Warning: long post ahead!
Something that keeps me busy lately: the monopolies of the giant tech industries. This is also partly why I wanted to move my stuff to my own website. This time I put on my hat of computer scientist. For governments, dictatorships are despised (atleast around here), but when we talk about big corporations, they get a free pass. Think about it what kind of power we are giving these companies, to control what’s being put out on the interwebs. For one their products are user friendly. This is in stark contrast to many open source alternatives.
Some examples of monopolies, so I would like to seem them split up, just like the oil companies in the 1900’s. The solution is not to create an additional giant company, but splitting the services up in a distributed way.
UPDATE June 21st 2020: well I thought about this during the night. Yesterday I have seen a friend using Waze. Hmm… There are quite a few alternatives for using map services: you have got Tom Tom, OpenStreetMap, Google Maps, Bing Maps, Apple Maps, Mappy… This is also the case for music streaming, search, messaging,… The problem is only: it is a very high entry requirement to become a viable alternative for social media, search, messaging. How will you attract customers, if you cannot reach anyone with your platform? Chicken or the egg problem…
- For desktop computers there are three major systems: Microsoft, Apple and Linux. The last one is open-source, but very user unfriendly. Linux is an open source operating system. There are many variants available (Red Hat, Debian, Ubuntu,…).
- Intel/AMD: for desktop CPU’s. Are they dominating the market because Microsoft had a huge market share?
- mobile phone operating systems: Android, Apple. Why is this a problem? Because they force everyone to adhere to their standards. For example: take a 30% cut of the earnings on all the apps that are being sold in the app stores. In addition they can act like the gatekeeper to other company’s products.
- social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok. Why do people keep on using it? Is it because it has such a good user experience or because everyone else is on it? Why do we need only a couple of companies to decide what is appropriate and what not? In order to see a Facebook page, you need to register, even though it is a public page you want to see. For Instagram, you can see some stuff of public pictures, but then again there is a huge banner obstructing your view of a profile.
- Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer: quite a few alternatives actually. But it is difficult to transition to another streaming service, unless you are a bit technical savvy. Here is the problem: you need to have enough material on a service, in order to attract customers. I don’t have any inspiration yet on how to solves this, unless you buy every song as an mp3/aac/oog and maintain your own collection. There should be an easy way so record labels could host their music and you should be able to add it to your personal collection easily (which is a separate service). You can use your web browser to look for new music, and add it to your personal library with an url (or a click), when you have paid for it. The old-school way of having a mp3 library or a lot of CD’s, was really not very productive. It has been a while since I have used the old school way (very old school: vinyl records and CD’s). There are multiple distributors for CD’s. However, then again a few big record companies push out their stuff on every radio station. It is either starve or swim in a bath of money for a musician. But this is another story..
As a longtime Google, Facebook, Microsoft user I have begun to feel a little paranoid how much information these companies have about me. If it goes wrong, it goes wrong big time: e.g. mass manipulation, data leaks. Perhaps we should be willing to pay for social media, texting, using maps,… Then again, technology should be accessible to the entire population.
Some reading material:
- switching.software, a list of alternatives to popular software/services: https://switching.software/
- European Commision, Antitrust: Commission sends Statement of Objections to Google on Android operating system and applications: website
- small technology foundation: small-tech.org
- Ruben Verborgh: professor at Ghent University of Decentralized Web Technology. He is involved in a project, Solid, for which you stay the owner of your data all the time, and you have control over it. https://ruben.verborgh.org/
- Tech lead: explaining whats bad about the app stores: on Youtube
- Richard Stallman: the GNU software foundation guru. Or as he would like to call it ‘Chief GNUisance’. Don’t be affraid of the website which looks like the stone age. Sometimes he is a bit extreme though, in my opinion. https://stallman.org/
- Geert Noels’s book: gigantism