Sunday, July 2, 2017

On "Super-Monopolies" in the Technology Sector

  • Last Tuesday Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said “As of this morning, the Facebook community is now officially 2 billion people! We're making progress connecting the world, and now let's bring the world closer together. It's an honor to be on this journey with you.”
  • Note:  Estimates suggest monthly users for YouTube: 1.5 billionWeChat:  889 millionTwitter: 328 millionSnapchat: 255 millionTwitch: 100 million.  Also, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger each have about 1.2 billion monthly users. Instagram: 700 million.
  • Separately, as the European Union (EU) ordered Google to pay a €2.4 billion fine ($2.7 billion USD) for unfair, noncompetitive trade practices. EU Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager said, “In Europe, companies must compete on the merits regardless if they are European or not.  What Google has done is illegal under E.U. antitrust rules. Google’s strategy for its comparison shopping service wasn’t just about attracting customers [or] about making its product better than those of its rivals…Google has abused its market dominance as a search engine.
  • Also, the PriceWaterhouseCoopers Entertainment and Media Global Outlook reported that two-thirds of all global advertising spending goes to Google, Facebook, Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba – of which 50% of total spending goes to Facebook and Google
  • Finally, Roger McNamee co-founder over venture capital firm Elevation Partners said, "Google, Facebook, Amazon are increasingly just super-monopolies, especially Google and Facebook. The share of the markets they operate in is literally on the same scale that Standard Oil had ... more than 100 years ago — with the big differences that their reach is now global, not just within a single country … I think it's a big policy question the world is going to have to deal with over the next few years,"

  • As Google, Facebook, Amazon and others provide low prices and/or attractive data services to consumers, their popularity and growth has negatively impacted some “traditional” businesses and likely prevented new entrants from coming into the market as well. 
  • While “super-monopolies” may exist, is unlikely that any actions will be initiated within the U.S. in the short-term given that 1) many of the technology firms are based there, 2) the U.S government currently is biased toward reducing regulatory oversight and 3) the trans-national nature of platform monopolies may have positive benefits. 
  • Note: Senator John Sherman, the author of the Sherman Act, which was signed into law in 1890 to address oil monopolies said, "Monopolies [are] inconsistent with our form of government. ... If we will not endure a king as a political power, we should not endure a king over the production, transportation, and sale of any of the necessaries of life. If we would not submit to an emperor, we should not submit to an autocrat of trade …"

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