Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Someone actually wrote this: We need to nationalise Google, Facebook and Amazon.

In The Guardian, Nick Srnicek writes,
Ello’s rapid rise and fall is symptomatic of our contemporary digital world and the monopoly-style power accruing to the 21st century’s new “platform” companies, such as Facebook, Google and Amazon. Their business model lets them siphon off revenues and data at an incredible pace, and consolidate themselves as the new masters of the economy.
That's pretty much what people said about AOL, which has not been called a master of the economy in a while.
Monday brought another giant leap as Amazon raised the prospect of an international grocery price war by slashing prices on its first day in charge of the organic retailer Whole Foods.
No, please, anything but cheaper groceries! The horror! The horror!
None of them focuses on making things in the way that traditional companies once did. Instead, Facebook connects users, advertisers, and developers; Uber, riders and drivers; Amazon, buyers and sellers.
I'm not sure that the author quite gets how Amazon works.
Reaching a critical mass of users is what makes these businesses successful: the more users, the more useful to users – and the more entrenched – they become. Ello’s rapid downfall occurred because it never reached the critical mass of users required to prompt an exodus from Facebook – whose dominance means that even if you’re frustrated by its advertising and tracking of your data, it’s still likely to be your first choice because that’s where everyone is, and that’s the point of a social network.
And that's why we all still use Myspace.
Facebook is a master at using all sorts of behavioural techniques to foster addictions to its service: how many of us scroll absentmindedly through Facebook, barely aware of it?
I don't know; how many people do that?
What’s the answer? We’ve only begun to grasp the problem, but in the past, natural monopolies like utilities and railways that enjoy huge economies of scale and serve the common good have been prime candidates for public ownership. The solution to our newfangled monopoly problem lies in this sort of age-old fix, updated for our digital age.
Yes, let's have government take over such important facilities of information distribution. Given the importance of U.S. companies to this sector of the economy, "government" to a significant extent means the Trump administration. What could possibly go wrong?
It would mean taking back control over the internet and our digital infrastructure, instead of allowing them to be run in the pursuit of profit and power.
Nothing says, "We're not doing this in the pursuit of power" like a government takeover.

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