Bill Gates: if we break up Big Tech, we'll just have more bad companies

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/09/21/deposition-trauma.html

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I think we need both remedies. Break up big monopolies and exercise massive punitive fines on those engaged in bad behavior.

It still doesn’t stop the problem of new, unforeseen unethical or socially damaging behavior emerging, but breaking up the big monopolies will limit the power of those companies to exploit that behavior and shape policy in order to keep doing it.

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This is all a distraction. The actual monopolies are the telecommunications companies who, after killing net neutrality as policy, want to kill its very existence as an ethos. They are the gatekeepers to “big tech” and know that Internet companies are the only powerful entities who can threaten them in lobbying power with regard to network neutrality.

These corporations are also vertical monopolies, with many of them owning television stations and movie studios and news organizations. Facebook may be a conduit for propaganda, but these corporations are the ones who produce propaganda. They would rather not have to rely on Facebook and Google to deliver them eyeballs, and want them out of the loop for your attention.

And why are people so upset about Google and Facebook as monopolies? For the most part, we aren’t the customer, we are the product. Their monopoly power is exerted mainly on people who wish to advertise. There isn’t a thing they can do to stop me from using another search engine or social network.

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At least Facebook’s tactic of glomming practically every messaging startup to either absorb or kill should be discouraged. (To the disappointment of startups where that’s their business plan: Get going; get noticed; get bought out; profit!)

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You’re using an XOR. You want an AND.

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I think this guy would have made the same argument.

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No, I’m saying we should consider them like Stalin in WW2. Leave them be and utilize their power to destroy the more immediate threat.

Going after “big tech” is precisely what telecom wants, and it serves the agenda of people who ordinarily reject trust-busting as a legitimate duty of government. The right-wingers don’t give the slightest fuck about Comcast and Verizon monopolies because they don’t moderate their racist comments and unhinged conspiracy theories.

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You don’t break up monopolies to make people “good”.

You do it so control is spread over more of the same “bad” people so that they have to work and compete and negotiate their hijinks.

It’s a way to stall or thwart certain types of bad arbitrary decisions from being made monolithically or unilaterally.

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I see people arguing for “breaking up” the tech companies, but what hell does that exactly mean? If you break Waymo off of Google, the only thing you did is slash the budget of Waymo down to nothing and likely created the consolidation of Waymo into other automotive companies. If you break break Google Docs off from Google, you literally just killed Google Docs. If you break anything off of Google, you just kill it. Search and ad-sense is pretty much all of the money for the entire company. You can break off Android, but that’s just handing Android to the tender embraces of Samsung. All of the other stuff Google does is just an effort to spend that money from advertisment. You can break those parts off, but you didn’t help consumers any, you just made one less competitor in the world.

You can break search in half, split the data, but then what? Now you have two companies with all of my data, and I still have no reason to switch from Google to anything else. Google isn’t keeping anyone in on Google at the point of a gun.

I’m not being incredulous here, but what does splitting up the Google actually look like. Is it just pulling off all of the pieces to watch most of them die? Is it creating two companies doing the same thing and hoping this time people keep using multiple companies? What does breaking up Google actually look like? What’s the market suppose to look like 5 years after Google is dead?

A lot of this stuff feels like Brexit to me. People want “a thing” really badly. When you ask them what the actual particulars of how to do “the thing”, they go blank and just keep repeating that they definitely want it and that we can worry about the details later. No brah, I want the details now.

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I can see why Zuckerberg prefers regulation over breaking up the company. Being a government enforced monopoly when you’re large enough to control most pols is a pretty sweet place.

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It is an interesting take from Gates. He doesn’t want Microsoft broken up obviously, but of the big tech companies they are the least likely today to be broken up.

There was a massive cultural shift when Satya became CEO and a lot of shady stuff started to phase out. Security and linux guys say things like, “the only big tech company I trust these days is Microsoft which is a Weird place to be…”

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I know. It’s weird. I started my career in the late 90’s/early 2000’s a SysAdmn and then web programmer. Over the past several years, it’s been bizarre to watch MS become the good guys. Comparatively, of course.

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I think Ballmer’s biggest sin was thinking he could do everything and for what he couldn’t do, he could just acquire. He thought if everything as a sales/marketing problem, never a technical problem. Apple’s dominating the phone space? Easy, buy Danger and Nokia. Problem solved. Microsoft employees not using Windows phones? Shame them! They are clearly the problem. The whole NIH mindset was a cancer.

Satya flipped the script and saw that the way to get ahead wasn’t to keep failing to subvert the dominant platforms, but instead to make Microsoft products an indispensable part of them - which if you think about it is exactly what Bill Gates did some 40 years ago.

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the largest technology concerns have made it remarkably difficult to avoid using them because, at least for google and amazon, they have become part of the infrastructure of the internet itself. not only has amazon waged relentless devastation upon brick and mortar retailing and upon book publishing, but also upon web hosting. try avoiding all websites hosted by amazon web services. there’s more to the solution to this than creating more abusive companies or in splitting off segments in order to watch them die.

the following article might help focus your thinking about the amount of freedom we’ve lost by the dominance of three or four companies–

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You are referring to “embrace, extend, extinguish”. Right now MSFT is at “embrace”, transitioning to a cloud/platform company where you can run whatever you want (even some MasOS bits). Everyone is welcome to pay an hourly rate to run their stuff!

I keep seeing MSFT forging partnerships with their competitors in order to drive cloud revenue so it may be as simple as “Embrace”. We will see how the long game plays out.

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No, Microsoft didn’t even see Google coming. That’s how it always is. The real threats they can’t even understand because the new stuff exists so far outside their old crusty business model, in this specific case selling software licenses for money.

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Google and Facebook are also telecom companies with a lot of backbones and data centres. At least in Europe there are more telco to choose.
the other thing is that telecom companies are hevily regulated when the OTT are dodging natular regulation.

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Sounds like Bill is channeling the “hydra” theory on breaking up the Mexican drug cartels. “Cut off my head and five more will sprout in its place.” Straight up Herbert Kornfeld, that man.

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more bad companies with less power to do bad = good

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Anyone who thinks Gates is any sort of genius can just reference his statements – like this bullshit – and acts like hobnobbing with vile African leaders while buying a good rep by tossing crumbs to so-called undeveloped (or crippled by colonialism) states.
His genius was limited by the borderline illegal way he extorted OEMs to essentially make MS-DOS then Windows a monopoly. By that standard, a mobster who goes through his career without getting busted is some sort of paragon we should respect.

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