The Antitrust Subcommittee of the US Congress published a 400 page report a couple of months ago on the practices that Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon use to deal with competition. Wired has summarised some of the more interesting findings:
Amazon: “…in response to the Committee’s request for “a list of the Company’s top ten competitors,” Amazon identified 1,700 companies, including Eero (a company Amazon owns), a discount surgical supply distributor, and a beef jerky company.”
Here is a comment by an Amazon staff member on his/her colleagues: “In 2010, I started working on the Amazon marketplace team … It was widely known that many (10+) of my peers were running very successful [third-party] accounts, where they were pulling private data on Amazon seller activity, so they could figure out market opportunity, etc. Totally not legitimate, but no one monitored or seemed to care.”
And here is a comment on how some people in Amazon think about technology of some of the startups the company meets with a view to taking a stake: “While Amazon often denies public reporting that it steals and copies technology from young startups, Amazon’s emails suggest that it does replicate some of the startups it meets with or invests in. An email out of Amazon’s Lab 126 regarding Ring indicated that Amazon “could easily replicate all of their hardware to be better, [and] operate in a more secure and robust infrastructure, for a LOT less than [the] cost of buying them.” In the same email chain, Amazon employees wondered “if we move forward with due diligence, then decide not to buy [Ring], could we have legal issues if we go into the market by ourselves as a competitor and materially impact their business?””
Facebook: The article raises concerns about the quality of the service that Facebook is providing: “In the absence of competition, Facebook’s quality has deteriorated over time, resulting in worse privacy protections for its users and a dramatic rise in misinformation on its platform.”
The report throws light on how tactically Mark Zuckerberg thinks of acquiring rival platforms: “Here, a former employee describes the conflict between Mark Zuckerberg and Instagram cofounder Kevin Systrom following Facebook’s purchase of the photo-sharing platform. If this account is accurate, it provides evidence of Facebook deliberately preventing Instagram from making improvements to compete for users—exactly the kind of anticompetitive behavior that antitrust is supposed to prevent.”
Those who use Facebook would be interested to know how much Facebook values your time: “In an interview conducted by Subcommittee staff, a former employee explained that as a product manager at Facebook “your only job is to get an extra minute. It’s immoral. They don’t ask where it’s coming from. They can monetize a minute of activity at a certain rate. So the only metric is getting another minute.””
Apple: Some of the features on Apple’s phones come from unusual sources: “Phillip Shoemaker, former director of app review for the App Store, similarly told Subcommittee staff that during his time at Apple an app developer proposed an innovative way to wirelessly sync the iPhone and Mac. The app did not violate any of Apple’s Guidelines, but it was rejected from the App Store nonetheless. Apple then appropriated the rejected app’s feature for its own offerings.”
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