Indeed, quite so John

And then there was the shift in judicial thinking about antitrust triggered in the late 1970s by the prominent legal thinker Robert Bork and promulgated by the economics and law faculties of the University of Chicago. The essence of this new philosophy was that the size and dominance of corporations were only a problem if they resulted in consumer harm, inevitably measured by prices. And if the products were “free” (Google, Facebook and Twitter, say), where was the consumer harm?

Guess which argument John Naughton doesn’t try to refute in his piece here?

17 thoughts on “Indeed, quite so John”

  1. The users aren’t the consumers. Businesses buying advertising are.

    Questions can be raised about Google and Facebook’s domination of online advertising, but at 40% and 20% of the market respectively, they’re not without competition.

  2. So Much For Subtlety

    Pravda is not a good example for Britain. But the BBC is. Does it harm the British consumer? Not in terms of prices. It is free. But it does in terms of out-competing the competition and so denying choice. A TV channel that does not hate Britain for instance. By making it free, the government undermines other voices. Like a British version of Fox. A pre-Lachlan version of Fox.

    As much as it pains me to disagree with the late, great, Bork on any topic.

  3. As our esteemed host keeps banging on about, its all about free markets and competition.
    You know, level playing fields and all that.

    Google has its own platform with android, which integrates its search engine and advertising together. Very much like Microsoft did when it tied Internet Explorer into the Windows operating system. Where is Netscape now?
    I loath Windows with a passion and wonder what the OS landscape would be like if Microsoft had faced some real competition. The US DOJ could have righteously broken up Microsoft into separate OS and application companies, and the entire world would have benefited.

    I have said this before, most people have no idea just how big Google, Amazon etc. really are, and how deep their tentacles really go. The simplistic argument that its all a matter of fashion and that some small upstart is going to supplant them is just that – a fantasy. Any company that looks like it may grow into a serious competitor simply gets bought out or crushed. We have seen this time and time again, with Redmond, Apple, Amazon and Google. Simply isn’t going to happen without Goverment intervention.

    The other problem, is that Governments actually like the situation as it is. The Stasi would have loved an organisation like Facebook where people post a blow by blow account of every aspect of their lives, as well as a nicely linked chart of all their known associates and plenty of biometric data.

    Its Goverments job to step in to correct market failure, they should do so here, for all our sakes.

  4. Well firstly Netscape became Mozilla, so any Firefox user today operates the successor to that product. Netscape attempted to expand their portfolio in the late 1990s. We used to sell their mail server and unfortunately it was a bit rubbish. As much as it pains me, but it was not as good as Microsoft Exchange.

    I agree that MS should have been broken up around 2000, the stitch up that they had with Intel in the PC market has held computing back years, because it meant that all competitors had to fight on their territory, in other words companies were just trying to build better mousetraps.

    My views on FB, Google etc are slightly less hardline: their products are generally not crucial to the punters’ lives, posting pictures of your cats or dinner is not an important function without which a human can survive. In the West attempts at competitors failed either due to lack of serious funding (Friendsreunited) or crapness (MySpace), it also has to be remembered that there are plenty of competitors in the Asian market.

    Amazon has become such a behemoth because it hit the right formula very early on. It basically put the independent book and record seller out of business, punters who were looking for something slightly out of the ordinary or couldn’t quite find exactly what they were looking for, instead of ordering from a bookshop and having to go back next Saturday or whenever could order exactly what they wanted after a good browse from the comfort of their own loo and have it delivered the next day(ish). It has done the same now to chain stores : many of the doomed high street brands signed their own death warrants with poor quality overpriced goods that were available more cheaply at Primark or Argos or Dunelm. I gnash my teeth and rend my clothes at the failure of Maplin, but alas they fell into exactly the same trap. I am not sure what to do about Amazon, whether breaking it up really would be of benefit, seeing as a lot of independents sell through it.

    The acid test has however happened for FB and Twatter. They have now shown themselves to be publishers rather than platforms and that means they are now open to libel, defamation, obstruction charges etc etc. If Drumpf wins, then they are in serious shit because the authorities will come after them and if he loses they are in trouble because his lawyers, the NY Post, QAnon, uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all will be outside with burning faggots and pitchforks.

  5. Bloke in Brum,

    “Google has its own platform with android, which integrates its search engine and advertising together. Very much like Microsoft did when it tied Internet Explorer into the Windows operating system. Where is Netscape now?”

    Netscape is now Firefox. Netscape released the code as open source named Mozilla, and the Mozilla Foundation was formed. They developed this into Firefox.

    “I loath Windows with a passion and wonder what the OS landscape would be like if Microsoft had faced some real competition. The US DOJ could have righteously broken up Microsoft into separate OS and application companies, and the entire world would have benefited.”

    You might loath Windows with a passion, but most people like it. What would you have instead? Macs? Where only the rich can afford them, and business gets limited backwards compatibility? Linux, where no-one can play their DVDs?

    We have at least 3 desktop operating systems that the average person can use: Windows, Mac OSX and Chrome OS. That’s healthy competition. You won’t get more than that because a 4th or 5th platform isn’t going to get 3rd party developer support.

    “I have said this before, most people have no idea just how big Google, Amazon etc. really are, and how deep their tentacles really go. The simplistic argument that its all a matter of fashion and that some small upstart is going to supplant them is just that – a fantasy. Any company that looks like it may grow into a serious competitor simply gets bought out or crushed. We have seen this time and time again, with Redmond, Apple, Amazon and Google. Simply isn’t going to happen without Goverment intervention.”

    Like when Microsoft replaced IBM without government intervention? Or when Chrome became a bigger browser than IE without government intervention?

    And government intervention isn’t going to achieve anything because they don’t get it. The DOJ settlement was about Windows APIs, but by that point, the Windows API was already losing power to the web as API. Around 2002 we were already moving away from installed software towards web, because it was just so much easier to manage.

  6. Ottokring,

    “The acid test has however happened for FB and Twatter. They have now shown themselves to be publishers rather than platforms and that means they are now open to libel, defamation, obstruction charges etc etc. If Drumpf wins, then they are in serious shit because the authorities will come after them and if he loses they are in trouble because his lawyers, the NY Post, QAnon, uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all will be outside with burning faggots and pitchforks.”

    He doesn’t need to do anything. Social media works best as simple, neutral platforms that don’t interfere. Interfering is suicide for networks because once you ban Katie Hopkins, Katie Hopkins is now on another network, and the people that want to follow her will use that network. Perhaps over time, that will become more of their home. Then the people who follow them start to move, too.

    And social media is just exploding in all directions. My kids spend more time on Discord (which is more about subject-based social groups) than FB or Twitter. Lots of people are moving from YouTube to Twitch, because YouTube keeps demonetising their content.

  7. View from the Solent

    BoM4
    “Linux, where no-one can play their DVDs?”
    VLC Media Player runs happily on this Linux machine. Where did you get that idea from?

  8. A lot of Amazon is Amazon Marketplace, a platform for other businesses. It has competition from eBay which is now less an online auction than another webshop. [I prefer ebay, it doesn’t keep trying to trick me into signing up for ‘Prime’.)
    Social media? people move on, as ephemeral as any other fashionable place.

  9. View from the Solent,

    Well, that gets into some legal grey areas about libdvdcss. Is that available and installed or do you have to go and get it from source and build it?

  10. As Ottokring says above about social media also has to be remembered that there are plenty of competitors in the Asian market.. Google, Amazon, Facebook are all US companies got a foothold in Europe. The US & Europe aren’t the whole world. The competition’s likely to come from Asia, India or S. America. AliExpress must be a hot competitor to Amazon, worldwide. I must spend 4 times as much on AliE as I do with Amazon. Since half the goods on it are made in the PR, why give an Amazon reseller a cut when you can buy straight from the manufacturer? There’s something called Wallapop, here, seems to have pushed EBay out of its market.
    And I’d say BoM4 has a good point re social media. If Twatter & Farcebook become private playgrounds for the woke, the non woke will go elsewhere. And the advertisers will follow them. Particularly as the woke & non-woke are different markets for goods & services. Where would you advertise booze, SUVs & high end foreign holidays? Especially as millennials are going to be having a lot less money in their pockets in the coming few years

  11. The US DOJ could have righteously broken up Microsoft into separate OS and application companies, and the entire world would have benefited.

    The result would still have been a single dominant OS, and a single dominant set of application software, just because that’s the way those markets work. The mobile market has two dominant operating systems, but the apps are 99% the same. And Microsoft products dominate the market for business productivity on all these platforms (including Apple).

  12. View from the Solent

    BoM4
    I run Linux Mint. VLC is available on their Software Manager, a sort of equivalent of an app store. It installs directly from there, no compiling, etc.
    Alternatively it can be installed directly from VideoLAN’s website for most flavours of Linux..

  13. @BoM4

    libdvdcss is out of the box on desktop distro’s (Ubuntu/Mint) but not so on server distro’s which you can often install it from their main repo or it comes as a dependency for a media player as you install that.

    Basically as you are likely to want it on your desktop to watch dvds you will have no problem. My windows partition exists purely for games. Everything else is done on my linux system. I did the same for a few members of my family too.

  14. Regardless of the antitrust argument, I can at least be sure that Twitter will eventually be overtaken by a much more user-friendly platform. Yes, Twitter is addictive, but people spend hours just trying to find a good tweet, and 9/10 times you’re talking to a stranger or shitposting at a public figure on there. The character limits have become no more than a gimmick at this point, but they’re synonymous with the brand, so people are going to get tired of reading through all of those 50-post threads that defeat the entire purpose of the platform. At least Facebook is a way to keep in touch with friends and family. And Facebook will likely come out the victor of the three, because they still have SOME principles. I think Zuckerberg is fairly moderate, but just gets caught up with corporations strangling him with their cowardice.

    I work in advertising, and my agency was one of many out-of-touch, spineless digital firms that pulled social media ads from FB because of a boycott-du-jour called #StopHateForProfit. And yes, it was just as vapid and meaningless as it sounds. Because about 12 people in the world complained about Trump campaign ads, and made a Google Doc listing brands advertising on the platform, companies freaked and went dark…all without even ONE data point suggesting that any average user would spend time reading through an activist’s hit list before buying a bloody pair of shoes online.

    As outright dumb as these advertisers were, they still cost Facebook billions of dollars in about a month’s time. So at least Zuckerberg has an excuse. But Twitter is the cesspool of the internet in more ways than one.

    Google will simply implode on itself. I’ve spoken to former Google employees, who always tell me how the company has stretched its staff thin over the past few years, cheapening the quality of their services. And I don’t have to just take their word for it, because Google is one of my vendors at work. Advertising agencies have a Google rep, and this rep used to sell to us, sure, but they also used to help with any technical issues we were experiencing. If an ad got disapproved (usually for a very stupid reason), our rep would resolve the issue at least by end of day. Now, the rep exists solely as a sales person, and all support is outsourced overseas (as with Dell or Microsoft). Even for issues that take two minutes to fix, we often have to wait 48 hours – after following up with the support team with about three emails.

    Google could have been smart and grown at a manageable pace, but they got so greedy that they can’t even keep up with their own business. The more reasonable and friendly platforms that stay out of the user’s way will prevail in the long term.

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