As part of her candidacy to be the US President in 2020, Senator Elizabeth Warren has been speaking at SXSW (and elsewhere) on a grand scheme of taking on Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple, under US antitrust rulings, going so far as to breaking up the companies.
Unfortunately this isn’t the eighties, and the answer is not a series of ‘Baby Bells 2.0‘, the internet simply doesn’t work. Yes the four companies above are ‘on the internet’ but they are ‘a search engine and advertising platform’, ‘a social network and advertising platform’, ‘a retail store’, and a ‘telecoms manufacturer’. Just because they all use the internet (just as all companies use electricity) does not mean they should all be bundled together by the Senator.
Ben Thompson has went into far more detail on this subject:
That leads to a broader point: “tech” is not simply another category, like railroads or telecom. Tech is a means, not an end, but Senator Warren’s approach presumes the latter. That is why she proposes the same set of rules for the sale of toasters and the sale of apps, and everything in between. The truth is that Amazon is a retailer; Apple a combination of hardware maker and platform makers. Google is a search and advertising company, and Facebook a publishing and advertising company. They all have different value chains and different ways of impacting competition, both fairly and unfairly, and to fail to appreciate just how different they are is a great way to make bad laws that not only fail to fix problems but also create entirely new ones.
Anyone looking for a solid take on this debate should read the full analysis over at Stratechery,