I reviewed Tim Wu's great history of media consolidation and regulatory capture The Master Switch
earlier this month; now Tim says, "This piece I wrote for the Wall Street Journal is an important one. It is like a last chapter for my book."
We wouldn't fret over monopoly so much if it came with a term limit. If Facebook's rule over social networking were somehow restricted to, say, 10 years--or better, ended the moment the firm lost its technical superiority--the very idea of monopoly might seem almost wholesome. The problem is that dominant firms are like congressional incumbents and African dictators: They rarely give up even when they are clearly past their prime. Facing decline, they do everything possible to stay in power. And that's when the rest of us suffer.
In the Grip of the New Monopolists
AT&T's near-absolute dominion over the telephone lasted from about 1914 until the 1984 breakup, all the while delaying the advent of lower prices and innovative technologies that new entrants would eventually bring. The Hollywood studios took effective control of American film in the 1930s, and even now, weakened versions of them remain in charge. Information monopolies can have very long half-lives.
Declining information monopolists often find a lifeline of last resort in the form of Uncle Sam. The government has conferred its blessing on monopolies in information industries with unusual frequency. Sometimes this protection has yielded reciprocal benefits, with the owner of an information network offering the state something valuable in return, like warrantless wiretaps.
Thailand’s insane lese majeste laws make it radioactively illegal to criticize the royal family, reflecting a profound insecurity about the legitimacy of the ruling elites there that can only be satisfied through blanket censorship orders whenever one of the royals does something ridiculous, cruel or both (this happens a lot).
Shelter is a human necessity second only to food on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; but it’s also an asset-class that is increasingly relied upon by the world’s super-rich for money-laundering, rent-extraction and simple investment — this creates a dilemma for governments, who are under pressure to ratchet up the cost of a fundamental human necessity […]
Construction is near to completion on Apple’s $5B campus in Cupertino, and the project has included many odd notes, like the insistence on not having thresholds on the floor of the doorways lest daydreaming engineers trip over them, and some weird ideas about where the bathrooms should go.
Loot Crate is a subscription service that delivers a box of curated pop culture goods to your doorstep. To sample their geeky wares, you can order a single mystery box exclusively from the Boing Boing Store.Each month Loot Crate sends you 6-7 unique items and apparel, including collectibles, books, and t-shirts. Pulling inspiration from all […]
Yes, yes there is. The ultraportable Twisty Glass Mini boasts all of the simplicity of its forebear, while fitting just a little bit better in your pocket.The Mini is perfect for casual smokers, and anyone who doesn’t have the patience or fine motor skill for rolling papers. This piece keeps the convenient design of its older […]
Learning to code is a perfect way to grow your technical sophistication, and open up a host of new career options. But since most “learn to code” initiatives focus heavily on web development, it can be tough to find good resources for general-purpose computer science outside of a 4-year degree program. To get a broad […]