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Facebook is a monopoly that buys, copies, kills competitors: antitrust committee (cnbc.com)
399 points by notRobot on Oct 9, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 174 comments

Facebook platform is evil and no one doubts it at this point.

Amazon is predatory for everyone - merchants, warehouse employees, IT employees, job candidates.

Google screwed the recruitment irrevocably and what's worse every minor shop attempts to copy their processes.

Microsoft temporarily plays the nice guy.

Then we have this whole dating thing entirely owned by one media hegemon.

All together pay minuscle taxes.

...and here we are.

>Then we have this whole dating thing entirely owned by one media hegemon.

This scares the hell out of me that one mega conglomerate with it's algorithms has control over your procreation and deep knowledge of your sex life, all linked to your real identity.

Personally, I have no dog in this fight since I gave up on online dating and got good at IRL dating(pre-COVID) but I am aware of plenty of men willing to throw their cash and intimate data at these corporations for the hope of meeting someone.

Am I alone here to worry about this or am I just too paranoid?

If it were up to me, I would regulate the information dating apps collect to the same standards as patients' national healthcare information is handled(in the EU; I don't know about the US/UK but I heard it's not all rozy there).

>, I would regulate the information dating apps collect to the same standards as patients' national healthcare information is handled(in the EU; I don't know about the US/UK but I heard it's not all rozy there).

In the case of Grindr they released user HIV status information which is literally medical data.

>Personally, I have no dog in this fight since I gave up on online dating and got good at IRL dating(pre-COVID) but I am aware of plenty of men willing to throw their cash and intimate data at these corporations for the hope of meeting someone.

Good for you, it's a giant scam( See FTC Sues Match). I also gave up on these apps and started meeting amazing people in real life. It's also much less stressful to disconnect from the social media matrix.

I put vastly less effort into meeting people now and I found myself actually getting approached last year. I've found greater peace. Social Media is a very bad thing for most people. You waste tons of time you could be spending on other things. Doesn't help people tend to be much meaner online. Again , why deal with that.

With Corona I've been trying to focus more on learning music , but I'm fairly optimistic next year things will be somewhat normal.

Wait until Tinder bans your "account" which is basically a broad fingerprint of your physical device, Google/Apple account (from the play/app store), phone number, and WiFi details. Then you can turn paranoid.

How long until the one drink I had too many at a bar whilst dating turns into a statistically higher insurance premium. Or my church finds out about my in-progress divorce and excommunicates me.

The ability for the individual to reveal specific information on their own terms is necessary for social cohesion.

Let's not pretend we have transparency on what our information is being used for, nor are we likely to ever get it. The devil's in the details.

Why belong to a church and hide major life events like divorces from it?

But your broader point is sound. I'd just replace "church" with "nosy extended relative".

Getting excommunicated whilst going through a messy divorce with kids is a problem. It could benefit from waiting until the divorce is concluded, particularly for the sake of the kids' stability. Those events can have repercussions for a long time if antagonised.

You could pick any situation where a process like divorce is started, proceedings or repair of the relationship has yet to begin and an automated service alerts people without immediate knowledge, who in turn pull the levers behind the scenes.

Also the King Henry the 8th parallels are interesting.

Folks have a bleakly transactional or institutional approach to church that I find baffling. I'm not sure what the point of church is if it doesn't help through personal crises.

Beyond that, if the divorce is OK with the church, what's the secret? If it's not OK and it's still happening, doesn't that imply irreconcilable differences with the church as well as the spouse? I guess given that, you have a point about timing, but all relationships are two-way streets, including ones between families and churches. Seems like the problems unravel on their own and we're just complaining about a catalyst.

Well I try to stick to simple and universal, pragmatic problems. The timing thing is easy to see both sides as relatively neutral parties, without deliberate malice and still producing negative effects of consequence.

You could apply the same to being one day late on your taxes or truancy at school triggering automatic effects from phone location tracking, without reconcilliation.

If you want more serious examples there is the problem of what knowledge is deemed to be acceptable by those who record it and the potential for power, control and abusive influence.

Silent judgement and action is infinitely more available to the men and women behind the information gates. Without transperancy you'll never know why the things in your life are happening the way they are.

You might piss off the wrong IT guy at Facebook who then plasters your families' individual accounts with ads and content promoting the necessity of moving out and separating from a parent who has brown hair and other fake 'crimes' you committed. He could manufacture consesus in their social media with fake accounts. Your boss may be influenced to devalue the contributions of your kind of knowledge work because he buys into a work trend that was hyper-advertised to him. Your car may quietly auto-update with a bugged software patch that bricks it. You could have your credit score ruined by fake transactions and have your passport put into question.

There is a lot of power in knowledge these days and we fly by the seat of our pants because we want it to be on our side whatever the cost. I don't think any of this is particularly paranoid when mainstream hollywood movies have chronicled snowden/assange/security researcher leaks.

People are getting hacked every day, experian couldnt save their data from getting leaked, who's to say anyone is safe. Certainly not the head of the nsa or security reseachers who have been doing this for decades.

I'm very on board with privacy and discretion. I was just puzzled by specifically hiding divorce from a church.

Healthy churches actually benefit from privacy and discretion for the same reasons therapy groups do. Often church activities are literally private therapy sessions.

Some years ago Polish people living and working in Germany declared apostasis to avoid German church tax. They were suprised after returning back when their parish in Poland refused child baptism or church burial..

It's hard to believe they can do this, but can't even reign in copy & paste profile spammers.

Has this happened to you? What was it for? What did you do?

After many matches and chats one will be disliked by many, some will react disproportionately. It happened though without a single physical encounter which they can easily detect. I guess the workaround is to unmatch as early as possible? I was also exposed to many spam/scam profiles (promoting their Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube accounts) and Tinder somehow is not interested in combating this.

I'm an average male, I think they don't care that much to have me in their users' pool or I could be prohibitively horny and boring. Who knows.

OK and did you get around it? New phone etc?

Is there any recourse?

The "account" ban creeps over ie. using new phone number with old device or another device but with old Apple/Google account or phone number extends the ban. It seems the only solution is entirely new setup - phone device, phone number, Google/Apple account. Too bothersome for an individual but easy for spammers, one can get an impression while swiping.

Interesting. Certainly pretty scary!

Yikes to Tinder enforced celibacy!

more like status quo ante? IOW nothing to be afraid of.

> This scares the hell out of me that one mega conglomerate with it's algorithms has control over your procreation and deep knowledge of your sex life, all linked to your real identity.

Only if you give it to them?

Yeah, everybody thinks it's evil except for the people who use Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp. It's bizarre to me how many upvotes pretending society isn't still embracing FaceBook gets. And when you say this people parrot tired points about how most people "use it because they have to" as if people who thought it was evil, in the the real way, wouldn't be willing to resist the compulsion. I don't think most HN posters are from tough enough places to know what it looks like when people actually think something is evil.

Facebook is crack cocaine.

Most people aren't informed about the dangers, and by the time they understand, they're addicted.

Moreover, it was explicitly and willfully designed to work that way.

They're not addicted to Facebook you just don't like that the social landscape is changing. Calling people was terrible compared to the convenience of social media, sure it was more intimate but most people aren't looking for intimacy in every interaction they have with their friends. A lot of the time they just want to shoot the breeze. People like memes, seeing what trendy garbage with avacado on top their friends ate, and they like having an easy way to coordinate a group meetup without making ten phonecalls.

I recognize that some people do get addicted to social media but for most people the only thing they're addicted to if anything is convenience. We're already at a point where many people feel more comfortable giving out their public insta than their phone number to new acquaintances because of how much more control they have if things go badly. Before social media parents were complaining that cell phones were turning their kids into shut-ins who just wanted to text all day instead of having real conversations. The whole dialogue is just another repeat of people feeling like something must be wrong because it's not how they think the world should be.

There are very real reasons to consider Facebook a threat that have nothing to do with projections of "it just isn't for me."

Facebook embraced Q Anon and turned it into a gold mine for engagement. Facebook is directly responsible for the growth of that conspiracy and made the United States much worse as a result.

Facebook did this by feeding a culture of fear, suspicion and bigotry in the guise of belonging, community and group 'fun' via memes and 'trendy garbage.'

Facebook is crack cocaine and the pipe has already blown up in our faces. The United States is on fire like Richard Pryor.


>They're not addicted

>I recognize that some people do get addicted

>the only thing they're addicted to if anything is convenience

Since you're a bit err.. "conflicted" on this subject, you might want to read some research.


Or maybe, just maybe, it's a nuanced subject and I was acknowledging that there are people who do suffer from actual social media addiction while contesting the notion that the majority, or even a large minority, of social media users are addicts and not simply people who get enjoyment and utility out of the platform.

Amazon is not predatory to me. It has greatly improved my life from a convenience and cost perspective. They also recently raised their wages for all warehouse employees such that it's one of the best places to work for unskilled labor in many locations. Amazon has made many small time merchants rich through their platform, and it's software engineers are among the highest paid in the industry, so I have to strongly disagree about the zon, but the rest of it agree wholeheartedly.

The US House committee that spent 18 months investigating cataloged an extensive report[0] on Amazon's predatory ways, and reading it one quickly realizes that not everyone feels warm and fuzzy toward the company as you do.

There's a lot.

The section on Amazon begins on page 248, and is very readable.

[0] https://judiciary.house.gov/uploadedfiles/competition_in_dig...

Just theater - no legislation.

Too many senators / congress people have Amazon warehouses with 1000's of jobs in their backyard, and would never support breaking them up on weak committee recommendations.

This is step one. It is possible that step two will die on the floor, but this report made it out of committee, which is farther than I expected it to get, so I'm not quite so pessimistic about step two.

Right now one party wants to go after the big tech companies for what seem to be the wrong reasons, while the other party doesn't seem to have the will to go after them at all. But in the end, we got a report with good recommendations, so we'll see if bad motives can bring about some good results.

Amazon from Europe's perspective:

- IT - an average employer at best including salaries, extremely competitive workplace, offices in most expensive cities, I don't think they offer any equity

- warehouses - they were wrecked by German unions and opened 4 warehouses in Poland serving exclusively German market and burdening the brand new EU-funded highways, as if they were shunning from complying with the German labor code and German wages (the market is too lucrative to abandon it)

if having a warehouse in germany is so unattractive that it's better to put them in poland and ship everything across the border, isn't that more of a problem with germany than amazon?

edit: okay, that was a bit glib. but isn't complaining about this sort of thing at odds with the idea of an integrated european economy?

> isn't that more of a problem with germany than amazon?

On top of unions and a desperate neighbour, Germany has saturated retail market including world's 5th biggest Schwarz Gruppe who certainly are not happy with a new foreign competitor, but that's a topic for many dissertations.

Reno is in the same spot. The number of Tesla, Walmart and Amazon trucks clogging I-80 at all hours of the day is astonishing. It also clogs the highway and impedes traffic. I wish they could put a toll or ban trucks from 7am to 7pm so people can get over the hill without tracking trains of trucks. Not sure how this could be solved without an effort of some kind, but as far as o can tell, there are zero policies guiding their behavior.

I am sure Nevada's lack of income tax and the tax breaks the state gives, plus Reno's proximity to California is the reason logistics is centered there. Reno sells itself as the West Coast shipping hub.

Pretty much everything I order from Amazon these days comes from Nevada even though I am in Silicon Valley. I know Amazon has several warehouses in California, but I have never seen any order originate from California. The company probably uses them as local distribution points for its own shipping service.

Wow I had no idea this was happening. I wonder if taxing the hell out of these trucks would tip the scales toward moving the logistics closer to the destination market, which I presume is the bay area and peripherals.

It's really a problem with the EU. Its member states still compete with each other too much, companies shouldn't be able to shop around for the laxest labour laws like that.

preface: likely an ignorant opinion from an american.

from across the pond, it looks like the richer EU countries (eg, germany) essentially want to have it both ways. they want to have strong worker protections and prevent poorer EU countries from enabling labor arbitrage, all while having relatively unencumbered trade within the EU. at the same time, they don't want to provide the economic aid to the poorer countries that would reduce the incentive to do this sort of thing. seems like a "pick one" type of situation.

This is absolutely true. Another example:

- French (and German) companies own most of supermarket chains in Poland: good.

- Polish long-distance truck delivery companies are among the most competitive in EU due to lower costs of workforce: bad, France has been lobbying hard against them for years.

I disagree, consumers should be able to decide if they want to buy a product or not and do their due diligence investigating the producer.

The countries where labor is cheaper benefit by getting more work and ultimately they uplift themselves.

Now, if it comes out that such labor is abused or managed corruptly and so forth, that is a product I will not knowingly or willingly buy.

In the real world, customers don't actually do that and in fact cannot for everything they buy. Regulation is simply more efficient and effective.

>Regulation is simply more efficient and effective.

And that efficiency and effectiveness benefit an elite few. If people continue to "wake up" globally, becoming increasingly empowered by technology and democratizing philosophies, they will come to the logical conclusion that they can "vote" with their currency. Companies will definitely fucking pay attention if people stop buying their shit.

For example, I've taken the "buy local as possible" ethic to its logical extreme, realizing for example that I have to make compromises for things like consumer electronics. "The real world", as you say. But I think it's defeatist to just buy the cheapest junk you can afford in complete disregard of its means and origin of manufacture unless that's the only solution.

Just today, I was shopping around where to buy Sid Meier's Memoirs book since I just learned about it today on HN. I could elect the easy, lazy, one-world-ruled-by-Bezos path and click Amazon to save a few cents and get it delivered a day less, or I could go the slightly less convenient but more positive route of Indiebound.

You got that backwards. Elites are the ones that benefit from letting people "vote" with money – since they have more of it. That is the opposite of democracy.

I'm not saying we shouldn't try to make ethical choices and just wait to regulation. But it is rarely sufficient. Boycotting a company as an individual has very little effect on the company but does inconvenience the individual. Doing that can feel good but it's actually pretty irrational. Organized boycotts are much more effective. And regulation is the ultimate (threat to) boycott.

If technology turned people into enlightened, selfless beings things would be different. I don't see that happening, to the contrary.

Furthermore, people have limited time and energy. They can't investigate in detail every product they consume.

It may be a benevolent monopoly to you but that doesn't mean it's not a monopoly. The predatory behaviors seem to be focused on other companies, other competitors, not on consumers. Actually, seems they are treating consumers very well (often thru very low prices subsidized from profits elsewhere) to drive competitors out of business.

So from a consumer standpoint, perhaps it is good now, but we also don't know how much better it could be if there were competition. From a competitor standpoint, it sure doesn't sound fun. I have friends who sell things on Amazon and if they get too big, sometimes Amazon even squeezes them out of their business.

I wonder if antitrust law is to protect consumers or to protect other potential producers. Regardless, I imagine some of the idea behind it is that monopolies have relatively unchecked market power and while they can be good to consumers, they can also turn bad for consumers with little freedom for consumers to leave.

You forget all the successful merchants that have their products copied by Amazon and undercut. They'll embrace you on their platform but use their knowledge of your sales against you. Look at all the Amazon Basics products out there and tell me this is not concerning to retailers making use of their platform!

As a parent who has basically never had to think about running out of diapers thanks to Amazon, I couldn't agree more (and sure, there are other companies who could do this).

This has nothing to do with anti-trust but out of all the major tech corps Facebook really seems the most like a big tobacco company- sure they are adding value to the economy and ostensibly giving individual consumers something they want, but as a society we'd generally be better off if it just kind of went away.

Interesting that you mentioned diapers. This is a quote from page 398 of the subcommittee report -

>The Subcommittee’s investigation identified several instances in which a dominant platform was pricing goods or services below-cost in order to drive out rivals and capture the market. For example, documents produced during the investigation revealed that Amazon had been willing to lose $200 million in a single quarter in order to pressure Diapers.com, a firm it had recognized as its most significant rival in the category. Amazon cut prices and introduced steep promotions, prompting a pricing war that eventually weakened Diapers.com. Amazon then purchased the company, eliminating its competitor and subsequently cutting back the discounts and promotions it had introduced.

I'm curious... After reading that, do you still feel the same way about Amazon?

Price might not mater to many on HN but to millions of people it does.

That's a fair point, and I was generally aware of Amazon's behavior in matters like this, and some general overall effect on consumer surplus. Does it bother me enough to make me cancel my subscribe and save to drive to the store and lug the box of diapers to my car? No. I'm fine with letting the government make the rules on what is economically destructive behavior.

That’s really funny to me. One of the criticisms I’ve read about Amazon is how they destroyed diapers dot com.

There could have been several other sites all worth billions of dollars without the need for a single one stop shop.

Serious question: is convenience for others the only bar we have to step over before enabling a certain type of utilitarian role?

Precisely quantified utilitarianism is the way? Quantified by who? Is our math, purposefully constrained for consistency, the right tool for that job?

What long term impact on those workers and society does creating so many low-effort monotonous jobs have?

Is there an upside besides expansion of low effort consumption and criticism of real effort?

It matches the Zeitgeist of individualism we are in, which is destructing politics. Politics are about finding a common path for a society.

A world where I optimizer for myself is very different, from one where I optimizer for society.

What is it?

Who is we?

What common path are you referring to? What are its attributes in terms of maximizing individual time economy?

IMO that’s what the sharing through social effort is. Maximizing each individuals time economy.

Instead we seem to be maximizing time economy for people who can pay to externalize effort.

We’re really not optimizing for self by taking on more hours for less pay to keep Wall Street up.

Which to me ties right in with creating low effort jobs. Rather than decrease the amount of real work by expanding access to that work.

Let’s just hand out mops and brooms. Heard there’s coal to shovel out east!

Who knows, having more time may make things like cleaning a toilet and picking up packages seem less onerous.

We’re optimizing for a minority to be coddled by the effort of the majority. And being paid off with a fraction of the real output given the math I see.

Based upon hand me down stories from people with a very different intuition for quantification and science.

Would someone explain to me how kowtowing to such a social reality makes any sense scientifically?

Westerners all on about “science!” could stand to take a long look at their actual beliefs and application of agency.

This comment won't leave my head. I think the unspoken, perhaps unrealized, context for this comment is the idea that a company must be predatory to everyone in order to be actually-predatory.

A company that is predatory to literally everyone would not survive long. Obviously any predatory company must benefit one or more groups at the expense of others, or else how could they exist?

I mean, I think Facebook is terrible, but clearly many people find some benefit, or Facebook wouldn't have the billion-plus users they do. I don't deny that some people find benefit from Facebook, I just don't think that benefit outweighs the cost to society.

So Amazon is not predatory to parent commenter. In many ways, they're not predatory directly to me, either! I order goods from them at times, I use AWS, and overall I might argue that my life is better with Amazon than without. But my personal experiences aren't definitive. In order to benefit me, Amazon, by all reports, is preying on others. Competitors, suppliers, employees, and so on.

Amazon is a great company. They've created an incredible amount of value both for themselves and their merchants. They've been consistently helping small businesses and giving them a fighting chance. They've created so many jobs in the process. Doing the right thing is part of their business model.

None of the points you made actually contradict the claim that Amazon is predatory.

Personally, I think we should rephrase this. Facebook is not evil in and of itself. Facebook's management is evil. Amazon's management is predatory. Microsoft is good (at the moment), because they have leaders at the helm that are taking notice of how to do things in a more ethical manner. We need to start assigning blame to people to start correcting the problem.

It's too easy to just pass of blame and say "Well, the machine is evil, no fixing that." Management should not get to hide behind the organization. We need to start sending a message that it's easy to fix what they are doing. Change out the people in charge, and change out the members of the board.

I think that you'd be hard pressed to make the argument that the Facebook platform itself, not just the management, is a purely net negative influence on society. Perhaps its original form, where people simply connect with their friends and share updates and photos, is, on paper fine, but it hasn't really resembled anything like that. It is entirely engineered around hacking people's attention spans in order to push advertising, and the methods it uses for doing so involve intense data collection and destroying user privacy. It has greatly contributed to the breakdown of political discourse in the US and around the world and by nature of its construction promotes extreme views and hyperbolic clickbait. The same criticism applies to Twitter.

You can at least make some kind of defense of the products and services that Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple provide. Probably Google as well, though perhaps their case is weaker. But in my opinion, there isn't a defense to be made at this point regarding the virtue of Facebook or Twitter, neither as corporations, nor as platforms. The world is worse off because of their existence.

I’d go further - there is one simple idea that is evil, that drives Facebook:

Social networks won’t work unless they are given away for free, and the only way to make a sustainable one you give away for free is to monetize via behavior modification products.

> Facebook is not evil in and of itself. Facebook's management is evil.

Sarcastically this make me want to reply that John the ripper was not evil. John the ripper's brain was evil.

Hah. John the Ripper[0] was a pretty useful piece of code back in the day. Now Jack the Ripper... I'd say if stories are true, he and his brain were evil, yes.

0: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_the_Ripper

Hmm it looks like it's still being maintained.

> Facebook is not evil in and of itself.

Yea but wasn't it basically a DoD spawn? Since LifeLog failed?

I mean, no need to get around messy privacy laws if you can convince people to voluntarily upload data on every aspect of their daily lives. It's brilliant. Evil, but brilliant.

> Microsoft is good (at the moment)

Are they though? Windows 10 "telemetry" seems pretty evil to me.

Actually FB pays a lot of tax, last year $6B on $24B profits. Amazon never makes money so doesn't pay tax. Google is good at not paying.

It's also misleading to look purely at the taxes paid on corporate profits. That's not the only way that corporations are taxed.

In 2019 Amazon paid $2.4b in federal payroll taxes and customs duties and $1.6b in state and local taxes. So they actually handed to federal and state tax authorities over $4b of their $13.9b reported pre tax revenue, while also collecting $9b in sales taxes on their behalf.

Also, Amazon as a corporation is largely just comprised of its executives and employees and shareholders, and they all pay taxes on their income and realized capital gains (if any).

Exactly. It isn't just Facebook. The SEC and FTC have completely failed us in the last 20 years. Everything is about shareholder return, who cares about how many monopolies it creates.

Also, you forgot Disney, Comcast, Apple, AT&T, and many more.

> Then we have this whole dating thing entirely owned by one media hegemon.

Who'd that be? Not familiar with dating apps' company histories. I tried them but I'm experiencing much more success with old-fashioned dating. Tech hasn't disrupted dating for the majority of people, I think. [1]

[1] Because I know quite a few people that don't get any success out of it either, while they do get some success with old-fashioned dating.

Match Group owns and operates several online dating services including Tinder, Match.com, Meetic, OkCupid, Hinge, and PlentyOfFish.


are all of those used? I'm not American, but here tinder seems to be the only option whatsoever (aside of the lgtb alternatives).

Yes. People tend to be on multiple platforms simultaneously.

They all appeal to slightly different types of users. Like the same company selling different brands of chips.

> Then we have this whole dating thing entirely owned by one media hegemon.

Actually, Facebook Dating is a breath of fresh air which doesn't implement features designed to get to your wallet.

Unlike the others, Facebook can harvest the additional profile data and feed it into their more efficient ad business.

Facebook is not evil at all. Their mission to connect the world. Sometimes it means making unpopular decisions but they're doing what's right for the long term.

In practice, this means monopolizing identity. Facebook wants to become the source of truth for identity on the social web. This is why you can't use their products without an account, now including Oculus, which you can't use without a Facebook account that has a "Real Name" policy.

> Google screwed the recruitment irrevocably and what's worse every minor shop attempts to copy their processes.

Can you elaborate on that?

I've been through Google's process 2.5 times. I made it to the on-site twice, hiring committee once but ultimately was rejected; one time I was setting up for a phone screen when the whole COVID thing thinged and I think I got dropped when they froze hiring.

My current job was acquired by essentially my current employer buying me out of a contract with my former employer. I was doing contract work and they wanted me full-time. My former employer, the consultancy my current employer contracted with, acquired me when they knew I was unhappy with the place I was at, another place they contracted with, prior to them. The place I was with prior, I was hired via a standard "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" type of interview. No assessment of my skills was made. I made claims, they took them at face value.

So I've been through several processes for getting jobs.

> Google screwed the recruitment irrevocably and what's worse every minor shop attempts to copy their processes.

And this one is eh. Yes, their process is certainly rigorous and probably overkill. But the old style interview wasn't much better. The place where I work has gone through a couple of developers. Both were hired through more conventional means as we're not a software shop, we're a company that happens to need bespoke software.

Both were able to produce something in terms of software. None of it was excellent and the internals were just bad. I don't know another way to cut it. Neither were fired. Both quit for other jobs. We obviously need some sort of standard here.

We do need to assess whether or not someone can solve problems. We do need to assess whether or not someone can code sufficiently. Variable naming, indentation proclivities, clarity, etc. However, we cannot get caught up in testing whether they know the OTBS or the difference between systems and apps Hungarian or if they can solve trick questions.

I'm going to be responsible for essentially building a team for my department of the building. And I'll tell you now, I'm going to be making a process closer to Google's rather than the one I went through to get where I am. Not to lock the door behind me, but to make sure we don't repeat the same mistakes. It's essentially 1 for 3 (maybe, I could be garbage as well to be honest).

What's wrong with a skills assessment with regards to hiring? Or what's wrong with the way Google performs skills assessment with regards to hiring?

Microsoft only appears to play the nice guy if you assume large swaths of the computing market are a natural monopoly. Enterprise level desktop software and the Office suite are still locked into a single vendor.

No one?! HN is full of Facebook supporters and deniers.

OK, now judge governments by those same standards. I don't see Facebook invading Iraq on false pretenses, or imprisoning people for the crime of smoking marijuana, or shooting an unarmed guy for failing to follow conflicting commands.[1]

Hopefully now you understand where the libertarians and ancaps are coming from. It's not that corporations are good. It's that governments are so much worse.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Daniel_Shaver

Not sure why you're getting downvoted (well, I do, but...) but governments are what enable corporations to be the bad actors they are. They would not get so large, powerful and unwieldy in a free market where corporations have as much or more rights as human beings, i.e. corporate personhood.

Facebook has been unable to stop new entrants: Pinterest, Snap, Tiktok, Twitter - All global and multi billion dollar companies, and still growing.

More to come are: Telegram, Discord, Houseparty, Clubhouse

Plus global competition from: Wechat, Weibo, Line

Social networks come and go. The space is a lot more whimsical than people think. Remember Friendster, MySpace, AIM. A new challenger will emerge every 3-5 years.

> Remember Friendster, MySpace, AIM. A new challenger will emerge every 3-5 years.

I honestly laugh whenever I hear people still bring up those early social media companies as evidence that social media heavyweights somehow come and go. None of those companies ever came near the global reach of FB. A quick Google search gives a peak user count of MySpace of between 75 and 100 million, for FB it's 2.7 billion.

Those companies basically all existed before the vast majority of people were even on any social network, and importantly none of them had real-name policies initially. And the modern challengers you give all have some specific, much smaller niche, e.g. image galleries for Pinterest. There is simply no other social network that has ever challenged Facebook in the "connect all my friends and let me give and see life's updates" space.

I agree and and I'd like to offer two more incredibly damning evidence of it being a monopoly like no other.

First, there are countries where Facebook is de facto synonym for the Internet. Thanks to its marketplaces, groups, and events, there are places where much of the online economy is heavily based on Facebook.

Second, I'd argue that nearly every mobile provider in the world that offers zero-rating does so by providing access to Facebook's services either free of charge or at a much lower price than the rest of the Web.

Absolutely no other company in history had these two advantages over not just their social media competition, but the rest of the Web as a whole.

Facebook was also founded half a year after MySpace, and Friendster two months earlier.

By any reasonable measure, that was "at the same time"; it wasn't so much one replacing the other replacing the next as three early competitors fluctuating until one won out.

Good point. It may well be true that FB 2.7 billion acts as a moat. What I find interesting is that FB has had a bad rap since it reached the 1 billion mark. But instead of going the number of users has gone up. That being said many of those can't be a active though

Facebook was really the winner of generation one of social networks. Friendster and Myspace were the first movers, but there were a ton of social networks born in that timeframe.

> None of those companies ever came near the global reach of FB. A quick Google search gives a peak user count of MySpace of between 75 and 100 million, for FB it's 2.7 billion.

None of those browsers ever came near the global reach of IE. A quick Yahoo search gives a peak user count of Netscape of around 80 million, for IE it's around 800 million.

Not that I believe for one second Facebook has 2.7 billion active individual human users. I've never even used it but I've signed up to about 10 accounts over the years, and everybody I know also has multiple accounts for various reasons.

In fact based just on people I know, I wouldn't be surprised if already most people are just using "Facebook" for messenger.

Friendster did sell its patents to Facebook, and I believe Friendster could have ‘lived on’ as a patent licensor.

Sure, but already FB is tainted with an "only old people use that" meme for several years now. Once the boomers start really dying off, I think this is when FB will fade.

Plus, I think society as a whole is beginning to see the toxic ills of social media in general and will push back in a "retro" "back to the basics" kind of movement, embracing old traditions like community, family and friends in meatspace.

Facebook proper might be tainted with "only old people use it", but Instagram still has massive influence among younger people.

They might fade when we boomers do, but they also could stay in that sweet spot of people who have disposable income and are apt to spend it— a sweet spot advertisers love. They could end up targeting 40-65 year olds perpetually.

Facebook stole pretty much wholesale, Stories from Snap, The timeline from Twitter, and now reels is its Tiktok clone. They've recently introduced "rooms" which is its theft of Houseparty not Zoom which everyone thought.

Facebook is a horrible company which hasn't come up with and original idea in years. It now uses its "sign in with facebook" button to see which apps people are using before copying them completely and leveraging its social graph. At this point its a parasite on the web that stalls innovation.

Insta, Snap and Tiktok (and in some ways Twitter) are all slowly converging on being almost the same identical product, FB isn't the only one cloning features.

Feels really there is a lack of true creativity and innovation across the board and they're more being driven by feature FOMO than anything else at this point.

And what they can't copy, the will buy with their monopoly money: Yahoo bought Tumblr, Flickr. Google bought Android, Youtube. Apple bought beats, siri. And all do a lot of acqui-hiring which kills competition in early stage.

I would be happy about FB dying, but what is wrong with copying good interface ideas?

I hate FB, but I hate making such stuff patentable/copyrightable/unreusable/uncopiable even more.

Those aren't good interface ideas those are features that alot of trial and error and research went into. Think of it like a new drug. Theres alot of R&D poured into these things. not on the same regulatory or financial scale but work goes into that. Facebook blocks the growth of these by copying wholesale and throwing it at its database of users so they never have to leave their ecosystem.

Look at what instagram has become from photosharing app to an everything platform that has a horrible UX.

> I would be happy about FB dying, but what is wrong with copying good interface ideas?

Nothing, in my opinion. The problem arises when a company is so large that simply implementing a good interface idea completely destroys the value of the original. The best example is Snapchat. Snapchat got big, fast, because its main conceit, while simple, was pretty unique. As soon as Instagram implemented it, Snapchat fell off a cliff, because why use Snapchat when you can just use Instagram?

It does the same thing on mobile, that's why it knows what to buy.

Snap, Tiktok, Pinterest, and even twitter were never competing for the space that Facebook has. The main space Facebook has is social advertising and there is no competitors and anyone tries to enter that market gets attacked by Facebook since Facebook runs it. Try starting a company that will allow you to buy influencer ads on Instagram and uses the API the influencer can grant to you to correctly identify how much money to pay the influencer. Facebook will remove your API access the minute it realises you're trying to do advertising and they're not getting a cut. Facebook are very open that their problem is they're not making any money on it. We understand their reasoning but it's againist the law to then sue companies for trying to get public data and the other attacks. If Google can't rank it's own products higher in google search Facebook shouldn't be allowed to remove API access solely because you're providing a service they don't even provide and don't even want to provide.

What facebook has that none of the others do not is a value almost like infrastructure. They ARE your online identity in a way that pinterest/snap/twitter are not. Wechat is comparable (probably even more than FB) but only in China.

What FB has been able to do is smooth out those up and down waves by acquiring challengers (Insta/Whatsapp). They tried to buy snap too but when that didn't work they just copied features and now also copying TikTok.

So I don't think they're subject to those equalising forces as has been the case previously (and which do still affect everyone else - RIP Vine).

Unable, maybe. But not from lack of trying. You say social networks come and go but Facebook is still very much the largest network as it was ten years ago. Now is it because of cool innovations and better products or because of copying and stifling competitors, it's debatable.

But what makes this worse is the fact that Facebook hasn't been very vigilant about their privacy practises or political influencing on their platforms. And they haven't really suffered any repercussions from that. Which might embolden them and others to continue to do so unless something is done.

A new entrants champions a new feature or approach. That is then adopted into an existing product which can grow due to network effects. This can then expose the feature to a massive audience in a more culturally neutral form. So YouTube adds short video, Microsoft add Slack style chat to Office, and everyone adds Zoom style video calls. The original product slowly try's to build a wider platform, but is unable to compete on the same level.

All of those so-called challengers who died were ones that basically were killed by Facebook in its rise to power. None of the 'global competition' is really competitive outside of China, and the new entrants are copied as soon as they come out with something interesting. New challengers may emerge rapidly, but unless something is done from a regulatory side those same challengers will flame-out into either death or mediocrity within a few years of appearing.

As a simple example, those 'new entrants' (can we really call any of those four new other than TikTok?) are all multi-billion dollar companies, but by quickly cloning the interesting features of those entrants Facebook probably siphoned off as much value from those entrants as they are now worth. In a world without Facebook copying them all four of those companies would have market caps that were at least 2x their current levels.

The networks that would have surpassed in Facebook in reach were either bought i.e whatsapp instagram or copied i.e snapchat and many others

ok...so the government approves acquisitions, and then later regrets those decisions.

Great way to send shockwaves through the M&A space with governing incompetence: rather than pass reasonable legislation and/or empower an existing department, just have a political theater of a committee process which selectively picks those who haven't lobbied enough _not_ to get in front of that committee.

Contrary to popular belief, the government is not a group of ten old men sitting in a conference room in DC. Different departments have different priorities.

Even if these were the same people who approved the original acquisitions, it's not like people can't rethink their position.

I don't know that we should be concerned about uncertainty in the M&A space. Maybe they're too comfortable.

Government is not a single entity with a single mind. It is more like a coalition.

Ok, the justice department approves acquisitions and then regrets them.

> House Antitrust Subcommittee

mmmmm, no looks like the legislative branch is reviewing what the executive branch does at all, thats whats supposed to happen.

You raise a good point, though I'll note it's not an either/or proposition.

The government botches numerous regulatory decisions. And Facebook is a monopoly that buys or copies (thus kills) their competitors.

> And Facebook is a monopoly that buys or copies (thus kills) their competitors

And yet competitors e.g. Snapchat, TikTok, HouseParty, Telegram, Line continue to appear and flourish.

And you forgot a big one - Pinterest, which is larger than Snapchat, thriving globally and worth $26 billion. Facebook has been entirely unable to slow their growth.

I think it's clear at this point that Facebook will continue to lose their social dominance, so long as they're prevented from acquiring any major competitors. Their old-line social network will likely remain as a foundation that everyone joins, because so many people are on it. New networks will keep popping up for the same reason TikTok did, young people hate being where old people are, where their parents and teachers are. That cycle will perpetually repeat (in 15 years TikTok 'dancing' videos will be viewed as laughably cringy by young people, like 1980s big hair and fashion trends were 15 years later). All that's necessary is to prevent Facebook from buying the new networks as they pop up.

Instagram might even manage to kill itself trying to be too many things as it clones competitors, turning itself into the F35 of social networks.

You're probably getting downvoted because you're repeating the same line that folks have been saying about Facebook for like 15 years now that keeps getting disproven. It's just the Chicken Little "sky is falling" metaphor.

>young people hate being where old people are, where their parents and teachers are.

Yes, because let's make large business decisions and technology investments on what 10-12 year olds like.

So on one hand Facebook is a monopoly and something needs to be done about it.

And on the other hand, the only real competitor is Chinese so it needs to be banned.

I know my reasoning is not well thought out, but I just find it funny.

It's funny because it's true. I mean the only substantial competitors to facebook are VK, telegram and a bunch of chinese companies, all of which would be considered "security threats"

They want more domestic competition obviously, not foreign.

It's a winner-takes-it-all industry. Sometimes I have the weird realization that it's the same way if there was no GFW or regulations in China, there would be no Chinese competitors now because those tech giants in China would have been killed by the US counterparts years ago.

So domestic competition is not likely to happen anytime soon.

Out of all of FAANG, which has had new competitors emerge recently (that are potentially huge threats)?

Facebook - Snap, Tiktok, Telegram, Discord, Houseparty (and we still have Twitter, Pinterest, Wechat)

Google - Duckduckgo (really?)

Amazon - Shopify (really?)

Apple - Android (really?)

That's a strawman , having wannabe competitors does not absolve them from their anticompetitive practices. "Facebook" is a web-based social network. They weren't competitors to snap-tiktok-telegram-discord . But then they bought instagram, they bought whatsapp, they built a copycat messenger and used facebook+ig to push it to everyone, they copied snap and pushed it to everyone, they copy slack and push it to everyone, they copy tiktok to push it to everyone ... you see the pattern here, using their earlier dominant position to destroy any chance of competition.

Because - all the companies I listed above are now bankrupt and gone?

they dont need to be bankrupt to be wannabees. Wordperfect and myspace still exist

(plus yes, a lot of those companies would go bankrupt without their VC funding)

Amazon has competition from online stores like ebay, AliExpress, Wayfair, and Overstock. Traditional retailers like Walmart, Target, and Best buy also have online presence challenging Amazon. It's pretty trivial to cut them out of your life. They don't have much that you can't get elsewhere

> "Your only job is to get an extra minute,” the former employee told the subcommittee. “It’s immoral. They don’t ask where it’s coming from. They can monetize a minute of activity at a certain rate. So the only metric is getting another minute.”

Not surprising, but a very interesting quote nonetheless.

Eventually companies become so large they can't innovate - doing something new is too big a risk (it will eat into existing revenue and may fail anyway) and too expensive (its hard to change the structure and direction of a 10's and 100's of thousands of employees).

The only way they continue operating is to outsource R&D - buy companies that have proven a new business model or product, or replicate what they've done.

This has been the case since VisiCalc, Wordperfect, Netscape, IBM etc. - is there an alternative for large companies?

Even if it s true, who here thinks that antimonopoly action is going to work?

Instead i think they should strike their crucial market advantage: the assumption that user-generated content is free. It should not be, in fact users should be getting paid to have their content featured. A law that would prevent the use of user-generated content for ad purposes without compensating the user would help share the wealth.

"If you don't read newspaper you are uninformed. If you do read a newspaper, you are misinformed" --Mark Twain (b. 1835)

Just saying FB...


I like how Microsoft isn't bad anymore.

Gates and Co. have been on a PR push for the last twenty years. It appears to have worked.

Gates is doing PR for himself. I've not seen him say anything relevant about MS in a really long time.

Gates is the richest person in the world. I assure you, he has a team of PR people dedicated to improving his image and the image of the source of his wealth (Microsoft.)

The fact that this is downvoted and somehow controversial is proof of their campaign’s effectiveness...it’s how the media works, people.

> Gates is the richest person in the world.

One of the richest. As of Oct 2020, he is second.

He has, quite literally, all the money in the world to hire PR people to make the public believe he is what he desires.

> Gates is the richest person in the world.

not true for three years now

> dedicated to improving his image and the image of the source of his wealth (Microsoft.)

Why? Can't find the more recent value, but by 2017 he was down to ~1% stake and he was effectively transferring the amounts sold to the foundation. Why would he care significantly about the image of MS at this point?

The last significant article mentioning Gates and Microsoft I can find is him departing the board in March. And not a lot before that either. Can you point at his significant MS PR?

The point of PR is to not be obvious.

And of course he would be interested in making MS look better, it’s the source of his wealth and will forever be associated with him.

Yet, you claim this is obviously happening. Can you point at some proof that there's heavy Gates -> MS PR campaign happening?

Gates and the Gates Foundation have hired numerous PR firms for various issues. Google it.

If you seriously think that one of the richest men in the world doesn't do the same thing for the sources of his wealth, I don’t know what to tell you.

It is not 'how the media works' or any sort of proof of a PR campaign, it is just wrong. That is why it is being downvoted.

You don’t think that one of the richest people in the world has a PR team that helps shape his public perception?

>I like how Microsoft isn't bad anymore.

How is Microsoft relevant to this discussion?

Just to give one trivial example of how this impacts people who don’t want to have anything to do with Facebook or its satellite entities, in my country many government agencies communicate through Instagram. As soon as I click on a graphic, or scroll their official feed, I’m forced to login to a Facebook company.

How does that happen with Microsoft? Even when someone sends me a Word or Excel document I’m freely able to open it with a third-party application, without ever needing to give Microsoft my real and personal details, including needing to verify my phone number or email.

That seems more like a symptom of your government’s poor choices. Is it Facebook’s fault your government decided to communicate via Instagram instead of Word or PDF or HTML or dozens of other options?

> I like how Microsoft isn't bad anymore.

Just wait. People love to be within top 10 richest on the planet and will do a lot to achieve it.

Are you suggesting Nadella will sacrifice the long term vision of Microsoft for personal gain?

They failed in the mobile market and thus lost a lot of influence.


I'm partial to GMAFIA myself, but I'm afraid that it has the same cranky connotation as "Micro$oft" had back in the day.

I've been going with GRAFT when referring to the social-media incumbents. (Strictly speaking it should be GRAAFT, and I can't figure a way to neatly include an 'M'.)

This tickled me but what does the A stand for? Does M$ (retro!) have a social media platform? They do have a television news station....

A = Apple/Amazon - not strictly-speaking social-media, I'd agree, but certainly in on the surveillance-cap bandwagon. Similarly MS.


How is this kind of juvenile behavior accepted on this forum?

The parent criticized the commonly used FAANG acronym for excluding Microsoft. That is not juvenile in my book.

There's apparently "FANGAM" to account for that omission. According to Wikipedia:


Am I missing something? FAANG obviously omits a bunch of relevant large tech companies and it's rather disingenuous to be confused at its omission when the acronym obviously doesn't have an M in it. Feigning stupidity to make a point against a straw man is both juvenile behavior and evidently derailed the thread from civil or productive conversation. That's a successful troll, my friend, not any kind of behavior that aligns with the community guidelines.

Facebook has been trying to create a monopoly since years. Whatsapp was a messenger app but now it is a part of social media. Instagram was an image sharing app, now it is a part of social media.

Finally there seems to be more widespread realization that large society-influencing corporations could be intrinsically not-such-a-good thing!

Well, it's more that corporations aren't specially benign. Other hegemonic organizations are usually problematic, too.

Guys what would you do if given monopoly status and no regulation ? Exactly the same thing.

Yes, but also "Facebook gives us all the info and leverage we need about everyone : three letter agencies."

And that's why nothing will happen to Facebook.

Interoperability may be hard to archive knowing that Facebook lowered drastically reach for posts may by official API versus UI. It was a "bug"... known and lasting for several years. ..

> "The report also recommends that Congress consider any acquisition by the big tech companies to be anticompetitive unless the companies can prove that the merger would be in the public’s benefit and could not be otherwise achieved."

I'm sorry, what? Two private tech companies cannot merge if they can't prove it is in the public's best interest? Am I understanding this correctly?

What if the influence on public welfare is non existent or minimal, but both companies would benefit from the merger?

Look at your quote: it restricts it to "big tech" companies, and as nebulous as it sounds at-present I'd say it's quite easy to say which companies are "big".

Yeah, I read it correctly but am just now realizing I wrote "tech companies" instead of "big tech companies", my bad.

So this is more a move to preven them from bullying smaller tech companies? I can see it from that angle, but it still seems to me that they want the power to block acquisitions.

For instance, would the following acquisition/merger be allowed: a big tech company acquiring a small company, which the owner wants to sell, that does not influence public welfare?

If a big company buys another one in order to close it down, not migrate its services with the sole goal of achieving market dominance (monopoly), then yes, the government should have the power to block that acquisition as the public would be worse off with one big company being the only provider of something, rather than N companies providing something. This is why we have free markets, as we want companies to compete with each other, not absorb each other.

Yeah I understand that perspective, my question is what happens if the owner of said company wants to sell?

How many technology companies of note have a single owner (or even a single majority owner)? Every single one of those I can think of is a micro-ISV (or similar) and lacks a multi-million-person-sized user-base.

Those same types of companies also tend to not sell-out to a mega-corp that simply wants to shut it down - if they really need the money they could presumably sell it to a competitor that would actually capitalize on their investment.

In a more general sense, I would like to see moves towards laws and regulations prohibiting more detrimental-to-the-public business activity - we already ban loss-leaders in many circumstances, so it's not a stretch to ban (or rather: to retroactively punish) buying out the competition simply to shut it down.

What's interesting to me is that our industry has plenty of examples of big corporations buying competing companies and products - and keeping them running despite internal competition and even cannibalizations, such as Autodesk and Discrete (3ds vs. Maya), Adobe and Macromedia (GoLive, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, FreeHand), even Microsoft too (Microsoft Works vs. Microsoft Office).

> If a big company buys another one in order to close it down

Apple's business model right there.

Such as? As far as I can tell they have all been technology acquisitions. Sure, Apple uses the technology for its own products, but that should be expected since they are not in the components or IP licensing business.

Sorry I was unclear.

I meant that lately Apple has been buying companies that offer services to both Android and iOS and then shutting-down their Android businesses, even when they're very profitable and/or popular.

* Dark Sky

* Texture

* NextVR

* Chomp

* Beddit

* Color Labs

* Emagic (Windows, not Android)

Granted, Apple does keep some Android services running, such as Shazam and Beats, but Apple's decision not just to suspend development of Android clients for services like Dark Sky and Texture, but to actively prohibit Android users while still allowing iOS access to the exact same backend web-service is just mean-spirited.

>but it still seems to me that they want the power to block acquisitions.

They don't want that power. They have it.

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