.@fredwilson and @albertwenger have been banging the drum on why we need to have open APIs built around our data monopolies for years.
I doubt we’ll see it before the mid-2020s, absent a young new presidential administration. https://t.co/UeQg8GcXgt
This is so uncreative. Besides conveniently forgetting how Twitter starved out its third party apps with breaking API changes, and Amazon's similar strong arming of smaller vendors and services, he doesn't seem to understand why that is bad.
Breaking up a company is to address a singular problem - that there are too many interests being held under one roof. By breaking up, you are addressing a need for broader governance and ownership that "opening up" doesn't allow for. Let Whole Foods sell groceries, and let Twitch stream games.
Breaking up companies can be a mechanism to enforce openness. For instance, the proposal to separate Microsoft's application business from their OS business (in the late 90s) was in reaction to them giving their own apps special treatment in their OS, so their apps ran better than third party apps. By separating the two business units into separate companies, they would lose the incentive to do stuff like that.
Separating Android and Chrome from Google Search would limit the obvious temptation for abusing their browser business to help their advertising business. Google has (so far) shown pretty good restraint in their tactics compared to what would be technically possible, but the incentives are massive and might be hard to resist when times get tough.
Enforcing openness in the face of massive incentives to the contrary requires prompt and wise government oversight, which is hard to achieve. The range of subtle tricks that platform companies can pull to slightly break their competitors software is beyond the ability of regulators to control.
2) A good solution would do both- open up the underlying data while breaking up the various ad sales businesses. A great example is YouTube- YouTube should not be able to single handedly demonetize videos- creators should be able to opt in to alternative ad networks so long as they aren’t violating the TOS, keeping Tuba instructional videos in the black (https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2018/04/youtube-demonetized-m...)
I find it kind of fascinating the different mindsets you see around HN regarding Google/Facebook vs say Netflix/Hulu.
With conversations about Netflix and other online content producers people want all the content in the world, at their fingertips for about $15-20 per month and if they can't get it they'll threaten to pirate instead. For them cost but also convenience really trumps all, the idea of having too many services, even if cheaply priced is too much, they just want one.
Compare that to this kind of thread where we have these easy to use single platforms in the form of Google Search, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Amazon but here everyone is doing their hardest to try and break them up, make them less convenient and perhaps more expensive (how do you get cheaper than free with more competition?).
Perhaps though, both sentiments are at extremes when it comes to public opinion.
There are some natural fracture planes in the big tech companies where it's clear consumers would be better served by antitrust action:
1) Cleave Instagram and WhatsApp off of Facebook, to reduce the consolidation in Facebook's ad business model, and re-introduce competition both in the messaging and influencer-pouting-at-camera space.
2) Break off Android and Chrome from Google (and each other). Both are products that would do fine on their own, but where right now consumer interests are diametrically opposed to Google's advertising business model.
It's pretty clear that AVC wants to keep the entrenched surveillance business model, but create APIs on top of it for more startups they can fund. But there are ways to apply antitrust that won't make the surveillance problem worse, while reintroducing some competition, and better aligning company incentives with what their consumers want (e.g., allowing Chrome to go all-in on ad blocking).
I think this is the right approach: to require third-party companies to have access to a dominant company’s network after the network has reached a certain threshold of size or age. I like to use the craigslist.org example: a company that is still dominant basically because it is free and was launched in 1995. We’re stuck using the ugly craigslist UI because their network is the oldest and biggest. Several companies have attempted to innovate on the craigslist.org experience but were forced to stop due to lawsuits (e.g. padmapper, 3taps, RadPad). If we wish to allow competition and innovation in the classified advertising space, then I don’t think there is a good dimension to split up the craigslist company (by metro area? by apartments vs for sale?). Instead, we should promote competition by allowing competitors to access their APIs for free or for a reasonable price. The network that a web company creates should not belong to one company forever.
This is the model the UK followed when dealing with BTs natural monopoly on phone lines. Openreach owns and is obligated to maintain service to every home in the country and all providers compete to build differentiated services atop the physical hardware.