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The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.


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Pattern Matching

The roots of Big Tech’s antitrust problem can be found in his bestselling 2014 business book, ‘Zero to One’

“Only one thing can allow a business to transcend the daily brute struggle for survival,” Peter Thiel wrote in his bestselling 2014 book, Zero to One. That one thing, Thiel stated outright, is “monopoly profits.”

In the book, which was embraced as a business bible in Silicon Valley and beyond, Thiel made the case for monopoly as the ultimate goal of capitalism. Indeed, “monopoly is the condition of every successful business,” he asserted. With it, you’re free to set your own prices, think long-term, innovate, and pursue goals other than mere survival. Without it, you’re replaceable, and your profits will…

‘Copy, acquire, and kill’

Mark Zuckerberg.
Mark Zuckerberg.

Wednesday’s filing of a major government antitrust suit against Facebook is a landmark in the internet’s history. We knew the suit was coming; we didn’t know it would call for a full-on breakup that would split off Instagram and WhatsApp from the parent company. You can read the Federal Trade Commission’s 53-page complaint here.

Some commentators were quick to question how the FTC and 46 state attorneys general could credibly claim Facebook’s 2012 Instagram acquisition and 2014 WhatsApp acquisition constituted monopolistic behavior, given that the deals withstood antitrust scrutiny at the time. …

Will the AMP format die as a result?

By Adrianne Jeffries

Four years after offering special placement in a “top stories carousel” in search results to entice publishers to use a format it created for mobile pages, called AMP, Google announced last week that it will end that preferential treatment in the spring.

“We will prioritize pages with great page experience, whether implemented using AMP or any other web technology, as we rank the results,” Google said in a blog post.

The company had indicated in 2018 that it would drop the preference eventually. Last week’s announcement of a concrete timeline comes less than a month after the…

A new policy perfectly illustrates a core issue across the industry

New Google Photos icon.
New Google Photos icon.

After five years of Google Photos offering unlimited, free storage of “high-quality” compressed images, Google announced on Wednesday that its policy is changing. Starting next June, any new photos you upload will count toward the 15 gigabytes of free storage offered to every Google account. (Your old photos won’t.) After that, you’ll have to pay a subscription fee for Google One, its cloud storage service.

In one sense, that’s a totally reasonable policy change for a product that has become wildly popular since the initial free-storage offer. Storage isn’t really free or unlimited, after all, and 15 gigabytes is still…

Pattern Matching

Google’s antitrust case won’t reshape the industry. But it’s the start of something that might.

The Department of Justice’s antitrust lawsuit against Google got a lot of attention this week, and understandably so. It mirrors the landmark antitrust case against Microsoft two decades ago, which stands as the prototypical example of the U.S. government grappling with a big tech company’s power.

But it is also, in many ways, a narrow case: It focuses exclusively on Google’s dominance of internet search and search ads, and rests on established laws and precedents. Even if successful, it’s unlikely to significantly curtail the massive reach or influence of Google’s trillion-dollar parent company, Alphabet. …

The DOJ’s antitrust case is simpler than you might expect

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit this week alleging that Google is an illegal monopoly. Now comes the tricky part: proving it.

Once a humble search engine with no business model, Google has grown into such a vast conglomerate that the word “monopoly” seems almost inadequate to describe its scope. For that matter, even the word “Google” is inadequate — the search engine and its affiliated ad business are now just part of the broader, trillion-dollar Alphabet empire.

And yet the question of whether and how Google constitutes an illegal monopoly gets complicated in a hurry. Is its…

Pattern Matching

Democrats aren’t the only ones ready to rewrite the antitrust rules for internet platforms

Never in world history has one sector of the global economy risen to such global dominance, so fast, as Big Tech has in the past 20 years.

In 2000, Amazon was an online bookseller, Apple was still an underdog, Google was a scrappy startup with little revenue, and Facebook didn’t exist. Today, along with Microsoft, they are the world’s five most valuable companies, and their decisions carry a level of global influence rivaled only by nation-states. …


Bray talks to journalist Alex Kantrowitz about how Amazon treats workers, regulation, and more

Tim Bray
Tim Bray

OneZero is partnering with Big Technology, a newsletter and podcast by Alex Kantrowitz, to bring readers exclusive access to interviews with notable figures in and around the tech industry.

This week, Kantrowitz sits down with Tim Bray, an ex-VP for Amazon and distinguished engineer who quit after the company fired employees who spoke up about working conditions in its warehouses. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

To subscribe to the podcast and hear the interview for yourself, you can check it out on iTunes, Spotify, and Overcast.

In May, Amazon VP and distinguished engineer Tim Bray said…

Editor’s Note: Surveillance capitalism is everywhere. But it’s not the result of some wrong turn or a rogue abuse of corporate power — it’s the system working as intended. This is the subject of Cory Doctorow’s new book, which we’re thrilled to publish in whole here on OneZero. This is how to destroy surveillance capitalism.

Update: Paperback and e-reader editions of the book, each with an extra print-only chapter, are now available — you can get a copy here.

The net of a thousand lies

The most surprising thing about the rebirth of flat Earthers in the 21st century is just how widespread the evidence against…

Big Technology

The government is more likely to invest in the tech giants than break them up

In the months leading up to Wednesday’s tech giant hearing, the U.S. federal government was buying millions in tech giant debt. Through BlackRock, an intermediary, the Federal Reserve picked up $25 million in Apple bonds, another $4 million in Amazon, and about $18 million in Microsoft.

The buying spree took place amid a much larger fed program aimed at keeping the bond market active. But it was telling that the tech giants — on solid financial footing — were included. These companies are now pillars of the stock market, underpinning retirement accounts and general economic confidence across the country. Their…


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