“We need to inflict pain.”
Before you guess it wrong, no, it’s not a one liner from a revenge drama on Netflix. The words allegedly came from a fulminating Mark Zuckerberg, who was upset about Apple’s growing power. One might wonder what these big tech companies are so wind up about that they want to “inflict pain” on each other. And when these giants rumble, who stands to gain? Is it the companies or the consumer?
The idea of the Internet as we know is changing, thanks to the movers and shakers in the Silicon Valley. Right now, most of these big ticket companies are facing a deluge of antitrust cases both from the US and the EU.
- The Department of Justice wants to break down big tech monopolies.
- Apple goes to war with Facebook on user privacy.
- Microsoft backs Australia against Google and Facebook’s “pay the publisher” saga.
- Google and Microsoft corner NVIDIA over ARM deal.
Big Tech vs Australia
The Australian government, for over a year now, has been making efforts to make the tech companies pay the content creators. Google and Facebook, who benefit from the links of the articles written by various publishers, are asked to compensate now. Not surprisingly, Google and Facebook see no merit in the new ruling. Google Australia’s MD, Mel Silva told the Australian parliamentary committee that the company is mulling service abandonment in the country if the “pay to publishers” law is passed without changes. “If this version of the code were to become law it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia,” she said.
While Google threatened Australia, Facebook actually went ahead and blocked the Australians from posting news. On Thursday, Facebook denied Aussies access to national weather service and some local health sites. Though, Facebook later chalked it up to an oversight.
Microsoft, on the other hand, extended full support to the proposals of the Australian government. Microsoft released a statement saying it fully supports the News Media Bargaining Code as the code addresses the power imbalance between digital platforms and Australian news businesses. Google and Facebook argue that the Australian government is misled and publishers actually benefit because links on their platforms send users directly to news websites.
Facebook, Apple And The Push For Privacy
This is not the first time Apple has locked horns with Facebook. Zuckerberg has previously accused Apple of exerting overt control. The latest rift is over customer’s privacy. The new privacy labels that came with latest iOS updates were designed to alert users on who is harvesting their data. Facebook thinks the new update will further discourage users from sharing the data, putting a huge dent on their ad revenue. Apple CEO indirectly slammed the social networking company by condemning “conspiracy theories juiced by algorithms”, hinting at the Capitol riots.
Whereas Google is also padding up their services to accommodate user’s privacy. Google will soon ditch third-party cookies on the Chrome browser. The cookies, used for targeted advertisements, will be replaced with browser-based machine learning. The ML models on the browser will skim the user history and weave a network of people’s interest (think: recommendation engine), to be used for advertisement. Google Chrome is one of the most widely used browsers in the world and the move to eliminate cookies can put smaller advertising firms out of commission.
Chip Giant Gets Cornered
Chipmakers had come together to blockade the NVIDIA-ARM $40 billion mega deal. According to reports, Microsoft-backed Graphcore and a few other companies have registered strong protest over the acquisition.
ARM’s architecture powers more than 95% of smartphones in the world today. Acquisition of ARM is expected to further cement NVIDIA’s superior position in the chip industry. But, Hermann Hauser, who was involved in the development of the first ARM processor, has a different take on this deal. Hauser, who is also an investor in Graphcore, wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging to block the deal, and help take Arm public on the London Stock Exchange.
Hauser believes if NVIDIA can merge the ARM and NVIDIA designs in the same software, that would lock out companies like Graphcore from entering the seller market and having a closer relationship with ARM.
Apart from Microsoft, Google and Qualcomm have expressed concerns over this deal. Rumor has it that one of them wants this deal to be killed. These companies don’t want NVIDIA to dictate the critical chip market.
Last October, the Department of Justice in the US filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in the District of Columbia (biggest lawsuit against a tech company since Microsoft in 1998) to stop Google from unlawfully maintaining monopolies through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices.
The DoJ accused Google’s anti-competitiveness of leading to lesser choice/innovation for consumers and pricier ads for companies. Google enjoys a 90% share of all general-search-engine queries in the United States, and almost 95% of queries on mobile devices. The lawsuit blamed Google for playing the same game of maintaining monopolies, which it accused Microsoft of, two decades ago. It was also revealed that Google pays Apple ~$10B a year to feed it search traffic and make itself the default on Safari. And, the search giant has struck a secret deal with Facebook, which falls under ad-rigging.
The tech giants are likely to come under the purview of new rules in Europe and both Google and Facebook have been hit with antitrust lawsuits in the US, raising the possibility that each country or region could have its own rules. Google and Facebook are not the only companies facing antitrust lawsuits. Amazon too has a fair share of these cases piling up across the globe.
On the one hand, the regulators are buckling up to dilute the big tech power, on the other hand, the companies themselves are accusing each other of monopolistic practices. Be it Google and Facebook’s dogfight against Australia over paying the publishers or Apple’s privacy push against FB, these battles will eventually lead to improved data dignity for users.
As the internet giant battles out to win over the customers, the Internet might end up becoming what it was originally intended to be— free and for all!