Is It Time to Break Up Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple?

Tim Berners-Lee Fears He Created a Monster

The man who created the World Wide Web has suggested that the online giants have become just too big.

The father of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee, is the latest to have voiced his concerns about the power wielded by the likes of Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook. Berners-Lee knew his creation could evolve into something big but even he could scarcely have imagined just how significant a role his invention would play in everyone’s lives.

However, he is concerned at the direction the world wide web is taking, and the speed at which it is being taken there by a few major players. Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon have a combined power and wealth that could rival most that of most sovereign nations, leading to an unhealthy domination of cyberspace.

Time To Break Up The Major Players?

The idea of splitting up these huge companies might sound inconceivable, but the first thing to keep in mind is that from a consumer perspective, we would scarcely even notice. Apple’s products would be unchanged, and according to Google search consultants, the way the search engine and its underlying algorithm operates would look exactly the same.

Berners-Lee says that having a few companies in such dominant positions stifles innovation and makes it next to impossible for new voices to have any real say in how the world wide web continues to evolve. It is a situation we have seen before with the way Microsoft Windows dominated the software landscape over the past 20 or so years.

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Let Nature Take Its Course?

However, the example of Microsoft shows that sometimes, a company can be in a dominant position and that domination can subside naturally, due either to the arrival of a new competitor or simply through changing tastes, needs or habits among consumers.

In the case of Microsoft, it was a combination of the two – for one thing, Apple nurtured its loyal core of followers and slowly grew it into something bigger, and for another, freeware solutions became more prevalent on the market – a landscape change that neither Bill Gates nor anyone else could have seen coming.

In an interview with Reuters, Berners-Lee acknowledged that such an ice-age type event could easily cut the major players down to side without any need for external intervention. He said: “Before breaking them up, we should see whether they are not just disrupted by a small player beating them out of the market, but by the market shifting, by the interest going somewhere else.”

How Big Are The Big Five IT Players?

Of course, it is one thing to talk about Microsoft not having the same stranglehold it once did, but it is still hugely influential, and is one of the companies that Berners-Lee is talking about. When combined with the other four mentioned above, you arrive at a total market capitalization of $3.7 trillion. To put that into context, the GDP of the United Kingdom for 2017 was $2.6 trillion.

Is revolution coming? Right now, the world is in a “watch and wait” posture, but if natural selection does not cut them down to size, it is likely a case of when, not if, regulators decide to intervene. After all, when people like Berners-Lee speak, the world tends to sit up and take notice.

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