Should we break up the big tech companies?

That is my piece in the Globe and Mail, excerpted with edits from my new Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero, here is one excerpt:

Furthermore, it is striking just how effective the major tech companies have been as innovators. Other than providing the best free search in the world, Alphabet – the umbrella corporation under which Google is a subsidiary – gave us Gmail, one of the best and biggest e-mail services in the world, for free. Google Maps, which is also free, is pretty neat, too.

Then, despite the risks identified by critics of the deal – that YouTube appeared to be a bottomless pit for copyright-violation suits and nasty comments – Google bought the streaming-video service for US$1.65 billion, and dramatically upgraded it. Google cleaned up the legal issues, using its advanced software capabilities to spot copyright violations while enforcing takedown requests, improving search and heavily investing in the technology that has helped make video so widely used on the internet today.

In 2005, Google purchased Android and elevated the company’s open-source system to the most commonly used cellphone software in the entire world. Because of the Google-Android combination, hundreds of millions of people have enjoyed better and cheaper smartphones. More generally, Google has made most of its software open-source, enabling others to build upon it with additional advances, with entire companies now devoted to helping other companies build upon that infrastructure – meaning Google has not likely been the major beneficiary of its own actions.

Google, by way of Alphabet, has taken a lead role in developing self-driving vehicles and the underlying artificial intelligence, now being developed through Waymo; by throwing its weight behind this, Alphabet made the concept more publicly acceptable, and it could potentially save many lives on the road. After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, Alphabet also stepped in to do good, deploying its work-in-progress Project Loon to restore internet access, which may eventually be integral for remote areas in Africa. It’s a bold attempt to create a better and more connected living situation for some of the world’s more vulnerable people.

All that from a company that is just a little more than 20 years old. Is this really the kind of company we should be punishing?

There are other points of interest at the link.

Comments

Google as a product has been in decline for years. The search is so "smart" it's stupid (stop ignoring my search terms you jerks); Gmail is clunkier and has a bloated UI; Youtube's copyright algorithm is a mess of false positives that are a nightmare to resolve and its advertising schemes are terrible compared to days of old; Chrome is starting to neglect standards in the same way that Internet Explorer used to; I could go on.

Google used to be an innovative tech company. Now it is primarily an advertisement company, relying on technology that it no longer know how to evolve.

Sounds horrible for you. Show them how smart you are, stop using their products.

Good luck.

Install AdNauseum on your browser. Then watch it automatically click every ad it sees and destroy their business model. Google tried to ban them. Enjoy.

https://adnauseam.io/

'stop using their products'

Well, I don't have a google account, use OpenStreetMap (https://www.openstreetmap.org/), don't use a smartphone, and it has been a couple of decades since using the net with http referer or images or javascript or flash turned on. Then there is youtube-dl (https://ytdl-org.github.io/youtube-dl/index.html) as my way of watching most videos on such platforms (not just youtube's) - much easier to just download something like the latest Star Wars trailer and watch it however I wish in something like SMplayer in Linux.

Google search remains a lazy tool to use, admittedly - particularly since it still functions with most browser functions turned off, and the cache can be useful for PDFs or text only reading.

Stop using their products might be a bit difficult, true, but it is not hard to essentially remove all of google's sources of revenue when using their free services.

Use DuckDuckGo or Startpage instead of Google search. Use Hooktube instead of Youtube.

Why would I want to use Hooktube? It is just a redirection service, basically, and does not offer any of the advantages of youtube-dl - such as making a single, direct, one time link to the files (audio and video) hosted on youtube, files that I then can access locally whenever I want.

Yet their stock has never been higher. If you know more than the market does, then instead of complaining, put on a big short and load up on puts. Make cash not whine.

That simply tells you something about Google's monopoly rents, not about the quality of its products.

+1

Straight to the point - monopoly and rents. However, Google isn't actually a tech company, not since about 1996.

Peter Thiel to Eric Schmidt, "admit it, Google is not a tech company". Very sad that Google is sitting on all that cash and is doing nothing with it, other than putting almost every newspaper in the US out of business. I am not championing the old news orgs, who now stay in business by pandering to a fragmented market of true believers, but it would be nice if all that cash we're doing something good, like providing flying cars or cleaner and cheaper power.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/techcrunch.com/2012/07/17/peter-thiel-eric-schmidt/amp/

Actually, Google the company did not exist in 1996, as noted here - 'The Google company was officially launched in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin to market Google Search, which has become the most used web-based search engine.' https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Google

And I'm guessing you have about as much clue at just how much technological advances Google contributed to in terms of data centers or backbones or machine translation.

Mere details.

I won't misrepresent myself as an expert. However, I did project manage many Android apps.

The point is, Google has tremendous monopoly power in the market. According to Thiel, it's search engine is 1990's technology and they have not done much since.

They bought YouTube and Android and ...

But are they an innovator on a scale to match their market power.

I'll ignore the ad hominem ...

'Mere details.'

Details, facts, so what? This is the MR comments section.

'I did project manage many Android apps'

So Android was not enough to mention as technology, and something Google (further) developed instead of sitting on a pile of cash?

'According to Thiel'

Well, that would seem to be a major reason for not caring about details.

As a note, Google did not buy Android, they developed it, on the basis of the GPL and Linux.

'But are they an innovator on a scale to match their market power.'

Data centers or Internet backbones are really not something you are interested in, are you? And since this is full of details, you may not find it all relevant when discussing how Google is apparently not living up to your technology expectations - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_data_centers

Clock,

Please, don't embarrass yourself. This, from the FIRST LINE of the Wikipedia article on Android.

"Initially developed by Android Inc., which Google bought in 2005 ..."

So, no, some little genius at Google did not invent Android. It was developed by someone else and Google bought it.

Re: data centers. Meh. So they collect and store lots of data. So what. Did they create an Android? No.

They are a giant monopoly collecting rents. They make money by selling access to you to product and service marketeers.

"Make cash not whine". That's a nice pat and superficial motto for a downtrodden materialist. I might use it as I Google my way to riches.

I agree completely about the search. It does still do a good job, but it used to be that if you put your search in quotation marks it would do a hard search for that phrase. This doesn't seem to be the case anymore, and you are instead directed to different suggested results.

Still a good product and I use it frequently, but let's not overlook its design flaws.

Is this also true if you switch to Google Advanced Search?

an app is essentially a language you knew once but don't know anymore. Like six years of hard work, at in fifth grade, for one year you took Spanish and latin and performed above average in both. well that is your app. Google is, of course, a nonprofit company with advertiser donations. as much as any video advertiser out there in online is a brain research company. "mice" get it???

Use verbatim mode for exact search.

There are only two kinds of apps: the ones people always bitch about and the ones nobody uses

There's a third kind of app unique to Google: the ones that people actually enjoy using that they decide to cancel for reasons unknown. RIP Google Reader and Google Wave.

RIP, Google Inbox!

I agree to some extent. Google used to be a leader in good design, but many of their products have regressed somewhat. As a constant user of GMail, Maps, etc. it annoys me.

Still, I think Tyler is correct regarding the big picture. And breaking up Google would be beyond stupid.

However, the effort to ruin the internet seems to be picking up steam. I think it will probably succeed.

'the effort to ruin the internet seems to be picking up steam'

Starting directly with the belief that net neutrality is anything but an attempt to preserve the fundamental principle that each packet is treated equally by the network. To be a bit more precise, each packet within a protocol - the internet is not a single protocol, a reality for decades at this point.

(There is essentially no net neutrality debate in Germany, because net neutrality is mainly about American ISPs not wanting to provide the service their customers have already paid for.)

Not really what it was about.

Google has not likely been the major beneficiary of its own actions.
As a former Android dev I'll just say that this view is incorrect. Google is THE major beneficiary of Android bar none. In fact many devs complain in Android forums about how we can easily get arbitrary bans from their algorithms for no good reason with no road to reinstatement unless we complain publicly on social media. I've written a number of apps and manage even more and every time they change their API's it creates needless churn in my codebase. Again for no good reason. Google is not known for their service and for all this I must pay 30%. The stories I hear from my friends selling on Amazon is eerily similar. Unresponsive bureaucracy, arbitrary machine-driven actions, etc. So this is the near future for life under our tech overlords. Its a nightmare.

Time to fork Linux and make a new mobile OS. Sounds easy! I am sure your OS will be more technically competent and your terms will be far superior on app developers and on licensees.

You go tiger! You’ve got this!

I know your comment was made in jest. But to add some info, there's KaiOS which is just behind IOS and Android in popularity. It's popular in India and other countries. Linux/Firefox OS for feature phones basically. Also, the EU is looking into the monopoly practices of Google's Android specifically. It's too bad people in America forgot what a competitive free market means and what it should look like.

I’m missing how the market isn’t free and competitive. Does google or Apple go around no-knocking developers houses and shooting them if they try to come up with something better?

There's little choice in the market only 2 flavors of walled gardens. That's noncompetitive in my book. Reminds me of our political system.

Exactly. The fact that the troll is citing the high barriers to entry as supposedly an indication of a competitive market is especially amusing.

Read up on a concept called "natural monopoly."

This is basically the equivalent of "if you don't like government policy X just move to Mary Byrd land and start your own country."

Excellent post!

Just to add, Google didn't invent Android, they bought it.

YouTube was absolutely better before Google bought it. YouTube is a disaster area these days. "Google bought YouTube and made changes to it" goes in the con column, not the pro.

Remember when Google tried to force people to sign up for Google+ in order to put comments on YouTube? Google+ was enough of a disaster in its own right that the problem resolved itself, but it's a classic example of a monopolist leveraging one market to try to get an advantage in another at the cost of worsening its services and harming consumers. If YouTube were not owned by Google they never would have done such a thing.

And yet, Google+ failed spectacularly. It's an example of monopoly fears being overblown, rather than the successful wielding of monopoly power.

I agree that it sure was annoying for awhile, though.

Google+ was a social media app that flopped. They were trying to compete against another monopoly - Facebook - and they failed. I used Google+, it sucked. I really would like to see someone challenge Facebook.

Hey, you're so smart and the price of Youtube has gone up even as competition gets announced, start your own superior version, say "mytube", but priced at Disney's $6.99 used to pay Amazon for AWS hosting.

And you can promise investors users will soon be paying 37.99 as that $6.99 Disney price goes up to $39.99 and you offer bargain pricing.

It's not free Tyler. Like Facebook, they surveil you in exchange for their services. The information they keep on you is a potential liability. It could be sent to insurance companies, law enforcement, ex-spouse, etc. Anything recorded can be used against you even in a court of law. Ask General Petraeus the good deal he got using "free" Gmail. Hillary and Ivanka use "free" email too. An economist always knows there is no free lunch.

Doesn't cost money, though. That's "free" to a simpleton like me.

'Doesn't cost money, though.'

There are other ways to value 'free' however. As noted, for example, the value of being free from surveillance that generates profits for others.

Free is not only about money, and never has been.

"Free" the way your local coke-dealer gives you that first hit for "free"

It does cost money though. You just don’t pay at the point it use. You pay indirectly through the monopoly advertising charges Google forces on all the other companies you use. No such thing as a free lunch, especially one that results in an $800bn company.

Companies are surely substituting Google ads for other marketing, rather than increasing their marketing budgets and raising prices.

And Google is not a monopoly. They have only 35% of digital ad revenues in the US and have to compete with other types of advertising as well.

Yes, I'm aware that I'm giving something of value to use Google, but it's my presence in their products which exposes me to their ads, as well as data allowing them to target ads to me. I do not have a problem with this trade-off, though some do, of course.

Can we at least get rid of Microsoft?

Why?????

They are doing more good for humanity that all the political classes of the world combined that seem only to understand how to divide people and benefit themselves.

The fact that Google can scale new tech so quickly makes it MORE dangerous if avoiding global monopolies is the goal -- a goal I'm not sure you're giving any value to. I don't want a Google steamroller.

I'm happy to trade off a little less speed for a lot more consumer choice, a lot more opportunity for regional variation, and a lot more accountability from companies forced to care about it by genuine competition.

That may not be the actual trade-off, however.

If by speed you mean "any chance at all", sure. Google is a unique company producing results that nobody else can or will. I'm fine with a google steamroller paving the road to the future, anything less would be a huge loss to humanity, IMO.

'gave us Gmail, one of the best and biggest e-mail services in the world, for free'

And it makes you wonder why an abstract, shark-like legal entity devoted to commercial profit is providing such a service.

But that is the sort of question that requires the mind set of a true public choice economist, one able to look at motive in combination with the desire for profit when examining what 'free' means.

Yes for the simple reason that the internet kind of sucks these days. I blame Facebook and Google for most of it. Ads everywhere and I'm constantly being watched and monitored like I'm in prison even though I'm doing nothing wrong. Oddly, Twitter has actually been surprisingly good if you know who to follow.

Just use adblocker. I use it and don't see any ads. There are also extensions that keep companies from following you.

"...the internet kind of sucks these days. I blame Facebook and Google for most of it. Ads everywhere..."

Yes, it was lovely for users during the early years when the budding tech giants were drunk on VC funding & wild stock valuations, wholly focused on growth, and not yet concerned about earning profits. But of course that was never sustainable. So the Internet may suck in some ways compared to it's early 'non-monetized' phase, but it definitely doesn't suck in comparison to no internet at all (nor, I suspect,. in comparison to how much more it will suck if tech-companies are broken up and tightly regulated).

Of course, the services provided by Google are not "free", as users provide their personal data to Google without charge for Google to use (and sell) at it sees fit. It's that personal data that generates the billions in revenues for Google. Why are users willing to part with their personal data, personal data worth billions, in return for the "free" services provided by Google? Is it because users place an extremely low value on their personal data? Is it because users don't fully understand the exchange they are making with Google? Americans often criticize China for the government's surveillance of its citizens. In America, it's private companies such as Google that make up the surveillance state. Does the difference mean that Americans are less at risk of government spying? If the government comes calling to Google for Google to share the personal data on its users that Google has stored, can or will Goggle say no? Not a day goes by without a new revelation of misbehavior by big business, yet Cowen persists in his business and CEO worship. Is there a Straussian interpretation for this?

Here's news about the value of surveillance: Palantir, the data mining and surveillance company co-founded by Peter Thiel, may go public this year, with a valuation of over $40 billion according to Morgan Stanley. Libertarians for surveillance. Or what I refer to as the libertarian-authoritarian axis.

Thiel is an authoritarian but can't bring himself to say it. If you combine Palantir and Facebook, both Thiel properties, you have the mother of all blackmail opportunities. The Stasi would be proud. Thiel is also against free speech and free press from his lawsuit with Gawker. Yes Gawker is mean but mean speech is still free speech. Again the Stasi would be proud.

"Yes Gawker is mean but mean speech is still free speech."

No, it wasn't "free speech." There was a whole court decision about this question, go read it.

tech companies that turned into media companies are now data companies. in google's case, i'm not sure the language hasn't evolved to painting. it's demystifying how data companies add and add at great risk to their assurances in the hope of a major good. how else to explain an e-trade commercial with the option of a walk-thru of an options trade? so when math overtakes english as they key language, painting is the only alternative for brainwashing. what's more, it is awesome!

One might conclude that Cowen views big business through rose-colored glasses. I thought about this while reading the new article in The Atlantic about Ivanka Trump, titled Inside Ivanka's Dreamworld: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/04/ivanka-trump-job-white-house/586972/

I did not read the book yet, but I wonder if Tyler discussed also the ethical implications of these decisions. It is frankly disturbing reading a phrase like “Should we break up Google?” like it is something that the depends only on the wishes (and whims) of the mob. Google of Facebook is not “only” Brin or Zukemberg, it is not even the tens of millions that own shares in the company. It is actually the billions that voluntary use their service. Even in the stale rhetoric of the modern western nation state, democracy is not the absolute rule of the majority, but also, among others, the respect for the minorities. Nobody is forced to use Facebook. Why the majority should prevent the minority to use it if they wish?

Who are the “we” of the question? I am afraid they are the green-eyed envious mobs that fill the stadiums of Trump and Warren, collectivistic little descendants of those that filled the venues where Hitler or Lenin spoke. We, free individuals, should not let them grow.

There's a superstructure of state owned infrastructure - physical, legal, financial - that makes those products work (despite never making any profits), and there's pretty clear pattern of subsidization, mutual lobbying and collusion between the tech giants and government and the security services.

These aren't the pure and 'natural' products of the sweat of the brow, hard work and grit alone threatened by the envious and lazy. That which giveth the environment which makes them possible can also taketh away, and about the worst thing which can be done in response to those threats, rather than justifying that they actually do have value, is to argue that there is no "right" to take away that environment, that it is somehow "natural" and not contingent.

Well said, bravo.

Why? We broke up the steel and oil monopolies. It didn't lead to pogroms.

"I am afraid they are the green-eyed envious mobs that fill the stadiums of Trump and Warren, collectivistic little descendants of those that filled the venues where Hitler or Lenin spoke."

Since weve gone full Goodwin, maybe the real ideological descendents are the censoring monopolies.

In the 80s, Evil AT&T/Bell Labs/Western Electric/Bell were plotting fiber optic to ever home, business, completely replacing copper wire.

They even had prototype systems with an optic fiber termination for a phone jack that was powered by the light though the fiber charging an internal battery.

The technology changed over the decade into the 90s so the resulting product, FiOS, became much more powerful, but also cheaper than new copper installs over the useful capital life.

The plan was to totally replace all copper and offer phone as, and, data to everyone as basic service with upgrades, like with copper, at the same price as copper.

But the economists argued competition would result in much better options and lower prices, than a regulated monopoly telco.

So, where is thde better, chaper fiber based telephone and data than the monopoly Bell with profits capped and prices forced down to maximize the number of customers to 80%-90%+ for maximum economy of scale, maximum network effect, and maximum benefit?

Breaking up AT&T and Bell system has been a disaster. The US was a global leader in telco, but now mostly lags badly.

And economist's biggest failure was the theory of moble phone competition. Benchmark the US offerings against Europe and Asia where competition was regulated substantially with government dictating te product standards. (Developed by industry, but with no lock in allowed, in contrast with the US where competition is an illusion due to lock in.)

AT&T Bell would have delivered FiOS to everyone by now based on their regulated monopoly requiring government dictating universal service.

Ie, the Bell monopoly would been required to install FiOS to every address if it was going to offer FiOS instead of copper to any customer.

Now, the top regulator is redefining down what high speed internet is to claim the US has better Internet than anyone. But as the "work requirement" authorized by Trump has demonstrated, Internet is unavailable to citizens mandated to use Internet by government.

Should we break up the big tech companies?

No, we should destroy them. Except for Amazon they can almost all be turned into Craigslist or Mozilla analogues where users capture almost all the value created. GNP (as measured) would take a hit but the consumer's and society's satisfaction and well being will skyrocket.

Tyler: Gmail, one of the best and biggest e-mail services in the world, for free

Gmail being better than pre-Gmail services, OK perhaps - I don't know its edge over other competing email services, exactly.

But accepting the assumption, the question is still really whether email as a whole is better than it would be to pre-Gmail trends. A monopolist can innovate over forebears, but still be bad for innovation if the trendline of innovation decreases.

Similarly, we can talk about Android - Are we really sure we're better off than we would be if we had a bunch of OS standards competing with Apple? Google didn't actually make the smartphone innovation here, and it's unlikely that they even too much influenced the rate of adoption.

You need to make the case that they're rate improving over their resources being divided among multiple enterprises. Not that, with enormous resources and a large share of the talent, they actually occasionally do anything at all. This is absolutely the argument which would be applied if they were state owned businesses, and it should apply if they're owned by the global oligarchy instead.

Google Maps and Scholar are cool.

Totally unpersuasive column. If Tyler wants to defend Google as innovative, he should cite some actual innovation. Beyond just the search engine, he fails to do so. Google Maps and gmail were marginal improvements on Mapquest and Yahoo mail, leveraged via the search engine. Android and YouTube were purchases, not innovations. Android and Apple have basically kept pace with each other on terms of OS improvements, and it's hard to identify anyplace where Google significantly out-innovated Apple (which is presumably why Tyler doesn't do so). The assertion that a YouTube copyright battle was avoided by superior Google technology seems to assume facts not in evidence, and the suggestion that Google has innovated a solution to "nasty comments" is ridiculous. Self-driving car technology is still way too early in its development to cite Google as an innovator in the field. The fact that Google did good works in Puerto Rico is commendable but irrelevant to Tyler's point.

The company has shown great skill in applying the monopoly profits from its one great product. No one has convinced me that it should be broken up, but Tyler's column doesn't come close to convincing me that it shouldn't.

Agreed.

While I'm a long time follower, Tyler has an apologist streak in him just like all of us - he is just more articulate in the construction of his apologetics. I know it. Everyone knows it. I presume he doesn't know it from the lack of introspection.

Wikipedia, Google, FB, Patreon, and now Amazon are all operating under the same network effect as did Microsoft, and the state went after MSFT (wrongfully) for giving consumers free goods (the browser), but NOT interfering in politics (Gates eschewed DC to his detriment) whereas these folks are saturating DC with lobbyists.

These services are infrastructure just as much as telegraphs, telephones, radios, television stations, cable networks, the credit chard processing and ATM networks, and the banking system. They are necessary infrastructure.

The only outstanding issues I know of that are material are (a) free political speech, and (b) privacy.

This can be solved through self compliance (never happen - they think they're above it), through regulation (possible if not for current distractions), through judicial activism (expensive, risky, possible), or through foreign pressure (it's happening now).

A number of us think we might be able to do it with class action but it takes a lot of time and money and the Gang walks the line just enough, and uses continuous incrementalism, so that without a cliff event, no one will invest before it gets out of hand.

-Cheers.

'I presume he doesn't know it from the lack of introspection.'

Maybe he should just have a Conversation with Tyler about it,

Also +1. Thing is, Google does good in the world. Google exercises its power in ways that harm consumers and competitors. I can hold both of these ideas in my head. The good doesn't actually answer the question of whether they are a monopoly that requires a breakup. As much as I generally respect Tyler Cowen, the piece read more like apologia than analysis.

What about Dragonfly??

Why is “break up” equated with “punishment”?

Is it voluntary?

Are any of the Gang of FANG "the kinds of companies we should be permitting to self-regulate?"

Their algorithms are all so precious and pristine it just would NOT do to convene a few Natl. Sci. Foundation panels, et cetera, to begin finding significant and far-reaching regulations to combat our tech tyrants and our lying and spying Tech Sector?

"Too big and too complicated for regulation, too big and too complicated for existence": this guidance can be offered responsibly at least as an interim approach, just to gain everyone's focus on the enormity of the tasks we all face.

E. g.: how well can Facebook be "self-managing" if Mr. Z. is obliged to spend $22 million annually on personal security?

How many billion FB subscribers would swoon to learn that FB execs were spending $22 million annually on THEIR personal security?

Anybody who wants to host their own internet services can rent a server and do it. These days anything short of search or video streaming is cheap and easy. And as someone mentioned, there are open collaborative efforts on those.

That's what makes this discussion super boring to me. As long as we have connectivity and a guarantee of transmission (aka net neutrality) these mega services are just options.

Of course if you did remove the net neutrality, in practice, the whole equation would change.

This is not true. Political Deplatforming has hit telco subs, hosting providers, and payment service providers, payment processors, banks, and has been extremely successful at silencing opposition.

You just moved the bar. You went from bare metal servers to wanting "all the services" from others.

Deplatforming is b.s. too, as long as you have net neutrality. You can even choose your country.

https://nomadcapitalist.com/2014/04/11/best-offshore-web-hosts-privacy/

No. You're rationalizing. Physical Distance causes performance to pass the 2-3 second window. VPN is and anonymity are not the same as hosting a system.

My argument stands. As usual.

I guess you have painted yourself into a corner and you like it.

To me this all sounds really pathetic, like "Here I am, a big rebel! Oh, wait. MasterCard won't process my fees!"

Like telling your mother she's not the boss of you, and then asking for a sandwich.

If you want to go out on your own, do it.

If you lived in a world where you can make a bank as easily as you could make a sandwich, you'd have a point.

Or I could live in a world with banking regulations to protect consumers.

They must all accept legal tender, they don't have to give an account or a loan to anyone.

"Industry X is required to do A therefore it should have the right to do B" is not an argument.

"Of course if you did remove the net neutrality, in practice, the whole equation would change."

Why? Couldn't you then dig your own fiber optic cable with your bare hands? Why does the "if you don't like X start your own you weakling" argument stop there?

You have spotted that NN is a practical comprise.

"I get to run the speed limit and you dont" is not a "compromise." You've failed to make an argument for why ISPs should be treated differently from banks, domain hosts, or social media companies.

(Libertarians have been very slow to recognize net neutrality as the kind of freedom guarantee that underpins their world. It's the digital equivalent of free movement, free association.)

Or: the net is never neutral--no one has ever prohibited it from being self-regulating and self-recommending.

You can say that about the figurative "net," but not the actual one created and regulated by ARPA, before being passed to a user consortium.

Another epistemic puzzle for our day:

is the net's "actuality" anything other than "figurative"?

I refer to the net elsewhere as our "global Potemkin village" because it's become a mask with which to cover and conceal as much of reality and the real world as possible: we see the approximate accuracy of the contours and topography of the mask overlying the concealed face but the face remains at least as much concealed as "decorated".

The internet does NOT give us "reality", it is NOT "reality" in itself: on a good day, perhaps possibly maybe, a severely warped electronic mirror too parabolic in construction to yield anything but a wavy, obscured image of anything held up to it.

Et cetera et cetera et cetera. (Our tech tyrants' lying and spying, on another hand, are all documented behaviors worthy of real consideration and determined regulatory response.)

Figuratively the "net" is the superset of all communication systems. But practically, the vast majority of traffic is managed by one organization, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

I know this can be refused as steadfastly as the health and safety of immunization, but for anyone willing to learn:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_governance

You know what I notice in that list?

All the innovations from Google listed are either more than ten years old, or not actually delivered.

The question then is, is Google actually good for innovation anymore? Or for the last ten years has it been actually strangling innovation by launching a lot of interesting ideas that crowd out startups (or buying up startups), dicking around for a while, and then killing them?

If it's smothering innovation, then the sooner it's dismantled, the better.

I’m concerned no no in these comments is talking about the real problem with google. There is no effective way to opt out of using them. If you use the web, you use both Double Click and Google Analytics. They are embedded on the vast majority of websites and collect data about you. Every product Alphabet has has the alterior motive of collecting more different data about you to aggregate it with the rest of their data. That alone is a reason to heavily regulate a company like Alphabet. People generally don’t know how to evaluate threats like this, but it will have some very chilling effects on society. To Tyler’s point, we shouldn’t punish a company that’s innovative, we should punish a company that believes ‘don’t be evil’ isn’t a worthy stance though...

We should also be prepared to punish any company that doesn’t sell their products, they’re goals are not aligned with their users.

I observe a natural cycle of politics in which at first the business elite and those who swallow their kool-aid behave with arrogance and contempt toward the masses. The "stop whining and go get your golfing buddies to give you a small loan of ten million dollars and create a competitor to Facebook," argument that some commenters here have made is a good example of that. In response, the masses seize their wealth, either violently or peacefully, by electing social-Democratic parties. The social-Democrats then behave with their own kind of arrogance and contempt toward the masses.(See the 1960s) The now-wiser business elite sees a chance to claw-back power. Instead of saying "we deserve power because we are better than you, peasant," they make arguments about how it will actually benefit average people. They return to greater power, but start to forget the social Democratic age and start to once again behave with contempt toward the masses. That's the place we are in now. While the revolution can get delayed (such as by the election of fake-populist Donald Trump) this will only make it explode with greater ferocity later.

If you mean by Big Tech

The Fox Media Empire and the Koch Enterprises

Count me in.

Right, as long as things are cheap enough, who cares?

I mean the fact that these companies uniformly line up along one side of the political spectrum, routinely, is of no concern. The fact that they are heavily engaged with Chinese and other authoritarian adversaries is just peachy fine. I mean, it is no concern of us plebs if they happen to be heavily dependent on a single government of a foreign power for their supply chain. I mean who could possibly care if a profit maximizing operation ever might want to run a bunch of misleading social media ads during an election. And we can trust them to be fair, right? It isn't like there has been a revolving door between tech and one political party but not the other.

The truth is tech has begun to throw its weight around. It doesn't like North Carolina's "bathroom bill", a policy which is supported by more Americans than not and fairly substantial majority in North Carolina itself. Nor is this isolated. Big tech also comes down heavily pro-choice over pro-life, open borders over restrictionism, gun control over second amendment rights ... and pretty much most of your center-left positions.

And it would be one thing if they were content to act like any other corporation and merely shove money at candidates they like and policies they like. But this is tech. They run the platforms. They arbitrate what is "hate speech" and what is "too graphic". They decide when advertising can cross national boarders for Pete's sake.

This level of political interplay has not typically ended well for behemoth organizations like these. They very often end up captured by politics (e.g. becoming a true wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party), capturing politics themselves (e.g. United Fruit Company), or end up becoming a never ending source of tension. Better to dismantle them now before chickens truly come home to roost.

Whose side are they on? That's all we want to know.

Is this really the kind of company we should be punishing?

Punishing? Who exactly would we be punishing if we broke up Google?

The shareholders? Only if the combined value of the new entities was less than that of Google.

Consumers? If it makes sense to provide gmail for free why would breaking up Google change that? Because the company has to be big to take advantage of whatever it gets out of gmail? I don't think so, since the data can be sold as well as used internally.

Employees? Will there be fewer in the combined entitities? Don't think so.

So who?

Tyler writes:

"There just isn’t any other sector of the North American economies that has been as dynamic in recent memory, or that shows comparable promise for the future..."

This is true, but it is hard not to notice that all of the examples of innovation at Alphabet occurred more than a decade ago. The behavior from Big Tech within the last ten years seems to have been more about fortifying their positions and screening out competitors.

It's hard not to think that the next ten years will be more about appealing to regulators.

I really enjoyed reading this article because we just went over monopolies and monopolistic competition in my microeconomics class. And if it is one thing I learned during that time, is that competition for the market is a good thing. Especially for the consumer, because it drives the force of product differentiation and price. It has been a rule since the beginning of time possibly, competition brings out the best of the best.
However, in this case discussing big tech monopolies and how they dominate the industry, I support both arguments. On the one side, the dangers of having a monopoly in the tech industry include prices being too high and production being too low. But on the other side, specifically in the case of Google, look at all of the innovation and corporate responsibility the company has displayed with its profits. For example, creating Project Loon to help deploy its work to restore internet access in remote areas of Africa.
In conclusion, I say that I support both sides of the argument because on one hand the amount of control that monopolies have is too much. But on the other, if they are using their profits to exemplify corporate responsibility by innovation and philanthropy, I am more than okay with their percentage of the market.

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