Tim Wu Insists That Market Domination Is A Monopoly

from the um,-no dept

So we recently posted about Tim Wu's claims that the internet is filled with "monopolies," by noting that just being successful and dominating a market does not, in fact, create a monopoly on that market. Wu himself appears to have stopped by and made the following comment, which he asks us to "post... somewhere visible." Hopefully a new post will do the trick:
A firm that dominates a market is a monopoly. End of story. That is the definition of a monopoly. It is not necessarily an illegal monopoly, or a problem, but that's a different issue. It is, however, clearly a monopoly by any standard definition.
Now, I like Tim and agree with a lot of the stuff he says. But sometimes he goes out on a limb, and this is one time where I think he's just wrong. If we look at the basic definition of monopoly, you see that it's about having an exclusive situation -- being the only seller in the market, or having exclusive control. If that's the definition of monopoly, then Wu's claims that Google and Facebook are monopolies is clearly wrong. Neither company is the exclusive seller or has exclusive control over the markets they're in. And yet, I think most people agree that both companies "dominate" their markets.

In looking through some other definitions of monopoly as well, I only found one that included the word "dominate" and it's from Wiktionary, stating: " To dominate something by excluding everyone else." So that's a case where dominate is in the definition of monopoly, but it's conditional. It's not saying all domination of a market is a monopoly, but if you dominate by excluding everyone else. Again, I don't see how Google and Facebook are excluding anyone.

There are plenty of "monopolies" to be concerned about these days. But I think Wu is making a mistake in claiming that these services are monopolies.


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    testcore (profile), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 8:23pm

    My econ prof in college defined a monopoly as >98% market share &&

     

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    testcore (profile), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 8:31pm

    ...the rest got caught by the HTML filter. Trying again...

    A monopoly is greater than 98% market share and less than or equal to five suppliers in the market. Or something like that. Point being that in a free market, to be a monopoly by pure dominance requires a tremendous share. Otherwise you're just a really good market leader.

    To be a monoply without meeting that criteria, a firm would have to at least a) engage in anticompetitive behavior (ssuch as with vendor ccontracts), b) create artificial barriers to entry (regulations), and c) actively work to exclude rivals (overly broad patents). It's the abuse of market dominance, not the dominance itself, which is detrimental and monopolistic.

     

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    Karl (profile), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 8:34pm

    Monopoly light?

    You are right when you say that these are not actually monopolies.

    You are wrong when you claim they can never be effective monopolies.

    Monopolies are only impossible when they are in pure competition, therefore there is no chance that they can collectively impact public law. Unfortunately, as we have all seen over and over again, they can.

    The reason copyright is so terrible is precisely because of these "monopolies that are not actually monopolies." They are only around because legacy businesses (which are not, strictly speaking, monopolies, though they are oligarchies) are able to push through laws that only benefit their own interests.

    Yet because there are more than one of them (and because we're supposed to believe they "compete" rather than collaborate), we're supposed to believe that consumers are benefiting from competition, and not suffering because of a monopoly (even though that "monopoly" is held by a trade and not a single business).

    If I wasn't so aware of major label contracts, this might be convincing. But, unfortunately, it's not.

     

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    whitebrow (profile), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 8:36pm

    I think they can be considered monopolies not in the traditional sense but more like a seemingly impossible mountain to climb.

    Not to mention that google and facebook have all the best talent in the world atm.

    So yeah, you are free to compete buy why bother.

     

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    Designerfx (profile), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 8:41pm

    it's much more simple

    potential competitors are only okay with "dominating a market" when they're the one's doing it.

    when they aren't? oh, it's monopoly, it's horrible, it's damaging to the consumer! etc. dominating the market is just fearmongering as usual

    same old story has gone around for thousands of years in one form or another.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2010 @ 8:44pm

    Re: Monopoly light?

    What you are looking at is not a monopoly, but an oligopoly (majority of market controlled by a few... say... 5 record labels?), and working together would tend to be illegal. Then there is a cartel when there is a formal agreement between a few players to work together to exclude others, set prices, or similar. (Think the RIAA.) Of course, both examples I gave are... somehow... allowed.

     

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    xenomancer (profile), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 8:49pm

    Re:

    "So yeah, you are free to compete buy why bother."

    My first thought was: for the sake of competition; without it, only one party controls the benefits of market transactions, and that one party usually isn't you.

    I then realized an optimistic restatement of the question: why compete when you can disrupt and create your own market?

     

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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 9:00pm

    How the government defines it

    When a firm has maintained a market share in excess of two-thirds for a significant period and the Department concludes that market conditions likely would prevent the erosion of its market position in the near future, the Department will presume that the firm possesses monopoly power absent convincing evidence to the contrary.
    http://www.justice.gov/atr/public/reports/236681.pdf

     

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    Justin Olbrantz (Quantam), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 9:02pm

    *shrug*

    All I can say is that I've seen "monopoly" used to mean "near monopoly" (an overwhelmingly dominant position) a number of times, even among the technically well-informed. It's a part of colloquial usage.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2010 @ 9:26pm

    I guess this makes me wonder if MS Windows is/was a monopoly?

     

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    Jake, Nov 18th, 2010 @ 9:32pm

    Re:

    This is not dissimilar to the definition of 'infinite goods' or 'free' that's generally accepted on Techdirt, or how chemists use the word 'vacuum' whenever there are no physicists within earshot; not quite literally accurate, but close enough that it's accurate for most practical purposes.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2010 @ 9:36pm

    "There are plenty of "monopolies" to be concerned about these days."

    Why don't we list some of them

    Taxi cab monopolies, cableco monopolies, bogus patents, unreasonable copyrights laws, airwave spectra monopolies, monopolies on power distribution (electricity), monopolies on who can put mail in mailboxes, all of which are government imposed.

    Google, Facebook (though they have filed questionable lawsuits in the past so maybe they're not exactly the best example), are emblematic of exactly what's right with free market capitalism, which is exactly why those who benefit from govt imposed monopolies and can't compete in the free market keep complaining.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 9:58pm

    Re:

    I think they can be considered monopolies not in the traditional sense but more like a seemingly impossible mountain to climb.

    Not to mention that google and facebook have all the best talent in the world atm.

    So yeah, you are free to compete buy why bother.


    Historically, the exact same argument was made against IBM... and then Microsoft came along.

    Historically, the exact same argument was made against Microsoft... and then Google came along.

    Historically, the exact same argument was made against Friendster and MySpace... and then Facebook came along.

    Point being that the competition almost always shows up, and the argument that they have all the "talent" or "money" never seems to hold up. Big companies act like big companies and employees who actually have innovative ideas go elsewhere to try them out.

    I find it hard to believe that after seeing so many other firms that had such a big lead only to be taken down by innovators, that we've some how reached the end of progress where other new companies can't do the same.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2010 @ 10:04pm

    Re: Re:

    I think the point is that as long as there is potential for competitors to enter the market if the incumbents do not provide customers with a satisfactory product or service at a satisfactory price then incumbents will be unable to abuse their market position without newcomers stepping in to take their place. Government intervention (ie: by imposing monopolies via patents/copyrights, taxi cab monopolies, cableco monopolies, etc...) impede the potential for competitors to enter the market which allows incumbents to abuse their market position without facing any competitive threats.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 10:08pm

    Re: Monopoly light?

    You are wrong when you claim they can never be effective monopolies.


    I don't believe I've ever made that claim. If these firms were to turn into effective monopolies, I would be concerned. But I haven't seen evidence of that happening.

     

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    darryl, Nov 18th, 2010 @ 10:22pm

    What monopolies ??

    All this Government imposed monopolies and such crap, it does not happen, patents and copyright do not grant any such thing as a monopoly.. and, im sorry to say you would have to be stupid if you think that is the case.

    If that was the case, you would be able to show some examples of such.. Like some monopolies that are there because of a government granted right.

    Or even a monopoly that is based on a single copyright or patent..

    You wont be able to do it, because that is a nieve strawman argument..

    If you create a movie, you DO NOT have a monopoly on that movie, you have a right for that movie, you can try to make money off it, or sell it or do what you like with it.

    But there is not government granted right for you to profit from that movie, or to restrict anyone else from watching another movie, or spending their money on something entirely different.

    Sounds like the old cold war days, where instead of a "red" under the bed, there are monopilists everywhere !!.

    But if I asked any of you to list 5 monopolies that they know off, would they really be able to provide that list ?

    Market dominance is created by the market, not by the company, its because the majority of people are willing to use a product that creates the market. Its the buyers who make the market.

    That is why microsoft does so well, that is why MS is not a monopoly, as far as I can tell I do not HAVE to buy MS products, I can buy many other competing products, therefore not a monopoly.

    Its also not monopoly as I do not have to spend my money on software at all.

    But if you HAVE to use paper for your living, to survive, and there is only one supplier of paper, and you cannot get that product from any other source, and you HAVE to have it, then that is a monopoly, as no matter what price of the product if you have to have it and cant get it from another source, you have to pay what the ask..

    that is the illegal monopoly, and is similar with collusion and market fixing by non-monopoly's.

    So to say a movie is 'a monopoly' is silly, it is not, it would be if you HAD to watch a movie, and it was THE ONLY MOVIE in existance.

    I think they can be considered monopolies not in the traditional sense but more like a seemingly impossible mountain to climb.



    That would mean you cant compete because you cannot do the stuff as good as them.. fair enough. but that is not a monopoly, there is nothing stopping your from competing, except your own ability..

    You might as well just be happy to reward their ability to create something like that, and accept that you cannot.

    But being able to not compete because you cant do stuff as good is not an excuse for you to have have patents, or copyright...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2010 @ 10:23pm

    I agree that Google isn't really a monopoly, but with Facebook I don't think it's so clear. I feel like I could easily switch to, say, Bing for most of my search needs, but Facebook is my only option for social networking with my real life friends (as they're almost all on Facebook but very very few of them are on any other social networking sites).

    I don't necessarily think Facebook is in a position that will let it keep its monopoly for ever, but I do think it's got a pretty decent monopoly position at the moment (complete with pretty significant barriers to entry for any competitors because of this "all my friends are on Facebook" effect).

     

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    The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 10:51pm

    Re:

    Depends on which definition you take. By the one that mentioned using your dominant position to exclude competition, absolutely. They were proven to have done that in spades. By the others, I'd have to look up the numbers.

     

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    IronM@sk, Nov 18th, 2010 @ 11:06pm

    Re: What monopolies ??

    WTF dude? This article has nothing to do with patents and copyright! Please stop posting. Your shit is getting old.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 11:20pm

    Re: What monopolies ??

    All this Government imposed monopolies and such crap, it does not happen, patents and copyright do not grant any such thing as a monopoly.. and, im sorry to say you would have to be stupid if you think that is the case.

    This story has nothing to do with patents and copyright.

    But, just to humor Darryl:

    "The saying there shall be no monopolies lessens the incitements to ingenuity, which is spurred on by the hope of a monopoly for a limited time, as of 14 years; but the benefit even of limited monopolies is too doubtful to be opposed to that of their general suppression." -- Thomas Jefferson, talking about patents.

    According to Darryl, Thomas Jefferson "would have to be stupid" for thinking patents are a monopoly.

     

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    Andrew Foster (profile), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 11:37pm

    All this Government imposed monopolies and such crap, it does not happen, patents and copyright do not grant any such thing as a monopoly.. and, im sorry to say you would have to be stupid if you think that is the case.

    Any and every textbook on this stuff acknowledges that copyright is a monopoly right. Every single one. And try not to be rude to the people who disagree with you.

    Ask yourself this: I write a book - from the moment I finish the last page, who else has the right to sell that book without my permission?

    The answer is absolutely no-one. My copyright over what I've created gives me a monopoly on the distribution of that book. No-one (no third party with a photocopier, no publisher) can sell or distribute the book unless I decide to grant them a license.

    You might be saying "Well of course they can't - you wrote the book," and that's another point, but the question of whether a monopoly is morally right has no bearing on the question of whether it legally exists.

    By your own example, anyone who wants to buy the book I wrote would have to come to me to buy it. There is absolutely no-one else who can sell the book, unless I decide to grant them permission. If anyone else started selling the book I could have them banned and demand the money they made be paid back to me.

    The examples of "monopolies that are there because of a government granted right" you're looking for would be every single copyright granted in the last hundred years, for starters. They're government-granted because they're totally artificial and purely created by the law.

    Yes, lots of different places will sell DVDs of whatever Hollywood blockbuster - but the only reason they can do that is because the copyright holder has seen fit to let them. Copyright is a monopoly right.

    I also think you're wrong when you say that a monopoly only exists if you have to buy a particular item. It's entirely possible for one company to have a monopoly on the sale of bread (for any reason you want to imagine), even though you could theoretically decide to live without bread. That point is that if you wanted it, you would have to go to source X.

    (I now see that Mike Masnick has dealt with this since I started writing, which is what I get for putting together an essay... but why stop at "labouring the point" when you can work it to death, I always say) xxx

     

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    Christopher (profile), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 11:56pm

    Re:

    He was right on that as well, though a little high with the monopoly share that a company would have to have... I say it's more like 90% if there is more than five companies competing, and 50% if there are only 2 or 3.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 12:10am

    "when a specific individual or an enterprise has sufficient control over a particular product or service to determine significantly the terms on which other individuals shall have access to it"

    I guess one question I would ask is:

    If someone else came in and offered an adword like service at half the price, would Google's prices fall ?

    Or do google determine the terms for the market generally ?

     

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    Tim Wu, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 1:50am

    Monopoly, redux

    If you can post this I would appreciate it.

    "The existence of ... [monopoly] power may ordinarily may be inferred by the predominant share of the market." United States v. Grimmell, 384 U.S. 562 (1966).

    ďAbsent other pertinent factors, a share significantly larger than 55% has been required to established prima facie market power.Ē United States v. Dentsply Intern., Inc., 399 F. 3d 181 (3d Cir 2005).

    As much as I like user-generated content, the place to understand the legal concept of monopoly is not Wikitionary but the decisions of the federal courts. The idea that a dominant share of the market infers monopoly power is not some invention of mine, but rather the Supreme Court's and it is relied on by the United States Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission.

    The usual presumption in the caselaw is that market dominance - a market share over some amount, like 70% -- suffices to create a presumption of monopoly power.

    For more cases so holding, see United States v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co., 351 U.S. 377 (1956); United States v. Microsoft Corp., 253 F. 3d 34 (D.C. Cir. 2001); Fineman v. Armstrong World Industries, Inc., 980 F. 2d 171(3d. Cir. 1992) (ďA predominant share of the market, or a lesser market share combined with other relevant factors, may suffice to demonstrate monopoly power.Ē)

    Technically speaking, the courts are inferring monopoly power - the ability to exclude competition - from the dominance of the firm. The presumption of monopoly power can be rebutted; by showing for example, that absence of barriers of entry means that the firm does not hold the power its market share suggests.

    It is fair game to argue that matters SHOULD be different. Some economists have criticized the presumption Iím speaking of, and insist on a more complex look at multiple factors. You can also argue that, in high tech industries, dominant monopolies should be left alone to be destroyed by eventual competition. Thatís fine, and a good subject for debate.

    But arguing that dominant market share doesnít, in American law, lead to an inference of monopoly is simply a mistake.

     

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    Tim Wu, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 1:57am

    Incidentally, I'm sorry to turn law professor on you, but it doesn't make sense to have a discussion of the legal concept of monopoly absent some discussion of the caselaw.

    I think your strongest arguments are this. First, that the barriers to entry for, say, Facebook or Google are so low that it doesn't have monopoly power. But even this is tough: Facebook, in particular, has the advantage of network effects, and Google has economies of scale on its side.

    The alternative is to say that the markets are different; that the market for Google isn't "search engines" but rather something like "search" in general, including search on PC, not just the Internet. Plausible, but still weak.

     

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    darryl, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 2:28am

    Thomas Jefferson So he is the final word OK, here are some more of his words.

    We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these ends, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government shall become destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, & to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles & organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety & happiness.

    He said that "no society can make a perpetual constitution or even a perpetual law.

    "Every constitution then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of nineteen years. If it is to be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right."


    This is a good one..

    Corporations Jefferson in 1816 wrote to George Logan,
    In this respect England exhibits the most remarkable phenomenon in the universe in the contrast between the profligacy of it's government and the probity of it's citizens. And accordingly it is now exhibiting an example of the truth of the maxim that virtue & interest are inseparable. It ends, as might have been expected, in the ruin of it's people, but this ruin will fall heaviest, as it ought to fall on that hereditary aristocracy which has for generations been preparing the catastrophe. I hope we shall take warning from the example and crush in it's birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.


    He could of been talking about the US sub-prime market, or the US Government's borrowings off china in modern times.

    As there is a massive contrast between the profligacy of its governments and the probity of it's citizens..


    Mike if you actually believe what you say, then you will have no problems listing what patents have created a monopoly, and what monopolies exist. It should be trivial for you to do. but you dont.

    You just talk in general, never giving real examples, and quoting people who lived over 200 years ago..

    How about something modern, from the massive list of patents, you should be able to list all those monopilies those patents have granted.

    But you cant, can you mike, because you are talking crap, if you have any real world example you would cite them, immediately.. but you cant, so therefore you dont..

    Mike you MUST know at some level, deep down that what you claim is not true, you cannot ever find examples of what you claim. But defend it with more talk, and 200 year old quotes.

    Give us ONE example, of a patent created monopoly.

    Or an example where a patent has stopped or reduced innovation.

    You always say it happens all the time, if that was true, you would be able to feed your plebs with a constant stream of this occuring..

    But you dont,, and you dont for one simple reason, you cant..

    Obviously, if you were capable of showing examples of your 'claims' you would show them. failing that, you just say it is so, and hope people will believe you.. some do.. most probably dont..

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 19th, 2010 @ 3:33am

    Re: Thomas Jefferson So he is the final word OK, here are some more of his words.

    Mike if you actually believe what you say, then you will have no problems listing what patents have created a monopoly, and what monopolies exist. It should be trivial for you to do. but you dont.

    Patents don't "create" a monopoly, they ARE a monopoly.

    You always say it happens all the time, if that was true, you would be able to feed your plebs with a constant stream of this occuring..

    Have you even read this site? Darryl, we point to examples of patents being used to hold back innovation all the time. And, again, this is totally off-topic on this post.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 19th, 2010 @ 3:36am

    Re: Monopoly, redux

    Tim, you did not write this in a law revue journal. You wrote it in the WSJ, and most people would assume that the common, every day definition of "monopoly" applies. I went through two dozen definitions of monopoly and didn't find any that agree with what you said.

    Based on this, it appears that you are willfully misleading people, using a word where you are using the legal definition, and tricking people into believing you mean the common, every day definition.

    That's a serious problem.

    Tim, I support a lot of what you do, but this borders on blatant propaganda.

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 5:16am

    Mike, you're only "correct" by hard-line semantics.

    That's what your economics comes down to, QUIBBLING over semantics to simply DEFINE AWAY ACTUALITIES? Just as Bush re-defined "torture" to not include waterboarding such as the US hung Japanese for after WW2? -- You are verging on Orwell's Newspeak.

    And your keee-jerk support of Google at every turn is quite obvious.

    The clear goal of Google and Facebook IS to have monopolies. Google in particular is a monster branching out into dozens of areas, including energy, one example of which is buying up power cables from future off-shore wind farms. Tell me how that relates to their corporate charter, and that they aren't preparing to BE a monopoly from energy to entertainment.

     

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    Sneeje (profile), Nov 19th, 2010 @ 5:39am

    Re: Mike, you're only "correct" by hard-line semantics.

    So how do you explain Google wrenching away the "monopoly" of Yahoo Search? How do you explain the entrance of Linux into the marketplace against Microsoft? Twitter versus Facebook?

    Your post assumes that the market cannot change rapidly to: include new capabilities/offerings or b) reward better or revolutionary ways of meeting customer needs.

    I'm sorry, but if you understood anything about the lifecycle of a business, you would understand that being a large, well-established business in the "maintenance" phase of its life is precisely what makes them vulnerable--the inability to innovate and move to market the way a new entrant can.

    I have seen no evidence that you or Mr. Wu have provided that explain what the true barrier for entrance is, other than: "I can't see what the next great innovation is, so it must not exist."

     

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    Karl (profile), Nov 19th, 2010 @ 6:29am

    Re: Re: Monopoly light?

    But I haven't seen evidence of that happening.

    Microsoft?

    Okay, that's computer software, not the web. Still - it makes economic sense to form a monopoly, so if it's possible to do so, it will happen.

    At the moment, the nature of the web makes monopolies impossible (since no service is excludable). But if COICA is passed, then the web will be a petri dish for monopolies. Wu's concerns may be overblown right now, but it's possible they won't be, and very soon.

     

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    Karl (profile), Nov 19th, 2010 @ 7:28am

    Re: Mike, you're only "correct" by hard-line semantics.

    The clear goal of Google and Facebook IS to have monopolies.

    It's not about Google or Facebook, it's about any business. An effective monopoly is the "grand unification theory" of business, the ultimate goal, the ne plus ultra of capitalism.

    Any business that attains a significant market share will attempt to force out their competition through law. It's not even like they have a choice in the matter: if they don't do it, they believe they'll be sued by their shareholders.

    That's why attaining a significant marketing share is so dangerous. It may not actually be a monopoly, but sooner or later, it will turn into one.

    Now, I love Google, and Facebook is OK (relatively speaking). But absent any laws against restraining others, they will eventually turn into Microsoft. Simply because they're a business, and their primary motivation is to make money.

    It's one of the (few) areas where I disagree with Techdirt. Take net neutrality laws, for example. Mike claims that with greater competition, those laws are unnecessary. I agree that greater competition should be a high priority; but I don't think it's enough to prevent monopolies in the long run.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 7:37am

    Re:

    http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/natural-monopoly.html

    I've always used the term natural monopoly for this. There are industries where monopolies exist because they are the best company doing the job.

    Monopolies have good and bad. Typically, they became a monopoly because they are efficient at what they do and deliver the best value.

    They are bad in the sense that they gave up flexibility to gain that level of efficiency. Also, when a company uses its position to influence the market in other ways. An example of this would be Wal-mart. They control about 60% of the retail market. If Wal-mart wants you to switch boxes to better fit on their shelves, you change boxes. If they want you to cut prices, you cut prices.

    That's how a dog food exec decides this low grade, non-inspected meat is good to put in dog food.

    Monopolies aren't always bad. In fact, our government sometimes grants and enforces monopolies in some areas.

     

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  34.  
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    byteme, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 7:58am

    It is easy to expand or narrow what we consider to be the parameters of a "monopoly" to exclude or envelope almost anything that doesn't represent an equal share of control by multitudes.

    When you are talking about dominating a market, I think the important thing to note is who is granting this superior position.

    If the power to dominate is granted by government(s), laws, or some other barrier, that is cause for concern.

    If the dominance is created by a large portion of the populace choosing a particular item or service -- not because they have no other choice, but because they prefer it (such as in the case of Facebook vs MySpace, iPod vs Zune, etc.) -- then there is less cause for concern. Facebook can dominate the market, but if they start making changes that make it less attractive to users than other offerings, they can quickly lose their dominance. The public, after all, is extremely fickle.

    The kind of monopoly most people are concerned with are the ones where the monopolist no longer needs to compete with others due to the power the monopoly provides. If a true monopolist egregiously abuses their position the public usually has little or no choice but to accept these abuses and continue dealing with the monopolist. I don't believe Facebook could get away with that kind of behavior for very long without losing most of their customer base to other options.

    Granted, Facebook would have a lot more wiggle room to push boundaries without largescale defections than a much smaller player, but that doesn't mean they have the power of a true monopolist.

    Piranha and guppies are both fish, but that doesn't mean I'm going to be afraid of getting eaten by the guppies.

    However, expanding the use of the word "monopoly" to include large numbers of benign entities only serves to lessen the impact of the word when used in its more meaningful context. In other words, sure you can probably get away with calling most of the internet a monopoly...but why would you want to? What do we gain in doing so?

     

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  35.  
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    btrussell (profile), Nov 19th, 2010 @ 8:02am

    Re: Monopoly, redux

    "As much as I like user-generated content, the place to understand the legal concept of monopoly is not Wikitionary but the decisions of the federal courts."
    Such as it being worth @ 10 million dollars for spilling hot coffee on yourself. Yes, the courts are full of logic.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 8:44am

    Re: Re: Monopoly, redux

    You misspelled review

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 8:48am

    Re:

    "But even this is tough: Facebook, in particular, has the advantage of network effects, and Google has economies of scale on its side."

    and there is nothing wrong with that, it's these advantages that enable them to provide customers with a better product at a better price, which is fine. It's good for the customers and good for the company, it's a win win situation. If the status quo begin to abuse their power by providing a worse service at a worse price then newcomers will naturally see this is an opportunity to enter the market being that they can now compete with the worse product. So the potential for newcomers to enter the market ensures a good level of quality.

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 8:54am

    Re: Re: Mike, you're only "correct" by hard-line semantics.

    "But absent any laws against restraining others, they will eventually turn into Microsoft."

    Microsoft does benefit from a lot of bad laws though (ie: their patent portfolio that enables them to better "negotiate" with others and that makes it more difficult for competitors to compete along with very long copy protection terms that essentially makes their software never enter the public domain, or by the time it does it will not be recognized by any computer or processor of the time).

     

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  39.  
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    JEDIDIAH, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 9:11am

    Re: What monopolies ??

    > Or even a monopoly that is based on a single copyright or patent..

    Like the bogus Tivo patents? This has given them the license to sue any rivals. Then there are various "interface" sorts of standards like those related to game consoles or even stupid nonsense like the Windows 95 disk format.

    Giving a the first entrant into the market a monopoly to exploit is what patents do.

    Only a fool would dispute that. The real question is whether or not such encumberances are good public policy or not?

    There is a patent world war going on in the mobile space right now. Some of it's legitimate. Some of it's bogus. All of it is destructive. Even the "good patents" serve to retard progress.

     

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  40.  
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    JEDIDIAH, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 9:13am

    Proprietary interfaces

    Proprietary interfaces create a potential for monopoly as new entrants into the market have poor access to those interfaces. This is the problem with stuff like MS-DOS and PhoneOS. This is not a problem with stuff like Google.

     

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  41.  
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    JEDIDIAH, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 9:17am

    Re: Re:

    There's everything wrong with network effects.

    The customer simply should not be trapped BY ANYTHING. Customers should be free to move from vendor to vendor at any time of their choosing. No one should ever be "trapped". At that point, the vendor doing the trapping has unnatural market power.

    Network effects severely inhibit the ability of new competitors to enter a market.

     

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  42.  
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    JEDIDIAH, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 9:22am

    Re: Re: Mike, you're only "correct" by hard-line semantics.

    > How do you explain the entrance of Linux
    > into the marketplace against Microsoft?

    So I can get some Linux machines at Best Buy now can I?

    From the point of view of the average "man on the street",
    Linux doesn't exist at all. Now Linux has done very well
    in other areas including large corporate servers and small
    embedded devices. However, these are markets that were never
    dominated by Microsoft. Desktop MS-DOS network effects really didn't have the same significance.

    Also, pointing to Linux as "proof of competition" is really quite absurd since it is not a market entity. It is not something that was created to be bought and sold like OS/2 or BeOS or DR-DOS or the Atari ST or the Amiga or even AIX.

    If Free Software is what you point to to claim that the free market is healthy, then you most definitely have a monopoly on your hands.

     

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  43.  
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    JEDIDIAH, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 9:25am

    Voting in the Tyrant

    It's a bad idea to think that just because the mob has chosen something that it is necessarily right. The idea of mob rule is usually considered bad on many levels. So the notion that a regime that's voted in should remain in power regardless of how bad it is is a bit disengenious.

    The problem with voting in the tyrant is then everyone including the minority has to put up with that tyrant.

     

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  44.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 10:51am

    Mike, you are arguing what the word monopoly means. That's absurd. The only relevant issue is whether or not the economic theory about monopolies applies to Tim Wu's definition.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 10:58am

    Re: What monopolies ??

    Are you really this stupid or are you just trolling?

    Copyright law says that the copyright holder of a movie can forbid others from manufacturing and selling thier own copies of that movie. In other words the monopoly is on that movie and not the motion picture market as a whole.

    Furthermore copyrights give oppertunities for monopolies on much broade markets than just the one for that one product. For example Microsoft threatening higher prices for windows licenses if the OEM tries to sell product lines with another os/no OS installed, thus bullying copetitors out of the market. This would have been much harder to do without copyright law in place.

     

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  46.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 11:21am

    Re: Re: Re: Mike, you're only "correct" by hard-line semantics.

    Maybe best buy doesn't sell linux pcs yet, but you can buy one with ubuntu preloaded from http://system76.com, currently they ship to the US and Canada but they plan to add the uk soon.(or already have, I don't live in the uk so I haven't really kept watch on that)

    Add that in with the servers, nadroid based phones, tvs and dozens of other things sold with linux as a component/preinstalled and you see that old tux has a fairly sizable market presence.(and yes, I know that system 76 isn't the only seller of linux PCs but they're on my mind most becuase they only do linux boxen)

     

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  47.  
    identicon
    Tim Wu, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 11:44am

    Post

    To be clear, take your time, but by "post" I meant please address my response in a separate blog entry. If you like I can put my response in another blog. Just let me know.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
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    byteme, Nov 19th, 2010 @ 12:03pm

    Re: Voting in the Tyrant

    I see where you're coming from, but I think your analogy is a bit off the mark. When Facebook forces people at gunpoint to create and maintain a page, then we can use the work tyrant. There's a big difference between being popular and being tyrannical.

    I know plenty of people who don't use Facebook at all. Some use MySpace, some use twitter, some even use flickr. Others don't use any form of social networking at all.

    If all of your friends choose to meet up at the same club every Friday night, does that mean that club automatically has a monopoly, or has done anything wrong? It may feel like you are being forced to go to that club, but in reality you have choices: you can go to the club to be with your friends; you can try and convince your friends to go somewhere else; or you can go somewhere else (or nowhere at all) and not be with your friends.

    Of course, the nice thing about the internet is that you can have a Facebook page AND a MySpace, flickr, etc. page. You can check in on your friends at each. Or not. Your choice.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
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    nasch (profile), Nov 19th, 2010 @ 12:09pm

    Re: Monopoly, redux

    Technically speaking, the courts are inferring monopoly power - the ability to exclude competition - from the dominance of the firm. The presumption of monopoly power can be rebutted; by showing for example, that absence of barriers of entry means that the firm does not hold the power its market share suggests.

    So... market dominance is not necessarily a monopoly.

     

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  50.  
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    nasch (profile), Nov 19th, 2010 @ 12:13pm

    Re: Re: Mike, you're only "correct" by hard-line semantics.

    How can greater competition fail to prevent monopolies? You can't have healthy competition and a monopoly in the same market, it's just not possible.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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