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.
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.
The McClatchy Company, a chain of more than 30 U.S. newspapers, is expected to close its foreign bureaus by the end of the year. The media giant’s chief executive denies the rumors, but it kind of sounds like the closures are likely anyway.
Online retail giant Amazon just launched a marketplace for handcrafted goods: Handmade at Amazon. It’s “an arts-and-crafts bazaar online that squarely takes aim at a niche but growing market dominated by the Brooklyn-based Etsy,” as the New York Times puts it. Handmade at Amazon went live early Thursday more than 80,000 items from roughly 5,000 […]
Umbracity aims to solve the problem of unexpected urban showers with a shared-umbrella service. They’ve rolled it out in soggy Vancouver, and the deal is that you get to use an umbrella from any of their kiosks for free for 48h, but if you keep it longer, it’s $2/day to a maximum of $20.
You won’t need to think twice about going hands-free on the road with Exomount’s easy-to-use car mount. It mounts your smartphone so easily, you literally only need one hand to quickly secure your phone in the perfect position and get driving. Don’t risk a ticket, use the world’s best suction technology to effortlessly mount and […]
It’s time for a power upgrade — throw out that tired-out power strip and swap in this family-size USB charger, packed with 6 high-speed ports. With a built-in control chip, Kinkoo optimizes each port to ensure the fastest charging possible for all your devices. The Kinkoo is made from high-grade and durable materials so you […]
Watching Netflix, Hulu or other streaming services can unfortunately be difficult while traveling outside the US. Rather than bypass these restrictions with the help of a complex and slow VPN, choose a faster and simpler solution with Getflix. Instead of rerouting all your Internet traffic through a different server, this handy service only routes the […]