How To Actually Break Up Big Tech

from the protocols,-not-platforms dept

Last week, I wrote about Elizabeth Warren's big plan to break up big tech and why I thought her plan (a) would not work and (b) was based on a fairly shocking number of factual errors. Not everyone agreed (indeed, many people have disagreed). Many of those who disagreed, though, seemed to only do so because they hate the big internet companies, and thus they seemed happy about any attack on them, no matter how pointless. Others attacked me personally, insisting that my detailed explanation of why I found Warren's plan laughably naive was really just because I "love big tech." Finally, some demanded to know what my plan would be. And while I think it's somewhat silly to imply that you cannot critique a bad plan if you can't come up with another plan (sometimes, doing nothing is the best plan), I've been meaning to write some more about this anyway, and here's a good opportunity.

Contrary to the strawman beliefs some insist I have, I am quite worried about the market power of many large companies these days, and how that might be stifling competition. As I've argued for over twenty years on this site, the single biggest driver of innovation is competition. And I want to see more competition to get more innovation. My issue is that doing so through regulatory means is fraught with significant risks -- ones that could very much do the opposite. Highly regulated industries are not known for being competitive and innovative for the most part. They tend to enable only big entities -- who can deal with the regulations -- to exist and crowd out startups. On top of that, thanks to regulatory capture and the crony nature of our political system these days, you also end up with just a few big companies who now focus on what we've referred to in the past as political innovation rather than technological or entrepreneurial innovation. It's a recipe for stagnation, not innovation and competition.

My second big concern with the plans people have been floating is that they ignore the reality of why some of the tech companies have gotten so big and so successful. For the most part, they're in highly networked industries, where it's not just "winner takes all" but in many ways size and dominance of the network is fundamental to their operation. Network effects can lead to dominant positions, for the fairly obvious reason that the bigger they are, the better they are for everyone involved. For all of Warren's talk of breaking up companies, note that she was only talking about chipping off a few of their peripheral acquisitions: not taking an axe to their core business.

And that's because she recognizes that as much as people scream to "break up big tech," there's no reasonable way to do that without making the overall offerings a lot less useful for the public. How do you break up Facebook's social network? Do you say half the world can't use it and have to use the BookFace spinoff instead? You could, of course, cleave off Instagram and Whatsapp, but that doesn't really change Facebook's overall global dominance. The reason Facebook is so powerful is that it connects the entire globe. There is no place to make a reasonable cut to split that up. Google is powerful because of its search engine. How do you break that up? Do you say for searches on topic X you use Google, but for searches on topic Y you have to use Elgoog? You could cut off Doubleclick from Google, but then you still have a massive search engine and a massive internet ads company. And while I guess you could cut off Amazon's web services piece from it store, that doesn't change the main "competition" complaint most people have about Amazon, which is the size of its footprint in e-commerce. But again, it got there not through predatory practices, but because it's so convenient and easy for most people that they actually get tremendous benefit from it.

But, that presents a dilemma. And while lots of people seem to think there are easy answers to this (just like they think there are easy answers to "content moderation") there are not. This is a really complex issue, and like nearly all super complex issues, the easy solutions tend to look appealing, while actually making everything a hell of a lot worse.

So I will make a suggestion for how I'd like to "break up" big tech, while admitting that since this is a complex topic with no easy answer, I could be wrong. But so could everyone else. And I've been digging through the details on this stuff for many years now, and I do think my plan makes the most sense. Later this year, I have a big academic paper on this topic coming out with a lot more details, so in the meantime expect a bunch more posts on this topic leading up to that.

The idea goes back to one I raised back in 2015 in the context of content moderation: that we need to move to a world of protocols, not platforms. This is the world of the earlier internet, dominated by open protocols with a variety of competitive apps built on top. Instead of Twitter, there was IRC. Instead of Reddit, there was Usenet. And you had a choice of clients and servers and could move around if you didn't like the policies of one or the other.

In the world of protocols, you still get the global connectivity benefit, but without the lockdown control and silos (and, potentially, the questionable privacy practices). In a world of protocols, there may be a global network, but you get competition at every other level. You can have competitive servers, competitive apps and user interfaces, competitive filters, competitive business models, and competitive forms of data management. If you don't like how one app provider handles privacy, you move to another -- but because you're using the same protocol, you don't lose everything you're doing with it, you're just entering through a new door that you like better. If you don't like the way one provider handles content moderation, you change it or move to another.

And, yes, I noted competition at the business model level as well -- because that's important. We could see lots of interesting attempts at creating different services with different business models that go beyond the limited options (pay with your data, freemium, advertising, etc.) today. One option might be in the form of cryptocurrency or token tied to the protocol. While I can already hear half of you rolling your eyes, this is a model that is at least worth exploring. A cryptocurreny or token tied to a protocol takes away much of the incentive for the really terrible business models everyone complains about. You don't need to spy on everyone if just getting more usage in general increases the value of the currency. And encouraging business models that don't require collecting data on everyone is something we should celebrate, not mock. But, cryptocurrency isn't the only such solution either. I've been playing around with a few attempts at new protocol-based systems these days that purposely eschew the cryptocurrency/token model, and are exploring other models instead. The point is that there are other ways of making this work, and more options is better.

However, if we were in a world where the major services and functions we used online were protocols instead of platforms, it would move the power and control out to the ends of the network, rather than centralizing it on the servers of a few giant companies. We'd still get the benefits of the network effects of the systems, but without the centralized control. We'd still be able to get innovation at various levels, but without relying on a single entity to determine what's best. We'd still get the convenience of powerful services, but without the opaque decision making of a single entity. It's an approach that could actually work.

That still leaves the question of how do we get there from here. And there are a lot of challenges in that. But I don't think declaring large platforms as "platform utilities" gets us any closer to that vision -- and if anything seems to drive us away from it. I'll be writing some more posts on how we get towards a world of protocols instead of platforms, and the many hurdles in the way, in the coming weeks and months. However, there are two key approaches to making it happen: either bottom up or top down. And both could work -- but both could be difficult.

The bottom up approach is people designing new protocols from scratch and building a new userbase. That presents a huge number of challenges in terms of building up the userbase, but it's not impossible. New startups pop on the scene all the time, and some of them even succeed. And I already know of at least 6 or 7 attempts at building these kinds of protocols from scratch. And while they're all fairly small, some are building up at least some traction and are interesting to follow and experiment with. The benefit to this approach is you have no legacy to deal with, making things easier to design and the entire setup more nimble. The cons, obviously, are the lack of a userbase and the basic "empty room" problem: how do you get someone to use a social application when there's nothing to do there and no one to connect with?

The "top down" approach would be to convince an existing internet giant to move towards such a world. It's unlikely that any company today would agree to flip the switch entirely and open up their platform into an open protocol. But I would argue that it's not as far out and unrealistic an idea as many assume. In the last six months, I've had in-depth conversations with four large internet companies about this approach, and they were surprisingly more open to at least considering what it would mean than I initially expected. And while I may go into more detail in later posts, I'll give three quick reasons why the big tech firms may actually decide it makes sense to give up their silos in the long run:

  1. It gets them away from proposals like Warren's to "break up" their business, which they know would create a giant mess. By opening up their core code for anyone to use and pushing the power out to the ends of the network, the companies are effectively "breaking themselves up.
  2. It takes them off the hook for all of the platform liability that is getting dumped on them these days. There are all sorts of competing and impossible demands on these platforms concerning how they moderate content, with tons of people being upset no matter what decision is made, and various people and (especially) politicians now looking to dump massive liability on the platforms themselves. If they turn their system into a protocol, they actually get rid of much of that headache. There will still be questions about content moderation, but it becomes a very different problem -- one to where there can be many different approaches, with competition at the filter level. We didn't used to blame email providers for spam, but thanks to the open protocols of email, it allowed all sorts of innovative spam filtering services to spring up. Given how much of a headache content moderation and platform liability has become of late -- and the fact it's likely to become an even bigger headache over time -- at some point, companies are going to realize an open protocols approach is a solution to that problem.
  3. The possibility of new business models. This is important. Lots of people insist that no giant platform would willingly give up so much control, because it's entirely antithetical to business models built off of collecting all the data. And that's true. But, that's why I'm eager to see how new business models shake out in this space, because it might lessen the "we collect all your data" business model reliance and open up new opportunities that could even be more lucrative (especially if they create opportunities where people start abandoning services that don't respect their privacy).
There still are plenty of reasons why the big platforms are unlikely to do this in the near future (and I'm pretty sure a clueless Wall St. would punish any company that tried), but as various trends continue to move along, it may become more and more appealing.

Notice that all of that could very well happen without a massive policy intervention from the government. However, there are certainly policy ideas that could help move this along a lot faster. Of course, moving these policy proposals forward would require a more detailed understanding of how technology and technology innovation really works, because the key isn't enforcing breakups or trying to codify "fairness" guidelines with new rules -- it's taking away some of the existing legal and regulatory tools that make it easy and appealing to build vertically-integrated walled gardens, which aren't always obvious to people who aren't immersed in the tech policy space since they are presented as having other purposes:

  1. Get rid of most patents (if we're talking real antitrust, we'd start by getting rid of these government-granted monopolies). Perhaps you could start with "software" ones, though defining what is a "software" patent is hard enough. Patents hinder competition and would create huge problematic thickets in a world of protocols where we want widespread competition at every other level. Without patent thickets and patent trolls, we'd see a lot more competition, especially in taking different approaches to providing interfaces and filters for the same kinds of content.
  2. Dump the ridiculous CAFC ruling on API copyrights and make it clear that there is not copyright on interfaces, meaning that you could actually have much more interoperability and people building new systems to connect to third party products.
  3. Get rid of Section 1201 of the DMCA and its anti-circumvention rules. Again, this blocks competition and interoperability. Indeed, Section 1201 is a huge barrier to this kind of future, in that it would allow companies to effectively block out competitive third party services through "technological protection measures." Without 1201, it would make it much easier for almost anyone to create a new competitive interface for an existing protocol-based service.
  4. Make sure that full encryption is supported as a fundamental right of end users. This becomes important, as a protocol-based system should also lead to a booming new market for databanks that will store your encrypted data, giving you total control over it and who it is shared with (and for what purposes). But if there are mandated backdoors or some other crap, you completely destroy such a market. Encryption makes this possible.
  5. Get the SEC to stop thinking of cryptocurrency as just a financial tool and to recognize it's something entirely different. Sure, you need them to deal with the out-and-out scams, but as it stands right now, the SEC is talking about crazy ideas like how any crypto system should need to go through "clinical trials" like drugs. Ideas like that would simply snuff out any possibility of the above ever happening. People don't realize how much of this future may be held back by a myopic SEC who is viewing all of this through a single lens.
There's more, but those steps would open up a lot of opportunity for a protocols-based system to take hold. And when it really happens, no one's going to worry about "breaking up" big tech anymore, because it won't even be necessary.

Filed Under: big tech, competition, copyright, elizabeth warren, encryption, end users, filters, innovation, interoperability, patents, platforms, protocols
Companies: facebook, google


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  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 8:57am

    Get the SEC to stop thinking of cryptocurrency as just a financial tool and to recognize it's something entirely different. Sure, you need them to deal with the out-and-out scams, but as it stands right now, the SEC is talking about crazy ideas like how any crypto system should need to go through "clinical trials" like drugs. Ideas like that would simply snuff out any possibility of the above ever happening. People don't realize how much of this future may be held back by a myopic SEC who is viewing all of this through a single lens.

    Sorry, but this is completely wrong.

    I've heard all the hype about how blockchain will supposedly revolutionize all sorts of different industries, but there's nothing to any of it. Blockchain technology was developed specifically for Bitcoin, and for various technical reasons, that's the only thing it really works for at all. For any other application other than a virtual currency, anything you can do with a blockchain you can also do (and do orders of magnitude faster and more efficiently) with a database.

    That's what a blockchain fundamentally is: a very slow database. It has to be slow because that's necessary to establish a "proof of work" system that's not easily susceptible to fraud, and it has to have a proof of work system in order to make its tokens valuable as a virtual currency. That currency application is the keystone of the whole thing; remove it and the rest of the architecture comes crumbling down and all you have left is a database that's very slow for no good reason. So it really is "just a financial tool."

    As for "crazy ideas" like putting cryptocurrency through rigorous "clinical trials," just have a look around the world of crypto! Not a week goes by without news of something going horribly wrong and costing people millions. Outright scams, hacks that steal massive amounts of coins, exchanges becoming insolvent because the founder died and took the master password to his grave, we've seen it all, and we keep on seeing it over and over and over again. It's getting to the point where it's not that big an exaggeration to say that the idea of cryptocurrency itself ought to be regarded as a scam and nothing more. So right now, the idea of a SEC program that "would simply snuff out any possibility of [new crypto developments] ever happening" is starting to look like a pretty good idea, and not a myopic one at all.

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    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 9:18am

      Re:

      "So right now, the idea of a SEC program that "would simply snuff out any possibility of [new crypto developments] ever happening" is starting to look like a pretty good idea, and not a myopic one at all."

      Except when one considers the potential for some government bureaucracy testing something effectively. Given regulatory capture, soft money campaign contributions, etc., the question isn't could, or would some outside influence try to drive the tests one way or another, but how far they would be driven.

      Then there is the question of the SEC understanding blockchain (I certainly don't) sufficiently to propose tests that would actually cover all the possibilities of issues, or the advent of newer technology that might mitigate whatever they come up with.

      I have little faith.

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    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 9:28am

      Re:

      I think you're looking at this via a very narrow lens, and not at some of the more interesting projects out there. If you haven't looked at things like IPFS and various projects that are now using it, you're missing out. There are some really interesting opportunities there to build a much more distributed system that is economically sustainable without surveillance.

      That's what a blockchain fundamentally is: a very slow database. It has to be slow because that's necessary to establish a "proof of work" system that's not easily susceptible to fraud, and it has to have a proof of work system in order to make its tokens valuable as a virtual currency. That currency application is the keystone of the whole thing; remove it and the rest of the architecture comes crumbling down and all you have left is a database that's very slow for no good reason. So it really is "just a financial tool."

      This may have been true historically, but there are people attacking each of these issues individually, and I think that many of the upcoming innovations will make you regret this paragraph.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 9:43am

      Re:

      Not a week goes by without news of something going horribly wrong and costing people millions.

      I think you know that is a ludicrous exaggeration. There have been a few high profile problems, but people are not losing millions every week.

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      • icon
        Mason Wheeler (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 9:52am

        Re: Re:

        I think you know that is a ludicrous exaggeration.

        No, it's really not. Not all of the problems end up getting enough press to become "high-profile," but they do keep occurring over and over and over again on a distressingly common basis.

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        • icon
          James Burkhardt (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 10:08am

          Re: Re: Re:

          No, it's really not. Not all of the problems end up getting enough press to become "high-profile," but they do keep occurring over and over and over again on a distressingly common basis.

          distressingly common =/= weekly, nor does your assertion do anything to establish that it is 'millions' lost weekly. If millions are not lost every week, then yes, your post would appear to be a hyperbolic exaggeration. Its a common rhetorical device, and its use is often expected on the internet. You could have claimed that it was possible your phrasing was hyperbolic, and claimed the argumentation high ground. Alternatively, You could have cited some reports, something to back up your claim that millions are lost from scams weekly, and claimed the Rhetorical high ground. Merely restating that your position is true does little to convince me your position is accurate.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 10:11am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Then by that standard, isn't it more urgent to declare plastic payment cards "a scam and nothing more"? 2018 saw some $9-billion in payment card fraud in the US alone - that's $173-million a week.

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          • icon
            Thad (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 10:15am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            But the fundamental difference between a credit card and cryptocurrency is that the former relies on a central authority with the power to refund money in the case of fraud.

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 10:17am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Sure, though the decentralization rather undermines the idea that Bitcoin itself could be labelled, in its totality, "a scam" too doesn't it?

              I'm not actually arguing that it's a good comparison - I'm just highlighting that vaguely saying "there is lots of fraud! every week!" with no actual discussion of relative quantity or frequency isn't much of a case for dismissing an entire technology.

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              • icon
                Thad (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 10:32am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Sure, though the decentralization rather undermines the idea that Bitcoin itself could be labelled, in its totality, "a scam" too doesn't it?

                I don't think a central authority is necessary to define a scam, but I think we're beginning to get sidetracked by semantics.

                I'm not actually arguing that it's a good comparison - I'm just highlighting that vaguely saying "there is lots of fraud! every week!" with no actual discussion of relative quantity or frequency isn't much of a case for dismissing an entire technology.

                I think Mason may be exaggerating, but I also think his overall point is sound. Cryptocurrencies as we know them are wasteful, volatile, and not nearly as secure or anonymous as their defenders say they are.

                And Mike doesn't even seem to be disputing those points; he's merely saying that the blockchain has potential to be used for more productive purposes in the future.

                I think I fall somewhere in-between Mason's certainty and Mike's optimism. I'm not ready to say it's impossible that blockchain can be put to productive use that bears little resemblance to its current function -- but neither have I seen convincing evidence that it will.

                Mike's mention of IPFS has piqued my interest. I'll read up on it and see if it changes my mind.

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                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 10:41am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Well sure. But I still reject the idea that it's "a scam and nothing more" and the proposal that it might be "a pretty good idea" for the SEC to step in and snuff out the technology in the US entirely, which is what Mason proposed.

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              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 12:02pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                And credit card users pay for that refund, as it is built into card companies take of the transactions.

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          • icon
            Mason Wheeler (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 10:52am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Then by that standard, isn't it more urgent to declare plastic payment cards "a scam and nothing more"? 2018 saw some $9-billion in payment card fraud in the US alone - that's $173-million a week.

            No, because with payment cards, the "and nothing more" isn't there.

            If we're talking about "2018... in the US alone", 2018 US GDP was around 20.5 trillion dollars. Consumer spending probably accounted for somewhere around 70% of that or around $14.35T. Let's pretend, just for the sake of this discussion, that only half of that takes place with cards, and that that's all of the card transactions; that business and government spending are all performed purely with cash, wire transfers, etc. (Obviously neither of these points are true, but I don't have hard data so I'm going for deliberately low values.) This gives us an unrealistically low estimate of around $7.2T as the size of the "payment card economy" in the US for 2018.

            This makes the $9 billion in fraud represent approximately 0.13% of the total payment card economy. In other words, it's statistically negligible. With Bitcoin, on the other hand, there is no trillion-dollar economy. There's barely an economy at all!

            Think about it. When was the last time you heard about crypto financial transactions for anything other than people using it on the dark web for illicit dealings or hackers demanding cryptocurrency as payment for ransomware removal? (Speculators buying and selling it like stocks doesn't count; we're talking about cryptocurrency being used as a currency here, not as a commodity.) The size of the "cryptocurrency economy," not counting crime--which is a fair comparison as it's typically excluded from GDP calculations--is essentially zero.

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            • icon
              CrushU (profile), 13 Mar 2019 @ 1:22pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              (Speculators buying and selling it like stocks doesn't count; we're talking about cryptocurrency being used as a currency here, not as a commodity.)

              Critical Argument Error: False Choice

              (That is, if you're going to claim that you shouldn't look at transactions by speculators, yet proclaim the millions lost by speculators is the main problem with the system, your argument is counterproductive.)

              I do think it is very likely that the total percentage of losses in the "cryptocurrency economy", including speculator transactions, is higher than 0.13%. Thus, I am confused why you shot a hole in your own argument.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 10:08am

      Re:

      The genius of Bitcoin was not in creating the first distributed database or virtual currency—some had existed before—but in getting people to run it and keep running it, and in popularizing the ideas. The deflationary structure was key to the first point, but selecting for greed brings a lot of scammers as well. Now, there's been enough publicity and funding that we're finding different ways to use the technology.

      There are closed groups like SWIFT and VISA that could benefit from some decentralization, and whose members could be relied upon to keep running nodes without currency creation. Governments could benefit from Merkle trees (for signing laws or large property transfers, and as a general timestamping service) but weren't interested until it was hyped as "blockchain".

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  • icon
    Bamboo Harvester (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 9:49am

    was really just because I "love big tech."

    Nonsense. It's because you're a google shill who writes all these comments in your spare time...

    /s

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    identicon
    Yet Another Large Low-Shear-Velocity Province, 12 Mar 2019 @ 9:56am

    We disagree. Your "innovation" always requires NO regulation.

    the single biggest driver of innovation is competition.

    What you write begins promising (I'm writing as read, and KNOW that you're going to end up arguing for the status quo of letting these mega-corporations go on without any substantive change):

    I want to see more competition

    AND there it is! Next sentence, you SWITCH TO worry about FUTURE RISKS rather than the KNOWN PROBLEMS:

    My issue is that doing so through regulatory means is fraught with significant risks

    Okay, I've got the gist.

    YOUR BOTTOM LINE: DON'T ACTUALLY REGULATE! BABY AND BATH WATER!

    MY BOTTOM LINE: IF WANT COMPETITION, MUST BREAK UP THE BIG ONES. NO OTHER WAY HAS EVER WORKED OR CAN.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 10:13am

      Re: We disagree. Your "innovation" always requires NO

      I'm glad you've just moved on to admitting you don't bother reading.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 10:23am

      Re: We disagree. Your "innovation" always requires NO regulation

      MY BOTTOM LINE: IF WANT COMPETITION, MUST BREAK UP THE BIG ONES. NO OTHER WAY HAS EVER WORKED OR CAN

      How did that work out after breaking up the Bell monopoly?

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 10:38am

      Re: We disagree. Your "innovation" always requires NO regulation

      What is it about this site that attracts the crazies?

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 12:26pm

      Re: We disagree. Your "innovation" always requires NO regulation

      I'm writing as read

      Then maybe you should shut up until you read the entire article instead of assuming you know what he's talking about based on one sentence you took entirely out of context.

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    • icon
      Gwiz (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 2:10pm

      Re:

      MY BOTTOM LINE: IF WANT COMPETITION, MUST BREAK UP THE BIG ONES. NO OTHER WAY HAS EVER WORKED OR CAN.

      You have been ranting about this on this site for years, but still have not put forth any valid ideas on HOW this should be done, Blue. At least Mike is presenting his ideas and not just shouting "Break them up!".

      I know you have tossed out the idea of taxing companies that get "too big" at 90 some-odd percent, but have never clarified what is to be considered "too big". You have also never addressed the fact that such a tax rate would simply be a "success tax" that would stifle the natural growth of companies in order to remain below your arbitrary threshold.

      Come on Blue, you criticize others for not having substance to their comments, so lets hear your grandiose ideas on this.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 6:31pm

        Re: Re:

        I've been waiting for years as to what his proposal for breaking up the RIAA and its representatives is. Same for helping artists avoid getting screwed over by Hollywood accounting.

        The only proposal he's ever given is "Well, I would rather the RIAA get rich over Google, so I'm going to get on my knees and work as their unpaid fluffer intern even if they cut off my oxygen supply".

        It's worn very thin.

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        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 9:55pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Oh that's not the only answer that's been given, I've also seen plenty of victim blaming, where a story of a label/studio ripping off creators would be posted and the response would be 'Hey, they should have read the contract better/they knew what they were getting into and had it coming!'

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2019 @ 3:15am

      Re:

      By the way, Japan just canceled having jail time for pirates as part of their law.

      Sucks to be you, blue boy!

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  • icon
    Thad (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 10:19am

    I don't agree with everything here -- you seem to dismiss the possibility of breaking up horizontally-integrated companies out of hand, and while I agree with your point that it wouldn't solve all the problems with Google and Amazon's market dominance, it would at least help mitigate them -- but on the whole, I think this is a pretty solid roadmap.

    Maybe somebody should send a link to the Warren campaign.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 12:08pm

      Re:

      Breaking up a horizontal company that someone has built up is punishing them for being successful, and almost impossible to do without destroying why they grew to be so successful.

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      • icon
        Mason Wheeler (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 12:17pm

        Re: Re:

        No, breaking them up would be punishing them for being abusive, which is a highly desirable thing in civilized society. (It's basically half of what people generally have in mind when they discuss the concept of "justice.") And if being abusive is how they grew to be so successful, then by all means, let's destroy that!

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 12:41pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Define abusive then.

          Breaking up a successful horizontal company just because they are a successful horizontal company is not a good reason to do it. If you can provide evidence and proof that they have used their market dominance to actively hurt other competition (and I'm not saying they haven't), then yes, that's a legitimate reason to do so.

          But that's not what Warren and her ilk are saying. They just don't like that companies like Amazon and Google are good at what they do and got big and successful because of it. (Again, I'm not saying there is no abuse, I'm only talking about their core business offerings, same as Warren) It's no different than blaming Google News for the decreased revenue of traditional newspapers. It's a lack of understanding of how these companies work and why they are successful in the first place.

          Back to Mike's examples, how would you break up Google Search? Or the Amazon Marketplace? Google Search dominates the market because it provides the best, most relevant results when people search. Similarly, Amazon Marketplace provides the best, easiest, most inclusive online shopping platform you can find. They literally have everything and you can buy direct from the manufacturer or from resellers on there. How do you break that up without completely ruining the company?

          Sure you could split off Video, Music, Kindle, etc..., but none of those are abusive, or prevent other competing services from operating. Instead they are a huge value add. For $99 a year, I can get free shipping, tons of movies, music, and ebooks. None of that is abusive, that's innovation. Nothing is preventing other companies from copying the same business model, and some are.

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          • icon
            Thad (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 1:25pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I'm not saying there is no abuse

            Then I think your argument is five paragraphs of a moot point.

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 1:50pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              I disagree. I don't know if there is market abuse or not. Frankly it wouldn't surprise me if there was, but no one is pointing at that.

              No one is saying "Hey look, XYZ company blocked this other competitor from building a service just like theirs because they control the access to that market!".

              No, instead, the only thing people like Warren are saying is "Hey, XYZ company is really big and we don't think that's a good thing but we can't point to any hard data that shows they are stopping other companies from competing with them. But they are really big so they must be!".

              Give me some evidence that shows that they are actively preventing competitors from entering the same marketspace and we can talk. But no one has said anything even remotely close to this. It's just been this nebulous "Well, they're big and the most popular so they must be a monopoly that needs to be broken up!", which is a horrible basis for enforcing antitrust.

              If you want to talk about abuse of people's personal/private data, that's a valid and legitimate topic of concern, but it's also an entirely different discussion and has absolutely nothing to do with abusing their market dominance to block other companies from competing with them.

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              • icon
                Thad (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 2:39pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Frankly it wouldn't surprise me if there was, but no one is pointing at that.

                Have you read the Medium article? She makes multiple references to Facebook buying up competitors, Amazon undercutting sellers with its own brands, and other examples she describes as anticompetitive.

                You may not agree with those examples or find them convincing, which is fair enough. But you're suggesting she's not making that argument at all, or providing any examples to support it, and that's flatly wrong.

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                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 3:03pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Amazon undercutting sellers with its own brands, and other examples she describes as anticompetitive.

                  Does that mean that places like Walmart should no longer be able to sell their own brand on the same shelves as their competition?

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                  • icon
                    Thad (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 3:34pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    If you're the same anon I've been talking to, then you're moving the goalposts; see the last two sentences of my previous post.

                    If you're a different anon, then that's a perfectly fair criticism of Warren's argument against Amazon Basics, and I'd be very interested in seeing someone ask her that question and finding out what her answer would be.

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                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 3:21pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  In my defense, no I did not read the Medium article, partially because I didn't know it existed until now, partly because I failed to follow the link in the article when I read it the first time. I had read other articles that were more general than that.

                  You may not agree with those examples or find them convincing, which is fair enough.

                  I am definitely going to go with this.

                  Of the examples you state, none of those seem particularly "anti-competitive" to me. At least, not without also calling other industries who do the exact same thing anti-competitive and calling for reforms there too. Many department stores carry their own brands, especially in clothing lines, right alongside other name brands at cheaper prices. Nobody screams at them for being anti-competitive.

                  And truthfully, that's not really anti-competitive. Anyone can do that in any marketspace, look at what everyone else is selling and at what price point, and bring a similar product to market at a cheaper price point. That's actually pretty competitive.

                  Facebook buying up competitors

                  I could maybe give her this one, but still, those competitors they bought weren't really a 1-1 feature parity, or even similar offering.

                  But you're suggesting she's not making that argument at all, or providing any examples to support it, and that's flatly wrong.

                  Fair enough. As I said, I hadn't read the medium article which apparently goes into more detail than other articles I read. Though now that I think about it, I guess I do remember something about the Amazon thing.

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                  • icon
                    Thad (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 3:54pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    Of the examples you state, none of those seem particularly "anti-competitive" to me. At least, not without also calling other industries who do the exact same thing anti-competitive and calling for reforms there too. Many department stores carry their own brands, especially in clothing lines, right alongside other name brands at cheaper prices. Nobody screams at them for being anti-competitive.

                    Yeah, that one seems fairly weak to me, too. If Amazon is actually selling its products at a loss and making up the money elsewhere (Prime subscriptions, AWS, etc.), I could see how that might be considered an abuse of its market dominance, but if that's what she's implying, she's not at all clear about it.

                    I could maybe give her this one, but still, those competitors they bought weren't really a 1-1 feature parity, or even similar offering.

                    Perhaps not, but Facebook losing customers to Instagram is presumably a much lower concern now that they're the same company.

                    At any rate, I think we're a lot closer to being on the same page now -- I think there are some real problems with the Medium article and the examples Warren uses in it, but at least she has made some arguments about what those companies are doing that she believes warrants splitting them up.

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  • identicon
    Anonmylous, 12 Mar 2019 @ 10:38am

    Nope, but please read.

    If you make new protocols, all you will get is new platforms built on them. You knock the problem apart for a short time but then it comes back stronger than ever. Its barking up the wrong tree.

    The reason the tech sector has become the land of Behemoths is that the SEC has failed to do its job, and so have the FTC and Congress. Regardless of public or privately held, a company of a certain size SHOULD suffer intense scrutiny from regulators when buying up other businesses. And. They. Have. Not. They all still buy companies left and right and no one is looking to see if these are anti-competitive moves, or expanding into new markets and how that can affect the overall markets they move into. Just file a paper with the SEC and watch the clock run out, boom, you just bought your main rival in the instant messaging space.

    Simply make the SEC, FTC, and Congress do their jobs. This is one of those instances where more regulation IS the answer. This is another of those instances where tech-ignorance is not an excuse as this has little to do with the tech and much to do with markets and market forces.

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    • icon
      Thad (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 10:44am

      Re: Nope, but please read.

      Simply make the SEC, FTC, and Congress do their jobs.

      Oh, is that all.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 10:50am

      Re: Nope, but please read.

      If you make new protocols, all you will get is new platforms built on them. You knock the problem apart for a short time but then it comes back stronger than ever. Its barking up the wrong tree.

      New platforms "built on them" are fine. There are lots and lots of platforms built on the protocols that power email, or the web, or bittorrent - but none of them are monopolies, and none are walled gardens, because they are based on open, interoperable protocols. Inasmuch as some have attempted to wall themselves up, they are only empowered to do so by laws that allow them to render violations of their EULA or circumventions of their DRM as illegal acts.

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      • icon
        Thad (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 10:57am

        Re: Re: Nope, but please read.

        There are lots and lots of platforms built on the protocols that power email, or the web, or bittorrent - but none of them are monopolies, and none are walled gardens, because they are based on open, interoperable protocols.

        I'm...pretty sure there are some walled gardens built on the web.

        Inasmuch as some have attempted to wall themselves up, they are only empowered to do so by laws that allow them to render violations of their EULA or circumventions of their DRM as illegal acts.

        I don't know if that's the only thing that empowers them to do so, but it certainly helps them.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 11:09am

          Re: Re: Re: Nope, but please read.

          I'm...pretty sure there are some walled gardens built on the web.

          Yes, but there aren't walled webs, at least not of any significance. There's no problem with a world wide web monopoly, or large anticompetitive world wide webs. That practice died after the early AOL days. That's what I mean (and I realize it's difficult to be clear about this stuff when everything is a stack of multiple layers of both protocol and platform).

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 11:53am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Nope, but please read.

            Yes, but there aren't walled webs, at least not of any significance.

            What's the distinction you're making? Facebook certainly seems at lot like a "walled web", with pages that are inaccessible to non-members and are hyperlinked to each other.

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 12:12pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nope, but please read.

              Well, you can access Facebook via any web browser, you can locate facebook.com via any DNS server, a URL to a page on facebook is completely standardized for everyone in every interface, etc.

              It's easy to forget how incredibly powerful and consistent these core protocols are - and how much work they do under the surface of every single thing you do online - precisely because of how seamless, fundamental, and open they are.

              So yes, people can always try to build new layers on top of existing protocols, and can try to wall those layers in. But that is very different from saying the problem "comes back stronger than ever". Perhaps the problem re-emerges, around a new set of online activities and internet functions, and there will need to be a continued push to incorporate those functions into open protocols. But that's still superior to simply resigning to the idea that everything new will always be proprietary platforms, and just trying to limit how big those platforms can get.

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 12:59pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nope, but please read.

              What's the distinction you're making?

              The distinction is between a closed platform dedicated to a single purpose, and open protocols that enable anyone to make use of that purpose in any way they want. It's the difference between sending someone a PM on a forum or sending them an email.

              Facebook certainly seems at lot like a "walled web",

              Based on your definition, technically it is. But that's not really accurate or the best definition. You can only browse Facebook pages from within Facebook's "walled web". You can't browse outside to say www.starwars.com; you could visit their Facebook page but that doesn't have the same content as their website.

              The web is not walled, not in any way of significance, as he stated. You can use your browser of choice to browse to your website of choice. It's just some websites may require you to become a member before viewing all their content. But that's not the same as having a walled web. That's more akin to a private club. The analogy here would be purchasing your preferred make and model of car and driving around town to different businesses. The cars, roads, and land property are all open protocols, once you enter a business that becomes a closed platform and it gets to set it's own internal rules and access.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 10:56am

    I am curious how or if a protocol-based approach could address Amazon's dominance via AWS.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 12:04pm

      Re:

      If protocols for creating and controlling virtual machines were standardized, and they used those, their dominance might not be a problem. Ie. people would be using them because they're the best (by some measure), not because of lock-in; if that changes, click a few buttons and move to a competitor.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 11:45am

    Berners-Lee said this recently:

    Governments must translate laws and regulations for the digital age. They must ensure markets remain competitive, innovative and open. And they have a responsibility to protect people’s rights and freedoms online. We need open web champions within government — civil servants and elected officials who will take action when private sector interests threaten the public good and who will stand up to protect the open web.

    Companies must do more to ensure their pursuit of short-term profit is not at the expense of human rights, democracy, scientific fact or public safety. Platforms and products must be designed with privacy, diversity and security in mind. This year, we’ve seen a number of tech employees stand up and demand better business practices. We need to encourage that spirit.

    And most important of all, citizens must hold companies and governments accountable for the commitments they make, and demand that both respect the web as a global community with citizens at its heart. If we don’t elect politicians who defend a free and open web, if we don’t do our part to foster constructive healthy conversations online, if we continue to click consent without demanding our data rights be respected, we walk away from our responsibility to put these issues on the priority agenda of our governments.
    https://webfoundation.org/2019/03/web-birthday-30/

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 11:55am

      Re:

      Tim Berners Lee talking about "private sector interests threaten[ing] the public good" and "protect[ing] the open web" is rich considering what he did with HTML5 DRM.

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  • icon
    ECA (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 11:51am

    Big interent..

    Iv made my opinion known about how we need to treat the internet.. Let it be considered an separate state from all the other nations.

    Most of you have been on the internet for along time and watched all the BS, challenges, fighting, Choices, advances, changes, that have happened. All of those still alive have gone threw hell to keep things working.

    How much Spam, popups, Background popups, and other Crap have we waded threw, to have what is 1/2 stable. And we still worry about CRAP building up. Some of the safe sites are porn sites, now days...(mostly). Which is strange as they were some of the Worst, BECAUSE, they were also the biggest advertisers.. Then the Advertisers went to the Major sites, Including MSN..(I have a story about 18 bots and 4 Virus from MSN). No one is truly safe from the CRAP on the net.(thank you TD). Iv even told a few sites a dirty trick about Doing the adverts themselves, insted of using a 3rd party.

    The great thing about the internet is Competition..ALLOT of it. There is always someone trying to make something better, something different. If we can keep the major corps OUT of sueing everyone, it might be an interesting place. LET the corps create their OWN sites. But they dont see that idea as viable. they want money to do nothing, let others create the environments and then TAKE the money. We lost allot of great sources that WANTEd to be legal in hte past, but corps JUST decided to Sue everyone to TRY and keep control over what they THINK they had.

    The internet Needs 1 more thing. and it Aint Politics..That the Larger corps get together and make a few Self regulations for the WHOLE... DECIDE to be an independent nation.
    Yes you can split it up for certain negotiations..Like China and others, but the NEt needs its own rules. yes, they will probably be Very much LIKE all the other nations with Good/bad/underground/ this that and the others... But another thing Iv said, is that its No worse then what we have in real life.. IF WILL Happen on the net as it does in real life. you cant Stop humans from being HUMAN.. but AS we do in real life, it can be watched and tracked..IF YOU KNOW HOW..

    If the major Internet corps dont gather and work together and Even help the rest of the world...The rest of the world will try to stomp and hide things just as they try to do in real life..

    Good luck internet.

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  • identicon
    Sok Puppette, 12 Mar 2019 @ 11:53am

    One more thing: invalidate any ToS that requires the user to use any particular client, not to interact with a service in an automated way, etc. Make aggregators and gateways clearly legal as a matter of public policy.

    That lets the existing systems deflate instead of continuing to run on the momentum of their network effects.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 12:24pm

      Re:

      Yeah -- Mike actually missed a point 6 in trimming CFAA liability back using a standard that actually matches what authentication/authorization technology permits, instead of being malleable to the point where manual, post hoc decisions can be used to threaten liability.

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    • icon
      ECA (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 5:45pm

      Re:

      lets just say..
      That a Corp Newspaper does NOT need to broadcast news on the NET....they can send the info they have to the Other newspapers.. there are other services.
      Use something other then the net. THEN you can keep it private, and sell more news papers..

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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 12:04pm

    The basic idea of having most services act like protocols seems to me pretty much the heart of the issue if we are to keep having an open, world wide web. I also believe that the blockchain models will play fundamental roles in enabling decentralized authentication systems (I imagine this would be very useful regarding cryptographic certificates, the CAs we rely on for https today).

    While I'm skeptical of some of your suggestions I do think you are right in the protocols part. Hope this future comes soon, it certainly is a good part of the old internet days we should have maintained and improved.

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    • icon
      tom a sparks (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 9:58pm

      Re:

      the problem with blockchain storage and transferring:

      • 7 billion people
      • 256 characters for a domain name
      • 2 bytes per character for Unicode

      (7,000,000,000x256)x2 byte = 3.58400 terabytes of storage and the blockchain has to be transferred within 2 minutes window or the node is out of sync with the network

      25.08800 zettabytes of data to transfer globally to 7 billion people

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  • icon
    teknosapien (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 1:15pm

    this is not the first time in history this has been proposed

    the US has a habit of breaking up large enterprises.
    With each breakup there was a flourish of new industries popping up
    We saw it with Standard oil spawned new competition. The breakup of Bell, produced new "baby" bells.entrepreneurs
    with each instance there is a new group if aspiring entrepreneurs creating new businesses and opportunity

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    • icon
      Gwiz (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 2:25pm

      Re: this is not the first time in history this has been proposed

      In both of your examples it worked for a little while but eventually went right back being huge companies controlling the majority of the markets. The small oil companies eventually merged or were bought out to become ExxonMobil and all the little phone companies eventually became AT&T.

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    • icon
      Thad (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 2:42pm

      Re: this is not the first time in history this has been proposed

      The breakup of Bell, produced new "baby" bells.entrepreneurs

      The Baby Bells weren't "new industries popping up" or "entrepeneurs"; they were the smaller companies that Bell was broken up into.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 2:27pm

    1. Manditory FOSS hardware/software including all firmware. -this is the ONLY way to insure #4

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 2:34pm

      Re:

      The government would have a hard time enforcing this for everyone, but just the administration alone could make some big strides by increasingly mandating FOSS where it has power: first for all its internal hardware and software, then for companies that receive public investment and for contractors that do government work. That would represent a huge injection of cash, talent and market confidence in the FOSS world.

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

      • icon
        Thad (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 2:44pm

        Re: Re:

        I'm a firm believer that if my tax dollars go toward developing source code, then I should have access to that source code.

        I believe that works authored by the federal government are automatically public domain, but of course that's not necessarily the case for contractors.

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    • icon
      Mason Wheeler (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 2:47pm

      Re:

      Mandatory within what bounds?

      I've spent my whole career as a programmer, and none of the software I've written professionally has had any competition from the FOSS realm, because it's all been highly domain-specific stuff that's for very specific business users who are not programmers.

      Open-source software tends to get written for one of two use cases. Either tools that programmers build because they personally find it useful, or stuff that appeals to a very broad, general-audience user base (web browsers and games, for example.) If it doesn't fall into one of these two categories, the odds that an open-source project to cover it will even exist at all are extremely narrow.

      So hopefully you aren't calling for a "general ban" on non-open-source software, because in practice this would equate to a ban on 90% of all software, period. But if not, what specifically do you want to mandate here?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2019 @ 6:21am

        Re: Re:

        It's also not at all unheard of for custom-software customers to receive (or have escrowed) the source code as part of the development contract.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2019 @ 5:34pm

        Re: Re:

        "what specifically do you want to mandate here?"

        Good question. I don't have a good answer to how the transition could/would/should happen. And yes I would call for an outright general ban/ forced opensourcing, hardware and software- as that really IS the only way security can be anything more then theater and false trust.

        You can have a provably secure OS, provably secure programs, provable encryption...etc But the whole house of cards comes tumbling down when your blackbox management hardware gets hacked. Post 2013 systems ALL have management hardware built in; Cell phones have baseband that is controlled by the phone company, and can scrape ram. There's no such thing as a secure computer in an absolute sense, and at this rate, there never will be.

        It's very hard to imagine how to get there from where we're at now, much less how to do it in a way that de-fangs and de-consolidates the unjust forces, while not screwing over the individual. I'm not sure I have enough insight to give a good answer to this.

        If we ever want trustworthy computers- or genuine property rights at all in the future- FOSS is the only real path. It's far from a panacea, obviously- just less evil and wrong then the alternative. Code has more affect then law in our daily lives, and companies are not bound by the constitution= one of these things needs to change; FOSS seams the better, more freedom respecting angle...

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 2:47pm

    Isn't USENET essentially a blockchain for message posting?

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2019 @ 6:33pm

    My issue is that doing so through regulatory means is fraught with significant risks -- ones that could very much do the opposite. Highly regulated industries are not known for being competitive and innovative for the most part.

    "See? SEE?! I told you he was a fan of more regulation!" screamed Chip from his armchair.

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  • identicon
    Glenn, 12 Mar 2019 @ 8:31pm

    "Tech" becomes "big [tech]" by people using it--a lot (and being happy to do so). The fact that some less than happy people grumble loudly about it doesn't change the fact that a huge majority keep on being happy to use them. Much of the "happiness" might stem from there being no [monetary] charge for this use, not that there aren't any trade-offs; but people accept them, too--by choice. Promises to "break up big tech" are really just threats to take away something that people in large numbers have decided they want. So, grandstanding politicians (like Trump and Warren--peas in a pod here) should get a clue (ha, dream on, right?) and keep the hell out of the choices that people have already made and will continue to make on their own. The people we--the public--really need protection from are the rights holders (like the Hollywood studios) who keep trying to steal more and more of our rights for themselves. And corrupt lawmakers just keep giving them everything they want.

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  • icon
    morganwick (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 8:38pm

    Reminds me of Steven Pemberton's vision of "Web 3.0" I encountered ten years ago: http://www.w3.org/2009/Talks/01-15-steven-website/ In his eyes, the next evolution of the Web should have been built around individual web sites with machine-readable data that could be scooped up by individual apps. Realistically, it would have been near-impossible to get millions of people to start their own web pages from scratch that weren't themselves built on centralized platforms like Tumblr or Facebook (which is why to the extent his vision came to pass it was limited to aggregating large corporate sites like in the Google and Apple News apps), but the more general notion of decentralizing the web was and remains a valid one, and you're getting at what may be a more practical approach to it.

    I do have a couple of concerns, however: first, since Usenet eventually dwindled away to irrelevance, how do you ensure the new "protocols" wouldn't similarly be abandoned in favor of new "platforms"? Second, and this may be something you've addressed in previous posts, some sites could be "protocol-ized" more easily than others. It's easy to see how, say, Twitter could be protocol-ized, harder with something like Amazon. But what about something like Google? I don't see room for a middle ground between everyone at least relying on Google's search algorithm and creating full-on competitors that have nothing to do with it.

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    • icon
      tom a sparks (profile), 12 Mar 2019 @ 9:21pm

      Re:

      Realistically, it would have been near-impossible to get millions of people to start their own web pages

      "A: There are historical precedents for this question:

      Is everyone going to want to run their own personal computer?
      Is everyone going to want to run their own (cell) phone (number)?
      The answer used to be no, until it became obvious that the answer was yes.

      Currently not everyone wants to run their own website, partially because it's not clear why, and partially because there's no one-click-install for the IndieWeb. We're solving both of those problems.

      For now, those who want to run their own sites can, and those who don't want to don't have to.

      There will be network effects (e.g. with peer-to-peer federated indieweb comments) as more people do so in the future. But the great thing is that if you are publishing on your own site, you are getting an immediate benefit out of it now (extra control and flexibility), and are still syndicating to existing social network silos like Twitter and Facebook." - https://indieweb.org/FAQ#Is_everyone_going_to_want_to_run_their_own_website

      have a look at the indieweb project

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

      • icon
        morganwick (profile), 13 Mar 2019 @ 4:28am

        Re: Re:

        Interesting, but the rest of that sentence is important: building web pages completely independently from centralized platforms would realistically involve paying for a domain (relatively cheap but hardly free) and hosting (which often comes with the domain or vice-versa, but if you don't want to be entangled with particular companies you probably want it separate from the domain, and that's significantly more expensive). That effectively raises the barrier to entry and makes it the province of the relatively well-off. Is it possible to create something that people of all means can use to quickly and easily create an online presence using whatever protocols and standards they wish that gives the user complete control of their data and presence? More realistic is probably incorporating decentralized protocols in a number of blog platforms and free host sites, and making it as easy as possible to port from one to another.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2019 @ 5:10am

      Re:

      Protocol based systems have their limitations, especially if the expectation is to federate millions of sites. They either end up as lots of small islands with few interconnections, or a few large hub sites come into existence.

      Email has remained distributed because it is a one to one system, and it is not too hard for a person to maintain there own address book of people and organizations that they deal with.

      Twitter on the other hand is a many to many system, where the message originator does not control the recipients. This does not work well a a highly distributed network because there are too many nodes to realistically interconnect directly, or via lots of one hop relay nodes. Also, a node that gains a lot of followers also gains a high bandwidth demand because of the nodes trying to connect to it.

      The other problem with highly distributed systems, is searchability, which becomes dependent on a centralized external search engine, as the system probably does not have a complete map anywhere in the system to enable a distributed search to cover all nodes.

      With a many to many problems, the pressure is always towards a centralized systems for both convenience and usability.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Zof (profile), 13 Mar 2019 @ 1:46am

    The attack on big tech is a big distraction.

    Right now we live in a world where Media Matters can lobby the Southern Poverty Law Center, get someone declared a "hate group" for political reasons, and get them delisted off of every social network in the world, get their banks to drop them, and even paypal to drop them. They just keep expanding the meaning of the word "hate". You'll be a hategroup soon. Live long enough. All of that hinging on big tech currently pretending Media Matters is a legitimate organization and not just a lobby firm for the DNC.

    That's the biggest problem we have right now. That Big Tech is enabling the censorship nuts and haters of free speech like Media Matters and the SLPC. The want to break up big tech is simply a reaction to that and many other things broken in our society because of huge concentrations of power that need to be broken up.

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

  • identicon
    Alex, 22 Mar 2019 @ 2:55am

    This is one of the dumbest posts I've ever read. He argues that regulation reduces competition with no citations or examples. Then he goes on to say that big tech are going to magically start building platforms of their own accord.

    And then to top it off, he argues blockchain will fix everything. He's living in a libertarian la-la land.

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


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