government purposely sabotages their own case until the company wins.
"The data subject shall have the right to ... transmit those data to another controller without hindrance from the controller to which the personal data have been provided, where ... the processing is carried out by automated means... [, and] shall have the right to have the personal data transmitted directly from one controller to another, where technically feasible."
If the data transfer is automated and direct, then a Facebook user should be able to request that their posts on Facebook be continually synched over to their Mastodon account (for example).
As Facebook is already a member of the Data Transfer Project , it would look very bad for them if they only allowed data to be automatically synched one way, especially if most Fediverse implementations supported two way synch.
Of course, once your data is fully synched, you'd never need to actually browse Facebook itself again, and your friends on both Facebook and Mastodon would be able to read your Mastodon posts. (I suppose Facebook would similarly cite "data protection reasons" for why they can't synch your friend's Facebook posts out to you on another site, though).
Anyway, I'm sure an EU anti-trust investigator would enjoy the opportunity to examine claims against a big US social media company like Facebook, especially if it were a small EU social media provider bringing the complaint.
The writer is losing the thread a bit here. "Eating" in this context, means to disrupt with a more efficient way of doing things. "Eating people" is replacing manual jobs performed by people with automation and networks. If a job can be "eaten" then that means keeping it is just top-down mandated make-work.
More generally, he argues that we are, in fact, in an all-out return of the Gilded Age — and perhaps only the clothing has changed.
We are, in fact, in yet another variation of a "Gilded Age."  Only the clothing and particular cultural artifacts have changed. For years on this site, I've been making an analogy between SV of today and "Mad Men." I think people have misunderstood. In both cases, there's a tribe of people, recently imbued with greater socioeconomic status, mostly from all of the same schools, with the same subculture, dressing the same, consuming the same non-mainstream products, becoming increasingly out of touch with mainstream people and mainstream culture. In both cases, the interests of the subgroup have diverged and come to odds with the interests of society at large. In both cases, many members of the subgroup have come to look down upon the society and mainstream culture they originally came from.
When it comes down to it, groupthink is the underlying motivating factor in all of history's great tragedies and great evils. As an intellectual in 2019, it behooves you to constantly look over your shoulder for its approach. Look across the media landscape for its encroachment. Look the hardest at yourself and those nearest to you.
( - yes, I know the one referenced predates the Mad Men milieu. There are many gilded ages.)
I could not care less about the opinions of thirty-something techies about political ideologies. At a time when capitalism seems more attacked in the West than at any other time in modern history, I think it is deceitful to talk about capitalism from the point of view of the group of the most unethical business leaders in America. We wouldn't tolerate someone defining socialism from the point of view of dictators.
Venezuela, Stalin, Mao, etc all get brought up constantly in discussions about socialism/communism.
and are quickly met with "that's not real socialism".
Arbitrary destruction of their business doesn't do anything to protect consumer privacy.
There's also nothing anti-competitive about either business. Using a different website is as simple as typing a URL into your web browser.