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Google Businesses The Almighty Buck United States Technology

'Google Is As Close To a Natural Monopoly As the Bell System Was In 1956' (promarket.org) 248

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ProMarket: In terms of market share and profit margins, the big digital platforms, particularly Google and Facebook, enjoy an astounding level of dominance. Google, in effect the world's largest media company, has an 88 percent market share in search advertising. Facebook (including Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp) controls over 70 percent of social media on mobile devices. Together, the two firms received 85 cents of every new dollar spent in online advertising in the first quarter of 2016. Amazon has an over 70 percent share in the e-book market. Along with Apple and Microsoft, they are now the most valuable companies (in terms of market capitalization) in the world. The rise of digital platforms has had profound political, economic, and social effects, not least of which on the creators of content. While the internet brought immense benefits to consumers of content, the so-called "creative class" -- authors, journalists, filmmakers, musicians, artists -- has been particularly ravaged by the digital economy. This ravaging, and its roots in the monopolization of content delivery and data in the hands of a few digital giants, are at the heart of the new book Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy by media scholar Jonathan Taplin. In the book, Taplin explores the way in which the internet came to be dominated by a handful of monopoly platforms, and the subsequent capturing of regulators that has since all but ensured their dominance would not be challenged in court. In an interview with ProMarket, Taplin said in response to a question: "I would say Google is as close to a natural monopoly as the Bell System was in 1956. If you came to me and said 'Hey, I want to start a company to compete with Google in search,' I would say you're out of your mind and don't waste your energy or your time or your money, there's just no way. Classic economics would say that if there's a business in which there are 35 percent net margins, that would attract a huge amount of new capital to capture some of that, and none of that has happened. That tells you there's something wrong."
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'Google Is As Close To a Natural Monopoly As the Bell System Was In 1956'

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've been saying this for years. When I started, people, even techies, still thought google "[did] no evil." I can't imagine anything will be done about this. Google will be intertwined with government in no time; they practically are now.

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @04:48PM (#54396163)

      The defining characteristic of a monopoly is not market share, but lack of choice. Google dominates search, and I use it, but I could switch to Bing in 10 seconds. Likewise for advertisers, although Google has a large market share, they don't charge more per eyeball, because advertisers can easily switch.

      • Even on desktop, where Microsoft sets Bing as the default search engine, and even makes it unintuitive to switch to Google in its edge browser, users still overwhelmingly change their default to Google.

        And there's really nothing compelling them to do so; they simply have a preference for it.

        I'm usually all for the idea of breaking up monopolies, but I don't see any compelling reason to do so in this case, nor do I see any need for any kind of adverse action against them.

        Microsoft was different in that they

        • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @05:39PM (#54396541) Journal

          Exactly. Google's market dominance is as close to free consumer choice as one can get. There's absolutely nothing stopping someone from making a better search engine. It's not like Google controls the Internet. Bell literally controlled vast chunks of infrastructure, everything from the central switches right on down to your telephone. That's what makes a natural monopoly, not simply being the largest company in a particular business.

          • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @06:18PM (#54396733) Journal

            Tell that to all the people that got Chrome shoved onto their system and made the default when they downloaded a completely unrelated program like CCleaner or Java. And how about how they bundle gapps into Android and make it impossible to remove...hmm, where did I see that before? Oh yeah windows and IE. They even ripped a page straight from the MSFT playbook as OEMs can't simply release Android devices free of gapps thanks to the nasty contracts Google pushes.

            If MSFT was pulling that shit? People here would be screaming for an investigation and fines....hypocrisy thy name is Slashdot.

            • by ArmoredDragon ( 3450605 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @07:28PM (#54397035)

              Tell that to all the people that got Chrome shoved onto their system and made the default when they downloaded a completely unrelated program like CCleaner or Java.

              Honestly, I'd be surprised if you could even name anybody who has had this happen to them and was upset about it. If they were really that bothered by it, they could have easily avoided it. And even then, for Windows 10 users, Microsoft resets edge back to the default browser basically every 6 months (along with a bunch of other settings, like resetting Bing back to the default search,) and in order to change Chrome to the default browser, it takes three steps, and during each step Microsoft nags you to stick with Edge.

              Yet in spite of all of this, a majority of people opt to make Chrome their default browser. You can't even argue that they were somehow tricked into doing that because the way Microsoft redesigned things, there's no way that it can be anything other than a deliberate choice.

              And how about how they bundle gapps into Android and make it impossible to remove

              That's not quite true. As of Android 7, Google deliberately made it so that most bundled apps are moved to the user partition after first boot and can be subsequently deleted. The only ones that can't be deleted are the ones that are integral to the operation of other apps. For example, Google Maps is integral to the operation of apps like Strava or Endomondo, and thus can't be fully removed, though it can be disabled so that the main app is inaccessible (and likewise the icon isn't available in the app drawer.)

              If MSFT was pulling that shit? People here would be screaming for an investigation and fines....hypocrisy thy name is Slashdot.

              Very very false. Unlike Google, Microsoft bundles many apps that outright can't be removed or even have their icon nixed from the start menu. Examples include onedrive, onenote, cortana, skype, groove music, edge, maps, xbox, and a few others I can't think of at the moment.

              Some other annoying things that Microsoft does and Google doesn't include (as mentioned above) resetting all of your application defaults to Microsoft's applications after every major patch (roughly every 6 months) and including advertisements basically everywhere. Lock screen? Ad. Solitaire? Ad. Start menu? Ad. Explorer? Ad (namely OneDrive ads.) And that's not even getting into the bundled adware/trialware like Solitaire, Candy Crush, etc.

              Google includes neither ads nor adware in Android. Granted, some OEMs do, but on Windows the OEMs do much worse than that, like superfish for example, or how basically every single one of them includes trial antivirus software of some kind that constantly nags you to buy it while at the same time making you even more vulnerable to malware.

              • I'll agree that the Chrome bundling has plenty of blame to go around, to the point where pinning even the majority on Google is unreasonable. I'll similarly agree that Microsoft resetting the PDF viewer and default browser and removing Classic Shell is obnoxious, problematically so, even.

                The Android side of things though, I disagree with you on. First off, The Maps dependency could easily be solved by having some sort of a stub saying "Maps isn't installed, would you like to install it through the Play Stor

                • First off, The Maps dependency could easily be solved by having some sort of a stub saying "Maps isn't installed, would you like to install it through the Play Store?" if the app is removed but the API is called.

                  This has two problems:

                  - You're actually counting on developers to properly detect whether or not it is present instead of just assuming that it is. (Believe it or not, this isn't as easy as it sounds.)
                  - Dependency hell (see RPM of yore.)

                  It's much easier, from a developer and usability standpoint, if the requisite libraries remain intact. Google Maps is such a common library on Android that it's just silly to get rid of it entirely. As I mentioned, you can always remove the user components of it, though I'm

            • by kqs ( 1038910 )

              Tell that to all the people that got Chrome shoved onto their system and made the default when they downloaded a completely unrelated program like CCleaner or Java.

              Since most people who use IE or Edge switch their search engine to Google, and when Mozilla changed the default search most people changed it right back, I'm not thinking that there are hordes of people who got chrome on their computer and cannot figure out how to use Edge instead. Unless your argument is that only smart folks want to use Google and only idiots want to avoid Google?

              Also, MSFT *does* pull that shit. They change the default search engine to bing, they only ship IE and Edge and change browse

          • by jeremyp ( 130771 )

            There's absolutely nothing stopping someone from making a better search engine.

            Why don't you do it then?

            The reason is that it would require a huge investment in software and infrastructure which you would not be able to recoup because you will not be able to attract advertisers because nobody will be using your search engine because Google.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @05:27PM (#54396469)

        You are thinking from end user perspective. Think from advertiser perspective. Google has full search market and FB has social media market.

        • by smelch ( 1988698 )
          So right there are two choices for advertising, and then there is print media, television, radio, billboard, sign spinning.... lots of choices for advertising.
      • Any response to this other than "I came here to say this" or "I just learned something new" is a bad response. You just won the internet. We can all go read another story now.
      • No, as an advertiser, you can't so easily switch.

        If you are advertising your business, and you're not advertising on Google, I don't know you exist. Neither do most other of your potential customers. If you want to succeed as a business, you want to actually reach your potential customers, and the leaves you only one real choice.

        Your ability to switch to Bing doesn't matter, because you aren't the customer, you are the product. Even on Bing, as soon as you click a link, you'll be viewing ads sold by...Googl

      • The problem isn't that google has a monopoly. There's plenty of competition it's just all shit. Same goes for Facebook.
    • natural monopoly is not evil.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Re "Google will be intertwined with government in no time; they practically are now."
      Given the PRISM (surveillance program) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] slides its been so for years.
  • I'd really like to know.

    capturing of regulators

    Exactly! Just like in transportation, energy, and other forms of communications. And aren't we the ones that vote for the 'regulators'? Don't blame Google for winning. Look to yourselves to vote for open markets. Vote the captured regulators out.

    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      More like Google has WILLINGly captured consumers, And nobody has been able to make a better search engine than Google.

      Although Bing came close...... the fact is, by and large Google has the more appetizing product.

      Sure other companies would LIKE to compete, But you need a lot of smart people to try, Who would probably rather do something else more
      innovative than just try to copy Google, And the investment required is massive.

      Before you propose competing against Google.... You first have to ask yourse

      • by h4ck7h3p14n37 ( 926070 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @04:43PM (#54396125) Homepage

        And nobody has been able to make a better search engine than Google.

        Have you not heard about DuckDuckGo? [duckduckgo.com]

        Way better than using Google if you care about your privacy.

        • Bing provides much better results for videos and images, especially if you don't like things being censored/filtered.

        • I like ddg but it is a far worse search engine than google. It respects privacy but please don't claim that it is superior, or even one hundredth as good as google's engine.

          Google isn't big for no reason. Their search engine is fantastic and their integration with other services makes things really easy. You won't take google on by denying reality.
          • or even one hundredth as good as google's engine.

            Maybe it's because I don't use Google and so it isn't trained for me, but I switched to DDG a few years back (originally because they had a better UI, the privacy was a nice bonus) and it's been about 18 months since I failed to find what I wanted on DDG and did on Google. If you type !google into your DDG search box, it will send you to Google so it's easy to fall back to Google if you don't get the results you want first time. My partner switched about a year ago and she hasn't noticed any decline in se

      • by jeremyp ( 130771 )

        The reason Google has a more appetising product is because almost everybody uses it. That means people who want to advertise (Google's consumers/customers) have to advertise on Google in preference to any other search engine.

        As somebody who uses Google Search, you are not the consumer, you are the consumed.

    • Open markets != government regulators in the pockets of companies.

      The whole purpose behind laissez-faire economics is to reduce the influence of government peddling. The whole criticism of a mixed economy (slippery slope and all that) is that the inevitable result is corporatism. The solution may be counter-intuitive to you but you can combat corporatism with free market capitalism. The two are opposed to each other. This is a place where left and right can make some temporary alliances in combating t
      • But without regulation, you have the rise of monsters. So rather than striving for a free market utopia, we need to find ways to keep corporate money out of politics. How does we successfully fight corruption?

        • Free market != anarchy. Free market capitalism would still have regulations. Do you think that free market capitalists say that there should be no rules for the road? The stop signs cannot exist because they're put there by government? Or that we can drive which ever way we want? No.

          Free market is not anarchy. Menger, von Mises, Hayek, Freidman were not anarchists.

          A simple example:

          Can you smoke in a bar? And who decides.

          Free market solution: Let the bar owner decide. Enough people want smoke fr
    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @04:50PM (#54396175)

      capturing of regulators

      Why does on-line search need to be "regulated"?

      • by jwhyche ( 6192 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @05:03PM (#54396289) Homepage

        Why does on-line search need to be "regulated"?

        Because you never can know when your hobby or innocent curiosity can get you locked up and used against you.

        For instant if I want to know something I look it up, and I rarely think about the consequences. I have a strange fascination with nuclear weapons. Their history, how they are made, how they would be deployed, and under what circumstance would they be used. It's probably safe to say that outside someone with a security clearance I know almost everything that can be known.

        Does this mean I have any incantation to build a nuclear device in my basement or blow up a city with one. Not in the slightest, but you can't tell that from my search history.

        Without that protection out of context just about anything you search for can be used to hang you. Just because you google "how to excite 12 year old girls" doesn't mean you are cursing for jail bait.

    • Regulators are appointed, and their names and connections are too numerous for the elected officials who appoint them for most people to bother trying to hold them accountable. Furthermore, because their terms often bridge administrations and congresses, they tend to accrue power which they can use to heavily influence elections in their favor. This is part of what is referred to as the "deep state." It is wholly undemocratic, and voting cannot make it democratic. The time to abandon the soap and ballot box
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @04:30PM (#54396021)

    Yes, they do have hundreds of thousands of rack-mounted servers in data centers around the world, but so does Amazon, and companies can rent virtual servers in them.

    AT&T provided universal point-to-point phone service. There was just no way to compete against that until a Federal judge broke up the company in the early '80s (sure, the Internet with VOIP might've done the job, but that came more than 10 years later).

    Who's to say that Google's search bar and query results, accompanied by targeted ads, will be good enough for the public ten or even five years from now. There's plenty of room for innovation and entrepreneurship. I'll bet Jeff Bezos has more than one pet project aimed squarely at Google search right now.

    • The comparison in the article is absurd. ATT had a massive in ground copper network that would have required billions to replicate. Google has a bunch of Data centers and rented fiber. And upstart competitor can rent infrastructure and duplicate their network with almost no initial investment beyond the ongoing monthly rental charges.

      ATT had the very essence of a natural monopoly with a massive last mile copper network. To duplicate Google you need nothing close to that.

      • Not true, at all. The US was a hodgepodge of phone companies, state tariffs, interstate tariffs, intrastate tariffs, LATAs, and was owned by a lot of co-ops. Some still remain... use Cincinnati Bell as an example.

        But the *Interstate* and International walls that AT&T built made it devilishly hard to compete with. There was ITT, and a handful of others doing this. The "Bell System" became a storied, non-innovating monolithic retirement plan.

        AT&T Long Lines used to use refrigerator-sized behemoths to

        • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

          There's also no proof that Google is abusing their position to stifle competition.

        • Not true, at all. The US was a hodgepodge of phone companies, state tariffs, interstate tariffs, intrastate tariffs, LATAs, and was owned by a lot of co-ops.

          Ah, youngsters. Don't remember the old days.

          No, you're talking about after the breakup of AT&T. Before the breakup, there was Ma Bell. There were a few places that still had other phone companies, but for the most part, it was the one giant monopoly, Ma Bell.

          Some still remain... use Cincinnati Bell as an example.

          That name, "Cincinnati Bell," should be a clue that this is a piece of one of the seven Regional Bell Operating Companies ("Baby Bells") that were formed as a result of the breakup of AT&T.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breakup_of_the_Bell_Sy

    • by vlad30 ( 44644 )

      Yes, they do have hundreds of thousands of rack-mounted servers in data centers around the world, but so does Amazon, and companies can rent virtual servers in them.

      I'll bet Jeff Bezos has more than one pet project aimed squarely at Google search right now.

      This is the problem today It would take someone the size of Amazon to even make a competitor for google. the only hope if you came up with a great idea for search engine is to get investors, The cost to setup a single data centre on the off chance you may be able to compete would scare away any likely investors.

  • What Tosh! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thadtheman ( 4911885 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @04:36PM (#54396071)

    People in 50s had to use Bell or no telephone system at all!

    With google just the opposite. Mint makes it a struggle to set your search to google. They force Yahoo on you. MS products push Bing on you. I really have to go out of my way to use google.

    People choose google, because they like it , not because of some monopoly influence.

    • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

      I can manage one or maybe two searches on yahoo before I can't stand having to scroll past all the ads anymore and change it to something decent.

    • The moment people stop realizing the choices they make are actually being done for them - that's when we should be worried. But we should mostly be worried on a personal level, not as a forum.

      You, me, whoever, need Google, and Google's business is not that they want you to use it, is that they want you to need it. Android being open-source should be a clear testament to that - they knew FOSS would get all the big players in line and the loud players in check, and now the world eats Android for breakfast, ev

    • People choose google, because they like it , not because of some monopoly influence.

      People choose Google because they like it.
      They like Google because Google provides good results.
      Google provides good results because they have huge datacenters and extreme amounts of data.
      The cost of acquiring huge datacenters and extreme amounts of data provides a barrier to entry.
      This barrier to entry produces a natural monopoly.

      And so it is. Not all monopolies have to be ordained by the State.
    • People choose google, because they like it

      I don't know if they do like it. I asked someone who talked about switching default settings on his latest device, if they found the default search to be inferior. He said that he didn't; he just wanted to switch because he was a creature of habit.

  • This is why such businesses are considered utilities and subject to different rules.
    • by kqs ( 1038910 )

      The internet is now a utility. You can no longer apply for most jobs without internet access.

      Google, however, is not a utility. You may need to use search engines, but you can easily switch to another search engine. Much like you have to eat, but you can easily switch restaurants so Taco Bell is not a utility (nor, possibly, a restaurant...)

  • Ma Bell got broken up as a big bad monopoly in the early 1980's. If Google is being compared to Ma Bell in 1956, I guess it'll be a while before Google gets broken up as well.
  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @04:40PM (#54396105)
    Natural Monopoly is a term for when two equal-sized companies doing the same thing would have near double the cost of a single company doing the same thing, and costs drop as market share increases. A Telephone company is a natural monopoly because if every person was a customer of ATT and Verizon both, then both companies would roll out infrastructure to all of the customers, duplicating costs. If ATT had 100% of the people as a customer, then Verizon would have an insane incremental cost for the first customer.

    Also, in the Telephone example, but not explicitly required for a natural monopoly (because government regulations usually prevent it), is that network effects make the company with more people stronger. Telephone companies predate exchanges. So if you were on ATT, you couldn't call someone on Verizon. So if everyone you knew was on ATT, the value to you for a Verizon connection that wouldn't let you call anyone you know, would be worthless. And would cost Verizon more than an ATT connection would.

    So the market would naturally drift to a monopoly.

    Google can have a startup take over tomorrow. They aren't doing anything in search that some guy in a garage can't do. They scrape sites, give results.

    Google is more a benevolent abusive monopoly. But because that doesn't exist, it sounds more like people are abusing well-defined words, rather than using the right words. Google's browser feeds their search results. Google's ads feed and are fed by browser and search results. That's not a "natural monopoly", that's an abusive monopoly. That they don't "require" people use their services, like MS/IE, but people still choose to do it, because they are the only option. That warrants a new term, I dub it "benevolent abusive monopoly".
    • Google can have a startup take over tomorrow. They aren't doing anything in search that some guy in a garage can't do.

      Exactly ... except the garage would need to be a few million square meters, and the guy would need ten billion dollars to pay for all the servers to hold the caches and indexes. But other than that, sure, a guy in a garage could easily do it.

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
        You could say the same about Yahoo when Google started, yet a couple yahoos in a garage managed to out-Yahoo Yahoo.

        Reality proves you wrong, yet again. Doesn't that ever get tiring?
        • You could say the same about Yahoo when Google started

          When Google started, 16 million people were online. Today 3.6B are. That is 200 times as many. Also, Yahoo paid very little attention to search, and devoted almost no resources to it. The thinking at the time was that search was a commodity service and the real money was in being a "portal" like AOL.

      • by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @05:57PM (#54396637) Homepage Journal

        Google can have a startup take over tomorrow. They aren't doing anything in search that some guy in a garage can't do.

        Exactly ... except the garage would need to be a few million square meters, and the guy would need ten billion dollars to pay for all the servers to hold the caches and indexes. But other than that, sure, a guy in a garage could easily do it.

        Not really. You can scrape the whole web and index it on a few beefy machines and a few terabytes of disk. What requires the massive infrastructure is answering millions of queries per second from that index.

        You could build a search engine in your garage, and if you came up with algorithms that beat Google's by a significant margin you could easily find the funding to grow your infrastructure to keep up with your user base -- or you could go to one of the other giants who already has the necessary infrastructure and sell to them. Amazon's infrastructure plus a search algorithm that is sufficiently better than Google's would be a Google killer, no question about it. But you could also get the funding to grow your own.

        (Disclosure: I work for Google, though not on search.)

    • You are correct in your definition of a natural monopoly but you are not correct in it's application to Google.

      Most people do not know that the majority of Google's web page sorting/filtering is done by the very people doing the searches. Every time someone goes to page two, page three, etc., and clicks one of those links it will be sorted higher in the future for others searching. The users themselves are generating the processes and doing most of the work that makes Google dominant. If a large shift of
    • Good comment and deserved the insightful mod, though I don't fully agree with your definitions. Also, I was once again disappointed by the lack of funny-moderated comments. Where have all the wits gone?

      I'd prefer to approach it from the perspective of a counterexample. What if the google was cut into competing pieces. Each piece would start with a copy of the data and source code and an equal share of the physical resources. Would one of the pieces naturally grow to the point of destroying all others, or co

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )

        Where have all the wits gone?

        +7 funny, -2 overrated = +5 comment, -2 karma. Funny is punished. Also the funny leave or get cynical. So you are left with some constructive comments, but fewer "entertaining" ones.

        I'd prefer to approach it from the perspective of a counterexample. What if the google was cut into competing pieces.

        I'd not do that. Seems like a bad idea. Instead, require FRAND. Adwords has an API interface, but Google doesn't allow 3rd party ads.If Google started a separate Ad service that was non-preferential (or, more likely was preferential, but openly so, such that any ad service that was appropriately configured could meet or be

        • by shanen ( 462549 )

          Hmm... Would it have helped if I had said "hypothetical counterexample"? Or I should have defined it in functional terms?

          Anyway, I think the foundations of my analysis on (not wasting) time and (increasing) freedom are sound. Your comfortable usage of FRAND (which I had to look up) makes me think you are approaching it from a legal perspective. My problem there is that the current legal system has basically become highly corrupted by the most cheaply bribed politicians writing the rules of the game (busines

  • by h4ck7h3p14n37 ( 926070 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @04:41PM (#54396117) Homepage

    As you point out yourself in the book, natural monopoly can also be a positive thing. For instance, in the cases of the telephone and the telegraph. What is the difference between those natural monopolies and digital platforms?

    That was kind of a tragedy of the commons, with competing inoperable telephone networks. It didn’t make sense. Now we’re just in a situation where the amount of capital that would be needed to start a new Google competitor would be so huge or so onerous in terms of competition that it would be very hard to raise that capital. So we’re just dealing with the fact that it’s a de-facto monopoly. Even Microsoft couldn’t get past a 5 percent global market share.

    I'm not following this argument. How does being large and popular equate to being a monopoly? Ma Bell had to run wires everywhere, Google just uses the existing infrastructure. No one's forcing you to use Google and there are plenty of other search engines.

    You also don't need a lot of capital to compete with Google if you want to build your own search engine. Cloud servers are damn cheap these days compared to putting something in a colocation facility like you used to have to do. If you're doing something niche like shodan.io it makes complete sense to go ahead and build your own.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Search results and political parties can have issues given the party political patronage in the USA.
  • That will teach Google a lesson, we advertisers can boycott and cease online advertising. Sure most of us will go out of business, but I suppose the ones that can't offer customers quality products and services will be the first to collapse in a zero advertisement economy.

  • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @04:48PM (#54396165)

    Because it costs me a fortune to use Google and i have to lease a big black Google machine from the company to do it.

    • You forget that you are not the customer. You are the product. Google's customers are its advertisers and the Web sites that host its advertisements, and those people do indeed get jerked around by Google.

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        What this "you are the product" mantra means is that I'm trading off the privacy of my searches in return for free use of the software and the very fancy infrastructure it runs on. You may feel threatened somehow to see ads popping up that refer to products you have searched for in the past, but so far as I'm concerned I don't see a problem.

        • The point was not about privacy. The point was about the nature of a monopoly. A monopoly is a company that so dominates an industry that customers have no real choice about where to go. Since this is true for Web advertisers in every practical way, Google is indeed a monopoly. The fact that you can switch to another search provider doesn't change that...they also send you to pages where Google serves ads.

  • The difference... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @04:48PM (#54396169)

    The difference: You don't subscribe to google. You don't pay for Google. Google shows you ads (if you aren't using tools to avoid them) to make their money, they don't get the bulk of their income from folks paying for access to services, but by advertising through those services.

    Google is not a natural monopoly in the classic sense - they are widely popular, but they don't exist as an unavoidable gateway to essential services like the phone companies in the previous century.

    Instead, they provide optional services through a public network, and tend to be less objectionable than the alternatives, so people use them.

    I'm personally often against a LOT of the actions of corporations in the world, and even against Google's decisions sometimes - but they don't even approach Ma Bell in the terms presented here.

    Ryan Fenton

  • The switching cost from Bell telephones was nearly infinity. No one can switch to a competing no matter what they do.

    Switching away from google requires just setting a different default search engine in your browser that would cost you a grand sum of zero dollars and zero cents.

    • You aren't google's customer the advertiser is. If you use Bing the adds on the web pages you visit will still be provided by Google. Search, email, apps and everything else Google gives away for free are just the moat protecting the castle. Adwords is the 650B USD monster castle. It blocks out the sun light and starves anything that tries to grow in it's shadow.
  • Yeah, no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Snotnose ( 212196 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @04:56PM (#54396227)
    I use duck duck go as my daily search engine. I use gmail and android but both could easily be switched out. Facebook? Never had an account, never logged on.

    In the past there was no way to avoid the Bell System if you wanted a telephone, and you had to have a telephone.
    • You are not the customer, you are the product. Even if you use Duck Duck Go, you are viewing Google ads.every time you visit a Web site. And once there, Google does indeed track you.

    • by damaki ( 997243 )
      I did switch from google services (everything but android), and I can tell you one thing: it is not trivial. To transfer your emails, you will have to accept some loss, because their IMAP implementation has limitations. Some email encoding will get messed up. You will lose your pretty automated sorting thingy. It is vendor lock-in, but a modern one, with the illusion that it is simple to quit it, 'cause they are not evil.
      For calendar, it was about the same, I lost some stuff and had to live with it.
      For co
  • or more precisely "classical economics meet complexity credit" - where "complexity credit" is an asset account meant to quantify the opposite of "technical debt".

    The idea is, company A has built a massively complex information infrastructure, with good design and architecture which enables scaling and adaptation/innovation. That has a kind of a compound-interest-accumulating piling of capability value upon capability value.

    Consequently, they can efficiently build and rapidly improve an interworking set of b

  • I don't think Mr. Taplin knows what a natural monopoly is.

    Note: It is not a market share gained through the neglect of anti-trust.

  • Whoever wrote that "if there's a business in which there are 35 percent net margins, that would attract a huge amount of new capital" must have never worked for any larger global corporation.
    I have been working for parts of such corporations that were sold off because we only had a margin < 50%.
    Never underestimate the greed ruling investors.
  • As Taplin observes, the fact that more and more Americans receive their news, as well as music and other forms of entertainment, from a small group of companies poses a real threat to democracy.

    In fact, the exact opposite is true: there has been a massive increase in free news sites, and people are picking those up. Companies like Google and Facebook (so far) haven't been gatekeepers. Taplin's CV reads like a who's-who of big, evil old media and financial corporations. What actually bothers him is that the

    • Thiel's problem is that he contributed a large amount of money to the government's ability to pick winners and losers, which doesn't sound libertarian to me.

      I'm fine with getting the government out of the marriage business, and I suspect most libertarians would agree with me there. There do need to be ways to establish legal family relationships (adoption is another one), but there's no reason that can't be separate from marriage. If the government is in the marriage business, the government needs to s

  • by p51d007 ( 656414 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @06:44PM (#54396865)
    I haven't, for years... I use duck duck go. works for me.
    • Google doesn't need you to use their search engine. Every time you click a link on a search result, you are viewing ads served by Google. And through those ads, they track your movements through the Web. And THAT is Google's real product.

  • by FeelGood314 ( 2516288 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @06:58PM (#54396917)
    You are not Google's Customer! The advertisers are. From the advertisers perspective Google is a monopolist. Excluding apps made by Facebook, adwords is the only place I can reasonably advertising on the general web. Yes there are other companies but the advertising industry favors one monopolist. If I create a website I will sign up with Google to get ads for my site because they are the biggest and it's just not worth my time using someone else. Since most websites only get ads from Google then advertisers only use Google.
    • Don't confuse something being the best option (currently winning the competition) vs. being the only option (monopoly).

      If Google changed tomorrow so that they took 99% of the ad revenue and sites got 1% from their ad network, then within a week 99% of their site space inventory would dry up, because everyone with a site would switch to another ad network that paid more.

      Google currently has a more efficient setup that provides what sites and advertisers want better (in general) than their competitors. So the

  • Classic economics would say that if there's a business in which there are 35 percent net margins, that would attract a huge amount of new capital to capture some of that, and none of that has happened.

    Sounds like someone found out what talented individuals can bring to the table. The competition cannot compete by reducing costs, they must become technologically on par or superior to compete. Google is not perfect, but they focus more on quality than nearly anyone else. Never give up quality for speed. When you focus on quality, you get speed for free.

    Like I said, they're not perfect, they're just much better than the alternatives, and in many cases, quite good.

  • One that just searches. Not history with select US political parties. No US SJW issues. Just search the net and present the results.
    Hardware is cheap. Networking is low cost. The experts with the maths and code skills can be found at a few good universities around the world.

To be a kind of moral Unix, he touched the hem of Nature's shift. -- Shelley

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