"The net’s long decline into “five giant websites, each filled with screenshots
of the other four” isn’t a mystery. Nor was it by any means a forgone
conclusion. Instead, we got here through a series of conscious actions by big
businesses and lawmakers that put antitrust law into a 40-year coma. Well, now
antitrust is rising from its slumber and we have work for it to do.
As regulators and lawmakers think about making the internet a better place for
human beings, their top priority should be restoring power to users. The
internet’s promise was that it would remove the barriers that stood in all our
way; distance, sure, but also the barriers thrown up by large corporations and
oppressive states. But the companies gained a toehold in that environment of
lowered barriers, turned right around, and put up fresh
barriers of their
own. That trapped billions of us on platforms that many of us do not like but
feel we can’t leave.
Platforms follow a predictable lifecycle: first, they offer their end-users a
good deal. Early Facebook users got a feed consisting solely of updates from
the people they cared about, and promises of privacy. Early Google searchers
got result screens filled with Google’s best guess at what they were searching
for, not ads. Amazon once made it easy to find the product you were looking
for, without making you wade through five screens’ worth of “sponsored”
The good deal for users is only temporary. Platforms today use a combination of
tools, including taking advantage of collective action problems, “Most Favored
Nation” clauses, collusive back-room deals to block competitors, computer crime
laws, and Digital Rights Management to lock their users in. Once those users
are firmly in hand, the platforms degrade what made users choose the platform
in the first place, making the deal worse for them in order to attract business
customers. So instead of showing you the things you asked for, your time and
attention is sold to businesses by platforms."
Via Rixty Dixet.
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics