We know that Google, Amazon, and Apple are big companies with monopolistic tendencies, but many of us have long taken for granted, ignoring or not knowing the issues that arise because of these structures. John Oliver has taken these problems into the limelight during this week’s Last Week Tonight talk about Google’s dominance in the search engine industry, Apple’s App Store policies, and Amazon’s grip on third-party sellers.
AT&T and Today’s App Store
Oliver begins this section by making it clear that monopolies have always existed, but that the government used to be very fast and determined to break them. A prime example here is AT&T, which was the only provider of telecommunications and Internet services in the 90s, with people paying exorbitantly high prices for long distance calls and forced to rent phones from AT&T. . It was only after the company broke up that consumers realized how expensive the service was, and while the broadband market is anything but full of options these days, things have gotten much better by comparison.
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The moderator then goes on to criticize today’s tech monopolies, citing Apple and cutting nearly all apps and in-app purchases on its App Store by 30% as the first example. Making matters worse here is the fact that Apple doesn’t allow app developers to bypass its distribution platform at all. To an extent, this is also a problem on the Play Store, but it is possible to sideload apps, at least on Android – although as Oliver correctly notes at times during his monologues, people will usually stick with the default option. , which is the Play Store on almost all Android devices sold in the US.
That’s why it’s important for both Apple and Google to open up their platforms to third-party payments. It’s something Congress is currently fighting for with its Open App Market Act, but we’re still waiting for the law to be passed into law.
Google Search as the Gatekeeper
In fact, criticism against Google takes up most of their talk, especially when it comes to the search engine which is so popular with its 90%+ market share that it has become a verb. Google Search was initially positioned as a neutral way to surf the web, with Google aiming in 2004 to get its users to relevant websites as quickly as possible, as per an interview with Playboy: ” We want to get you out of Google and into the right place as soon as possible.” But that’s changed dramatically over the years, with Google now pushing its services like Maps and Google Flights above anything else, allowing Nearly two thirds of searches are being prevented from leaving Google.com.
Some of the results you see on a Google site are often copied from other sources as well, sometimes without their knowledge or consent, because people often don’t visit the sites that are now under consideration. This is a problem, as site traffic is a key metric used to sell ad space, especially on free sites – and taking visitors away from the site essentially drains money from these websites. .
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While Oliver doesn’t go into further depth on this point, it also presents a conflict of interest for Google. The company is one of the largest companies in the advertising sector and sells ads to many websites, which will naturally make less money from these ads when they don’t have as many visitors as they could have. Websites fighting against Google are essentially biting the hand that feeds them.
Oliver continues, giving Google Flights as an example of how much the company dominates search results, with many Google users no longer clicking on links to particular flights search engines, instead the Google Flights widget displayed in Google Search. are using it. And here, Google doesn’t even display the cheapest fares or all available flights, unlike many good dedicated search engines.
Amazon and the law’s response
Amazon also gets its share of criticism, with Oliver noting that the online retail behemoth regularly undercuts third-party sellers on its website in price, and sometimes undercuts other companies’ products in pricing and sells its products. Copies to make more revenue from own products. ,
To counter the impending legislation, large monopolies use the same logic AT&T used back in the day to argue against breaking up their business. They claim that things are about to get worse when they are the gatekeepers, with Google also claiming that breaking up Google can literally kill you, although as the AT&T example shows us, that’s when companies break up. So things are rarely bad for users.
While bills against large tech monopolies currently enjoy bipartisan support, a major problem is the children of at least 17 members of Congress who have recently been employed at Google, Amazon, Meta, or Apple, or Chuck Schumer. His daughter stands out as a marketing manager. in meta. Given that Schumer is responsible for calling these bills into a vote, it is entirely possible that the entire attack on the monopoly could be halted entirely before the summer, potentially prolonging such legislation. But the window can be closed. After all, the midterm elections are approaching, and bipartisanship doesn’t look so good when you’re out to vote.
Oliver says that even though you should be thinking “why I care, everything works fine for me right now,” you might not even know what you’re missing. He goes back to the history of AT&T, where in the past people were not aware of the possibilities thanks to the company breaking up.
Another example: Google Photos
Another example that I personally think of here is Google Photos. The online image library debuted very innovatively, using machine-learning algorithms to let you search through their vast library of photos while providing you with free and unlimited storage for all of your content. At the time, there were other payment options out there that offered a similar approach, but only Google was able to do something like this, given that it could overcome losses from this strategy with its already successful business. And can freely use all the uploaded images to further train the image recognition algorithm.
Other innovative startups in the space faltered one by one until only Google was left as a viable cross-platform alternative. That’s when the company removed the unlimited storage and made Photos a paid service. It’s possible that this anti-competitive tactic was not intended by the people working on it, but this strategy only works because Google is a big mega corporation that can’t outrun Google Photos like any competitor. Now there are only a handful of Google Photos alternatives left, none of which really offer a service comparable to that of Google.