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Is the big tech era ending? (
219 points by dash2 13 hours ago | hide | past | favorite | 300 comments

> big tech firms got big and stay big, not because of network effects or political power, but because of their rare expertise; and that they cannot keep their advantage in expertise forever

I am pretty sure Facebook got and stays big primarily because of network effects. You could create a website with all the technical features of Facebook, and few would use it because their friends aren't on it.

In my view, it is the pendulum of antitrust law swinging back to stricter enforcement that will end big tech, if at all. The hope that everything will just magically get better now that your local coffee shop can deliver beans to you with off-the-shelf software seems slightly optimistic.

But I hope I'm wrong.

> In my view, it is the pendulum of antitrust law swinging back to stricter enforcement that will end big tech, if at all

They're incredibly useful to the state as large monolithic entities. It's much easier to spy on people and exert influence. Imagine the feds chasing dozens of social media platforms to fight election interference.

There is no chance any legislative body will break up tech. They'll more likely go the bank route and make them too big to fail, and regulate them, which amounts to giving the government direct or indirect power in what speech is allowed on the platform.

I personally think web 3.0 is overhyped and almost anything involving NFTs are basically ponzi schemes. But the premise is decentralizing the web, which if it even partially delivers could in theory chip away a lot of most tech giants. Combined with regulation things could change.

Yes, there's a strong case for Facebook. But consider Skype: it was pretty easy for people to ditch Skype and move to Zoom. Facebook's strength isn't just a network, it also has a lot of people's recorded history. So, the power of network effects varies. I think if e.g. Signal came up with features that Whatsapp lacks, it would have a good chance to displace Whatsapp.

If Skype had remained as useful and easy to use as it was >10 years ago, Zoom would

A) probably never have picked up steam, and

B) had a much steeper uphill battle

Before the plague hit only startups really used Zoom. The corporate video call space was dominated by things like Webex (awful), BlueJeans (awful), whatever MS morphed into current Teams (only slightly less awful), or if you were lucky, Google Hangouts (also just slightly less awful). Skype wasn't even a contender, and even against the kind of all-star field I just listed, it was a shitty experience - which says a lot.

There was a big void for real-time video business conferencing that "just worked", but until early 2020, the space was cornered off by giants who saw it, at best, as barren ground. Enter global, mandatory remote working and all of a sudden the existing players had nothing to offer. The market had stagnated, and beancounters had driven out all expensive innovation. All of a sudden, the space blows up and the neglected main tech in use is no longer fit for the new purpose.

Zoom has a lot of problems, but what they did have was a product that "just worked" in almost any setup, coupled with architecture and infrastructure that at least COULD respond to insane, long-lasting spike in demand.

Skype had become a rotting corpse nobody wanted to look or smell, but that was too heavy to move and too putrid to touch. We needed big enough a fire to burn it to ashes to make space for someone less atrocious. Zoom just happened to catch the tailwind, mostly because all the existing players had also abandoned the space but would not dare to leave it unguarded.

Is Skype that bad? Every time I've used it (rarely) over the last 10 years, it's worked pretty well for me.

I've used google hangouts and then Meets at my work and it's fine. It does not require any special training to use, it works as you'd expect, and basically gets out of your way.

I've used Zoom for online classes (as a student) and don't see any difference or advantage between it and Meets. You still click a link and and a window open ups, your camera turns on, there is a chat box, etc.

I use Zoom and Meet daily too. They are both functional on the bare-bones level but fail miserably with anything more complex - such as a 10+ person meeting. Or screen sharing.

Meets craps its UI dimensions when you open chat. Zoom pops the chat window up in the middle of the screen, which is only slightly less bad. Both have problems if you have detachable video camera(s) in addition to laptop's own. And don't get me started on the audio path: even if you do manage to pick the right input and output, there's no guarantee the audio actually gets routed through. Expect to restart the video call software 25% of the time and pray it reconnects the streams all the way through.

Oh, and Zoom's screen sharing experience on multi-monitor OSX setup is unforgivable. When you choose to share a screen, it triggers a sequence where the audience sees your shared view but you do not. The window you chose to share gets hidden locally.

Whoever thought that would be an acceptable user experience needs to have their head examined. Possibly with a trepanner.

Did not thread fully, but I get your point. I know large portion hacker news audience dont like Sowell (and other Chicago school econs). In Basic Economy he defines that monopoly cant be defined “market share”, but how hard is to migrate off/open new competitors. Seing how tiktok eating userbase for fb. Its hardly defined as monopoly in social media angle. There should be more

If you want to time when people will completely leave Facebook forever, timing markets is basically a fools' errand.

I think though that while Facebook the social network may not last very long, I'm less sure that Facebook as a facilitator of ads will go away. They have a lot of historical data on which to continue determining ad placement on the Internet. Google ads don't just exist on Google sites.

> it was pretty easy for people to ditch Skype and move to Zoom

Only because Microsoft probably assigned two interns to maintain Skype in the last 5 (if not more) years. I do agree with your point though.

However there is no good alternative for Meta’s Facebook, despite its degrading web UI over the years. I dont think its that much of a problem growing at 1-2% per month instead of 20-25% for any new social network.

People should ideally stop using whatsapp and move over to Telegram as it seems to be the only one that has whatsapp UX parity. Thats what I did, and I also have signal, discord etc and I own no shares of Telegram.

I use Zoom and Skype but Zoom has not come close to replacing Skype for me. I have skype-in with multiple landline phone numbers in multiple states. Zoom does not offer this yet.

> People should ideally stop using whatsapp and move over to Telegram as it seems to be the only one that has whatsapp UX parity.

UX parity?? Telegram's UX blows WhatsApp out of the water. Stickers, message edits, polls, location sharing, bots for public channels, audio chats, etc etc. It's not even close!

And I don't really want any of that. I want just send textual message to group of people for free. Maybe add an image, but that is it. I don't really care about anything extra.

But even that Telegram does better, because you can edit messages you've sent to correct typos, you can pin them in channels, and there are extra nice things which might come in handy ( when do you want to meet? A pinned poll and it's easy).

Facebook stays big because nobody else seems to have the magic combination of (1) a more compelling product vision for a social network, (2) capacity to execute and scale that vision.

Come on, can't anyone make a product that connects friends better than FB? I'm sure it's technically amazing, but from a product perspective, my god, look at the thing, it's an absolute garbage fire. You can tell from the notifications it sends that it wants you to watch shitty videos and read shitty news articles alone, not connect you with your friends.

Make a social network that feels like an actual social space and not an ad-infested media shithole, and I'll sign up, my friends will sign up, everyone will sign up, and FB will be toast in a couple months.

I agree with you, but queue the responses implying that without adtech stalkerware there is no way to pay for it.

My response to that tired theme: you don't need a mega $B valuation to pay for a simple social network for sharing baby pics with friends and family. A non-profit or a benefit corp structure would be just fine.

Check out RStudio PBC. Incredible tech company. Doing just fine.

And people pay $10/mo for Netflix, why wouldn't they pay a few bucks a month for an actually good social network? Heck, make it free for a month or six, no credit card needed, and when people see how good it is they won't leave. I pay for Disney+ just to let my kids watch Disney movies BECAUSE THEY'RE GOOD.

You need a lot of people using the service for people to find it worth paying for. I saw this with Pillowfort; intended to be a place for the people who had been forced off of Tumblr to go. They require a one-time $5 payment to create an account because they don't want to bring in investors and be forced to exploit their users to maximize earnings. This payment stopped a lot of people from joining. They are used to being able to share their art and socialize online for free. And they had no guarantee that others would join and stick with the site.

People subscribe to Netflix (and its competition) because there's no legal way to get that service for free, and it doesn't matter if their friends are also using that same service.

People won't subscribe to a non-free Facebook competitor because Facebook is free and none of their friends are on the non-free competitor... And most of their friends never will be.

I get the idea, but I feel FB sucks so badly that eventually a much better product will figure out a way through the gauntlet. There's a lot of money sloshing around out there with nothing to do.

Most likely the product will be free for a while and switch to paid. It kind of sucks but for a really good product it could work.

>Facebook ... stays big primarily because of network effects

And trying to buy anything that competes. If they'd been blocked from buying Instagram and WhatsApp they'd be in a much weaker position. Antitrust stuff could in principle stop them doing that.

It is kind of working now, I doubt they would be able to buy TikTok. I don’t recall them being involved at all when Trump was trying to force its sale.

But yeah big tech needs to be massive before it comes under any real antitrust scrutiny.

> You could create a website with all the technical features of Facebook, and few would use it because their friends aren't on it.

Much easier said than done. FB is a massive product, I don't think anyone can realistically predict how something that really had all the features of FB would actually fare. Beyond that, we know that new networks are created all the time despite the existence of other big ones. Based on your premise, tiktok shouldn't have existed, nor insta, nor snapchat. Network effects matter but if the product actually does something useful or better and is well designed, people will come.

The best thing that regulators can do is to enforce common protocols. The only things that have survived becoming a walled garden by big tech are big protocols that existed before them (e.g. email)

Antitrust won't end big tech. It will just kneecap the US and Europe. They will take the only part of the new economy they have a foothold in and hand it to someone else. China's tech companies, supported and subsidized by the government, will take over. This is blindingly obvious.

The thing that is amusing is that US/Europe seem to think they will be able to deal with this and effectively regulate them, despite not succeeding at this at all in the past (see China + IP, etc).

One major reason is that China is willing to play "unfairly" to support its companies. US/Europe will be unable to ban these services entirely because their citizens depend on them too much. They will attempt what they do now, which is to regulate them in various ways to "ensure competition"

But when you go to do that to a chinese company, the government will find a way to make it hurt for you. You make it hurt for Chinese Search Engine Company, they will ban the chip companies from making chips for you, etc. They are much better at this game than the other governments.

> China's tech companies, supported and subsidized by the government, will take over.

This is going to be unlikely, when the Chinese government is actively kneecapping its own big techs.

Data is going to be regulated like money, and not everyone is going to have the privilege to operate data on one's soil moving forward. No western companies could do in China, or vice versa.

> US/Europe will be unable to ban these services entirely because their citizens depend on them too much.

They can just ask it to sell, which was happening to TikTok, or setting up joint venture capital. They are many ways to do such things, government can make you bleed if they want to.

The chinese government is not kneecapping them, it's carefully forcing them to fall in line, and doing so in a way that won't hurt its own interests.

Remember that in China, the government is the kingmaker. In the US/EU, the companies are the kingmakers. China is simply reminding some of it's companies that this is the case.

As for the last, good luck. You have a coherent long term strategy that they are willing to sacrifice short term for on one side, and a completely incoherent mess that changes every 4-6 years on the US/EU side.

After they are finished kneecapping the US/EU companies, they will need these chinese companies more than china needs them. Not exactly a great negotiating position - there will come a point where you say "sell", and they say "nah, that's okay, we're good".

>This is going to be unlikely, when the Chinese government is actively kneecapping its own big techs.

Not really, just taming them. Which is pretty much all done at this point.

It depends on what we are talking about in regards to "big tech".

It's not clear to me that products like Facebook that are primarily driven by cultural rather than technical dominance are something that the Chinese are likely to be able to dominate in. Facebook dominates because your friends and family and hobbies and whatever are on there, doing their thing. When they stop doing that, Facebook won't dominate anymore.

Now if Han culture becomes internationally dominant as the "cool" culture which North Americans Europeans aspire to emulate (like how American culture was internationally in the post WWII era through, say, the early 90s), then all bets are off -- but I think the trend is actually going opposite to that now.

Until then, there will be social networks that dominate in China and there will be social networks that dominate in Europe and North America; because culturally (and politically, obviously) and they will rarely overlap as these are still two very distinct entities.

I think it's likely that the same argument applies to a lesser degree to the ads space, and maybe even to commerce. Something like AliExpress feels worlds apart from Amazon despite the latter become increasingly a wild west of knock-off discount Chinese products anyways.

All big movies have random Chinese culture or star included. Han culture may become part of hollywood's core which will spread the culture

Counterpoint: TikTok.

The US funded EUV technology (the tech behind 7nm and below), and have used that DARPA funding to prevent Europe's ASML from selling to China. It seems to be almost exactly what you are warning about in reverse.

facebook also caught the social internet first wave.. humanity never had a global website to 'exist' .. facebook came, everybody thought it would be teh future and wanted to try.

that s not true. many different social networks existed, and many were very close to facebook. there were even blogs etc. Facebook was the only one willing to ruthlessly go after people's contacts lists, and get them to use their real names so even non-internet users would undestand it. After it had picked up exponentially more users it was basically impossible to match for others.

Afaik there was nothing like Facebook. Blogs and even MySpace don't count. They weren't integrated like Facebook (you could interact with people in a lot of ways).

Remembe Fuller's quote "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete"

Big tech is the existing reality and it can only be changed by making it obsolete. The digital technology for doing so is actually available (or can be refined rapidly). What is not available is the social technology: the attitude of governments and regulators, solid, honest-to-goodness business models, the education of the populace etc

I fully expect our next cycle to be one of de-platforming, with this quote in support.

Decentralized technology is rife with fraud and noise, but ENS is an exemplary preview of a Web3 future. Like SSO without a middleman. It's a far superior user experience (no password requirements, email verification, data leaks), and allows developers to bypass account management altogether when building a webapp. To me, it's glaringly obvious this is one of the most significant milestones in our transition to a better web.

After cursory googling, it sounds like more blockchain nonsense. Just throwing buzzwords together and solving either a nonexistent problem, or solving it fundamentally worse than anything that already exists.

I agree with the article’s thought about phase where “everyone understands the magic”, and I agree with your point about making reality obsolete. Problem is, Big Tech amasses great amount of resources to survive this event and delay own demise.

Good luck competing when your innovation can be copied by tech giant in a matter of months, your price tag could be beaten overnight with dumping, and your business could be bought out to suffocate in the basements of Alphabet.

Fortunately, our society both understands the dangers of monopolies, and has tools (regulations) to balance them out. Could anti-monopoly lawsuits happen that would force break big tech? That has happened in the past, see Bell System[1]


Yes, this.

Implementing centralized application rules on completely decentralized compute/networking foundations is now a thing.

Let's say you want to build something like Mars Coin. It's gotta work reliably at the scale of billions of nodes, separated by minutes of transit time, at billions of aggregate transactions per second, at a cost below micro-cents per transaction. Without the possibility of being shut down by a government-scale bad actor.

This is now becoming possible:

> Here’s a concrete example: in last year’s lockdown, my local coffee shop started to deliver beans. They set up a slick web store with Shopify. They took payment with Stripe or Square.

Are Shopify, Stripe, and Square not big tech? Maybe medium-big instead of mega-big?

It's a good point. Large companies aren't going away. But the market dominance of a few large companies might go away.

Additionally, from some quick googling, it looks like Stripe and Square both run on AWS? Shopify used to but now runs on GCS?

Is OP mainly just talking about Amazon's dominance of online consumer shopping specifically, rather than a general thing about "big tech"?

to be fair, there is very little reason why shopify or stripe couldn't run on a couple of racks of servers in a couple of datacenters across the globe.

And yet...

It seems to me like this is a case of new large tech companies coming to dominate new markets while the existing tech companies continue to dominate their old markets.

If anything small tech companies have been hammered recently e.g docusign, freshworks

We're just now noticing the edge of the cliff rapidly passing eye level as we fall. Every time tech gets easier, its users get more ignorant. Microsoft can take a shit in our mouths with Windows 11 because the average Windows 11 user doesn't even know what an operating system is, let alone that they can change to a different one. Facebook and YouTube can do whatever they want because their only competitors are even more toxic than they are.

Who do you think could make big tech fall? The politicians who think it's perfect the way it is or the ones who think it needs to be much worse?

Big tech is big because we are globalising - because an app / website written in one country can be used in dozens of others, 192 if your i18n-fu is good enough.

Scale is something we have not really taken on board as we head to 10 billion humans. And when we look critically at the Big in big tech now, they are really bit-players with leverage. News aggregators, search engines, publishing platforms. The traditional "media" have had outside influence and this new globalised generation has that, but compared to what's likely to come it's nothing.

Global pharma, energy, transportation, new manufacturing, supply chain observability, consumer friendly finance. These things and more will have huge impacts - and all will have software at their hearts.

If that (software) is what we mean by Tech, then yeah, Google is a minnow to come.

But there is hope. Software (and observability) are incredibly amenable to democracy and independent monitoring, to smart regulation and smart outcomes.

It's a political challenge to manage the wealth to come - but look at how the USA handled the robber barons. It took massive system wide political change if it happened.

Don't give up. But Vote Harder.

Globalizing democracy means that increasingly , half of the population of the earth will be oppressed by the other half. At least the division of nations leaves people with the option to leave one democracy and go live in another that fits them better. We can't leave earth for something else yet. Global democracy controlled by global media is a bad outcome.

If I understand you, you are saying that in a democracy the majority "oppress" the minority(ies).

It maybe a "no true scotsman" argument but a society that legally oppresses a minority is hard to call a democracy- it is quite possible to argue that America was not a democracy until 1965.

And it is highly unlikely we will all become some homogeneous voting lump - there are enough modern democracies that are so distinct in just their voting processes, let alone choices in fiscal policy, culture and so on to keep diversity alive.

There's that quote, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others." I see democracy as a system that makes it harder for a minority to oppress a majority, which is what pretty much "all the others" forms of government involve.

On the other hand, rather than say that a society that legally oppresses a minority is not a democracy, I'd rather call it a flawed democracy or a bad democracy. Be aware that democracy by itself doesn't provide protections to prevent a majority from oppressing a minority, instead of refusing to calling it a democracy.

That way we don't end like the true communists. Whenever someone discusses any of the problems with communism a true communist always says: "no you see, that happened because it wasn't real communism", and they kind of miss the point of whatever constructive discussion you were trying to have with them.

IIRC during the trump era people said the same thing. And intuitively, it is a sort of oppression , but it lasts only 4 years. I 'm not saying we should abandon democracy, but we should be looking into ways to expand people's freedom of action, and uniting everyone under one government is not the way.

> Globalizing democracy means that increasingly , half of the population of the earth will be oppressed by the other half

History shows the very opposite. Oppression goes hand in hand with empires, dictatorships and colonial powers.

> At least the division of nations leaves people with the option to leave one democracy and go live in another that fits them better

You are confusing nations borders, democracy and decentralization.

Globalization overshot. It was mostly artificially propped up with the global fiat monetary system. Now that the fiat monetary system is running out of steam and heading into high inflation territory, we will revert back to a more localized world which most people will be happier in.

Many people nowadays were essentially 'forced' to move country or cities because of purely financial reasons driven by the money printers. This is all artificial and it will unwind.

People have been moving into cities since time immemorial. Small farmers would move to Roman cities in search of higher paying jobs, or the dole. The Industrial Revolution greatly accelerated urbanization. All of that predates fiat currency.

You don't need fiat currency---the Romans debased their currency just as much as we do today.

This doesn’t make any sense. Parent is talking about how you can make a single product with a TAM of ~all of earths population. What does that have to do with money printing/fiat, besides perhaps causing an overvaluation?

Even if those companies were overvalued, it doesn’t change the fact that technology and free trade enable hyper-scaling businesses.

"Why work on a cool app or faster database, if Google or Facebook will copy your idea and sell it at scale?"

Because if you've worked at these companies, you know you can spin circles around them in execution speed alone. Not to mention way too many things are too small scale for them to even pay attention to.

And if your successful, they would rather buy you most of the time than make a competitor because it's probably cheaper for them in many cases. In startup world, it's pretty rare they go the copycat route. You can cite examples, but that is survivorship bias ignoring the many more they do not copy.

The biggest issue with bigtech is actually hiring. They suck up the labor market and make it hard to get good people affordably. The good employees rationally do what is best for them and go work at bigtech, which includes me.

> The good employees rationally do what is best for them and go work at bigtech, which includes me.

Until you get a cool idea and can't stomach fighting the corporate bureaucracy to make it happen, so you start your own company. Like every generation of entrepreneurs before you.

I don't think traditional companies will subsume technology as the article claims - big companies tend to innovate by acquisition, and VERY FEW companies are actually good at producing software at scale. I don't think we've reached phase 3 in the article yet - very few companies have figured out the "magic" of software, hardware, large scale data mining, hosting, etc.

I also don't think tech will have long lasting monopolies, unless government regulation makes it so. Who's worried about IBM or Intel nowadays? Anyone using myspace or vine? All of these were dominant at one point.

I do expect a shift in investor mindset - right now tech companies are not held to the same profitability standards, so the tech stocks are very expensive for even wildly optimistic projections of future growth. It's as if the market is already pricing in a future monopoly for these companies. Given how fragile tech monopolies tend to be, I expect a correction at some point (not a good short though - no way to predict the timing)

Even if few companies "get" good software, big tech might still end if good software companies start to sell disaggregated services. Shopify is an example from the article.

This wouldn't mean there are no big software companies. But it would mean that end-to-end providers like Amazon no longer dominated.

> Who's worried about IBM or Intel nowadays? Anyone using myspace or vine?

This statement would be relevant here if these companies hadn't been replaced by even bigger monopolies. So if facebook and apple is replaced by something even bigger, the folks who are afraid of monopolies would have more to worry about.

IBM was a much bigger and more domineering monopoly at it's peak - there was a time where you effectively could not have computers or a datacenter without paying IBM money, directly or indirectly. I wouldn't qualify most of the FAANGs as monopolies (at least not yet) - reasonable substitutes exists for all of them.

The modern market does favor a handful of large players for each market - this is true in almost all sectors though. This not a monopoly though; as long as the top players change over time it is still a working market.

Big tech started with expertise but moved to rent seeking. Amazon is not in ecommerce but in a seller market place. google/facebooks are in ads, etc.

The problem is not that you coffee store can do ecommerce, but that nobody can find your coffee store if it is not in amazon, or does not buy ads from google/facebook.

Big techs are relevant primarily because there are no other companies that can 1. execute its business reasonably well 2. at the planetary scale. There are some other factors including anti-competitive business practices but that won't work without its own edge; MS was not able to stop Google and the same thing for Google to FB as well.

I've seen many HN readers claiming they can build a FB clone overnight, but that's not even the tip of iceberg. Serving your service to billions of people across hundreds of different languages, cultures geographical areas with different legal, financial, logistical infrastructures is at the fundamentally different level of complexity than building a toy project. This is not just for big techs, there are literally thousands of uninteresting but extremely profitable businesses simply for this very reason. And big techs owns platform which brings them to another level...

But I bet the early versions of facebook wouldn't scale as well..

> The most important ones are that big tech firms got big and stay big, not because of network effects or political power, but because of their rare expertise; and that they cannot keep their advantage in expertise forever.

The tech giants are not only good at whatever they're doing but are also capable of refreshing their expertise every 5 years or so, or even reinventing themselves as necessary. Neither Google nor Facebook are the same companies as they were 15 years ago.

I worry that like some of the major [evil] banks that survived world wars and major crises, the tech giants aren't going away, and neither will it be easy to compete with them.

Or, ya know, just buying whatever hot new thing that gets invented and has traction.

Beyond network effects (i.e. Microsoft's mortal grip on enterprise IT), there is also concentration of capital (i.e. many or most of Google's products were acquired, including Advertising!). You can't disrupt a monopoly from within.

I think disruption occurs at certain watershed moments where a rapid paradigm change occurs: www, bitcoin, mobile, social, ecommerce, PC, internet. At these moments, growth is so fast and belief is so strong that a movement of previously untapped energy forms around it and this becomes a focal point for investment, concentrated at a single point in spacetime which is powerful enough to penetrate a monopoly.

But only if growth is so abrupt that it can't acquire you first.

And the capitalists are not going to fund the disruption as by definition capitalists operate at a scale where they can't understand it.

Dinosaurs were doomed because they were overly adapted to an ecosystem. They were evolutionary hill climbers, just as big tech is currently over adapted to the current environment. It may be years before these present day dinosaurs die out. There may be some catastrophic event that affects the environment or they may just wither. Who knows. But the signs that they are over adapted are certainly present.

Which particular ecosystem of the 300 million years traditionally ascribed to the dinosaur eras where they overly adopted to?

Mammals have only made it 200-250M years, humans *far* less.

and it's not clear the dinosaurs are gone (looks at a bird).

For BigTech, the era is just beginning. For the small guy, yes, the era is ending.

The point of the article is exactly the opposite.

The article is wrong because knowledge won't help you much in a world where you need money, connections and manpower. E.g. even with all the knowledge, a small company cannot run a silicon fab. You are always dependent on Big Corps, who are just starting to figure out how they can become modern age feudal lords.

Article is selling false/misguided hope

Nope. Not even close. It will change, for sure, but won't end. Look at other industries that have gone through massive consolidation. There are only a few large players in energy space, or cars. Now look at tech? Doesn't even have to go through consolidation, FAANG is already there.

Until the government finds a way to cap the size of companies, or keep them split up... companies will continue to grow.

Maybe big tech will end with the era of megatech....

I think it is ending, and I like the magic analogy used in the article.

You've seen it before, with IBM, blockbuster, the entire music industry. Business entities get big and think their size protects them from disruption, they begin to implement abusive policies that pay off short term and don't worry about long term because they think their size protects them. This gravy train could go on forever it appears in the moment. Of course we have the advantage of hindsight.

I think the same thing is beginning to happen to big tech. They're beginning to abuse users. Simultaneously, there are lots of alternative options to all of their products being developed.

I see either them being supplanted by new companies (with a couple of course adapting and surviving), or the industry being disrupted heavily by novel ideas. I'd prefer the latter of course, but I will take either.

No. The big tech era won't stop. IBM got replaced by Microsoft. Microsoft got replaced by FAANGs, FAANGs will get replaced by other more ferocious animals.

The article correctly states that monopolies aren't going to last long. But what the author didn't realize is there will always gonna be monopolies because the way society is constructed and the markets works incentivizes building monopolies.

We are in the game of Monopoly. If a player lasts until the end of the game he is doomed to build a monopoly.

> Microsoft got replaced by FAANGs

Microsoft is still there with a $2.4T market cap. In the context of a discussion about big tech, Netflix is not really part of it. Although the FAANG acronym kind of stuck.

MAGMA is a better acronym nowadays, as Microsoft is far larger than Netflix, and Facebook renamed to Meta.

What about google > alphabet?

Alphabet is more like a holding company which Google was put under, right? Google kept its name and its trademark. Compare with . The first is all about Google not Alphabet, while the second is about Meta and Facebook is not mentioned aside from the URL address*.

Besides, I didn't see any good acronym with only A and M...

Edit: I earlier didn't notice the Facebook name and logo turning dynamically into the Meta name and logo, but that doesn't actually make the argument weaker.

In what universe did Microsoft get replaced ? Did you see the recent stock performance and jump in valuation of the company ? It is still a beast.

Have you written a document or spreadsheet for a company lately? Microsoft is happy that nobody thinks of these things when discussing antitrust, but do you remember when there were choices other than Word and Excel?

> Microsoft got replaced by FAANGs,

Uh, what? Microsoft is currently the 2nd largest company in the world, sometimes it’s the largest. Do you have any idea how many people use say, Office 365 in a given week?

Netflix is 1/10th of the size by market cap, I don’t understand why it’s even a part of the acronym.

Personally, I hold individual shares of MSFT and AAPL and no other big tech company exposure outside of index funds.

> I don’t understand why it’s even a part of the acronym.

Because the amount it pays developers. The acronym is used in conversations about high paying tech / programming / IT jobs.

People have known how to make large internet services for 15 years. You see less diversity in services people use today than back then. Everyone knew how to do magic before big tech started dominating, todays state is the steady state where a few big companies who mastered the current formula is dominating, little is happening. You'd need a new big cultural shift like the internet or the smartphone was for things to get upended again. No, crypto isn't it.

This is a tricky subject and I don’t think the big tech era is ending unless three things happen at once -

1. Split all big tech

2. Introduce regulations to clearly specify interoperability rules between networks and ecosystems

3. Regulations to protect privacy of individuals

The problem is if they don’t happen together the big tech will have time to work around them and so the effect will not be as good. We don’t have the political will in this country to make that happen.

> My coffee shop is not an existential threat to Amazon, which retains huge advantages of scale. But before, Amazon was the only firm that could really do ecommerce. Now, everywhere can.

This is not a good example. In 2000 , it wasnt harder for the coffee shop to make a website than it was for amazon, and their challenges were similar: how to accept payments and how to deliver. Amazon solved those through scale, the coffee shop did not solve either of them (the author admits they send their kid to do deliveries). Accepting payments problem is easier today, but still not easy, and still not comparable with the world of cash where everyone everywhere has equal access to payments.

Without some massive new tech that will break the moats of bigtech (payments, logistics network, lock-in via identity) i dont think bigtech will unbundle

I really like the author’s writing style, so much so I just subscribed to their sub stack feed.

I agree with the author that the future is unclear. I think it possible that the current tech megacorps might suffer a decline but if I was betting money I am not sure what fair odds would be. Tossing my own prophecy into the discussion: I think that we will see a combination of smaller distributed decentralized tech and businesses, but some of the giants like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, etc. will continue to do well as long as they keep enough customers happy.

Much of big tech has no physical inputs or outputs. It's mostly network effect holding companies the big tech companies together. There is some gained efficiency at scale when it comes to software as a service, but the actual barrier to entry can be scaled by an individual or a small collective (open source).

The main input of the social networks is US, and our consent. If they break our trust, we start looking around for alternatives, and it might take a while, but we all hold grudges, and will route around their damage.

We must retain access to general purpose computing, if we do that, we can keep routing around their mistakes, accidental, or not.

It's only going to get bigger unless governments put limits on it. I don't see how you can reach any other conclusion given

1. historically institutions get larger and larger until busted up

2. they tend to buy out anyone who has a better technology and swallow it up

3. technology isn't going anywhere.

> society starts to learn more about wizardry. Real wizards are distinguished from charlatans by their results. A few wise wizards keep their power and even extend it. Ordinary people still can’t cast spells themselves, but they know the names of the wisest wizards.

They do not know the wizards. Even the article uses Bezos as the target for the "wisest wizards" link. He is a king, not a wizzard! The wizzards are beink kept out of sight in the castles. And the royal courts issues statements that they do not exist. You merely have to use SAFE, Cloud, Containers, etc to have the same results.

No, it's just that, like banking in the en of 2000's the tech sector gets way more scrutiny from the media, the public and politicians, a convenient scapegoat to blame for all the problems. It's interesting how all the same politicians stopped talking about Wall Streets and "fat cat bankers"... the new big bad wolf is now "big tech", in 10 years it will be something else...

The fact that politicians and the media were talking about Wall Street ten years ago during the Great Recession, and talked about it less after economies started to recover, is not all that surprising.

Similarly, the fact that politicians and the media are talking about big tech at a time when social media is being used to (depending on your politics) plan insurrections or deplatform the most important person in the world, doesn't seem like a misdirection from more relevant stories.

I'm not sure what you're suggesting is the purpose of these narratives, but I think you need to be careful that you're not implying that there is a sinister group of people who control the world's media, financial, and political systems, and are using that control to direct people towards "scapegoats" to distract the public from their own nefarious plots.

> Here’s a concrete example: in last year’s lockdown, my local coffee shop started to deliver beans. They set up a slick web store with Shopify. They took payment with Stripe or Square. The owner’s kid brought the beans round on his bike. In other words, they competed with Amazon, because they had to!

I'm sorry but the local coffee shop was never competing with Amazon in the first place. In fact, the local coffee shop further entrenched big tech because it did not setup its proper ecommerce website, host it on its own servers and processed payments with crypto instead.

The local coffee shop might have in fact jeopardized itself. Some local shops are still relevant because they cater to their specific area. By going online, this shop might give valuable information to what this special area is demanding; and if Amazon can buy this data, it's only a matter of time before the local coffee shop is doomed.

> Firms begin to incorporate magic into their production processes. Some wizards specialize in helping particular sectors. Gradually, the dark arts diffuse into the population. The magic becomes mundane.

I have very high doubts. The pandemic did push people online but I hardly find people learning development or technical skills; or at least trying to incorporate them into their workflows. They, at best, use the plug&play tools with no idea how these things work or without even reading the license. They also have no idea how their personal data is used and do not really care.

The OP example of the local coffee shop is revealing. The coffee shop did not build his own website, did not run his own local server and did not process digital crypto payments. He could have done all of that and relied on no company to run his stack. Instead, he just setup a Shoppify store that has everything as plugins and pays a subscription to that.

Hell no it's not ending, why would you even think that? Because a few governments only started cautiously talking about breaking apart giants? So what? As if corporate lawyers don't find holes in any new regulation literally the same week. Governments take years to formulate a legislation, and your average corporate legal team defeats it in days.

The big tech era is in fact now just starting. The big corporations finally realized nobody is seriously challenging them so they will only tighten the grip gradually from here on.

I am actually afraid for small tech now. And that one day me using a PiHole might get criminalized. Or a rootless VPN used for blocking invasive traffic on an Android phone might become a reason for some lobbyists to pressure my ISP into stopping my internet access.

Keep your guard up, folks, and improve your hardware operation skills -- and any physical real-life skills in general. We can't all be dependent on the corps, they must always be shown we can do without them and we only tolerate them because they are not too unpleasant.

Remember, things are never as good or as bad as you think.

'Offline' internet can come back, we can put 32g of microsd cards in special locations so we can share content and /etc/hosts without anyone knowing, maybe go online from time to time to get the newest /etc/hosts from your friends and the new locations for microsd cards near you.

Gopher is making a comeback, and gemini is growing.

Pi zero 2W costs 10$ and with 40$ screen you can watch feynman lectures with mplayer -vo fbdev, it boots into vim for 3 seconds (init into openvt -w vim kinda thing).

Soon will be back (hopefully).

The new phrack is out.

The social networks are eating themselves, same as google is eating itself, the search is garbage, the feed is even more garbage, 99% of the content is anxiety inducing miasma.

The web is eating itself, with gazillions of GPT(ish) generated articles.

Let it go, life always finds a way.

> /etc/hosts

> Gopher is making a comeback, and gemini is growing.

> Pi zero 2W

Another thing you need to keep in mind is that the number of people with the skills necessary to use this is low. Not to mention that new generations have grown up with the current status-quo and seem to be happy enough with it not to search for alternatives.

If things get really bad (a debate for which I'm not taking either side), only a very small minority will be able to use the aforementioned workarounds and can trivially be marginalized and crushed with legislation and its enforcement.

> Not to mention that new generations have grown up with the current status-quo and seem to be happy enough with it not to search for alternatives.

Even though this is true, it is not impossible to expand their horizon. We still have not figured out the pedagogy or even andragogy of how to teach technology.

Check out my progress with my daughter(10):, We are also making a card game to play with her and donate to other kids interested in learning.

Spending time with pi zero and arduino and building retropie games, using links2 instead of chrome from time to time, she is making great progress. Make the lights in her room work after few claps, with arduino nano and sound sensor so her code can control the light.

And this is only with 20-30 minutes per day.

You might think that the kids are blind to what is going on, but they do see, they know something is wrong, they know they are being exploited and cheated to buy lootboxes and skins.

her website might spark some nostalgia feelings of the early web:

:) at least it makes me feel like things are not as bad.

It’s on this community right here to make these things as easy and accessible as possible for everyone to use.

> Another thing you need to keep in mind is that the number of people with the skills necessary to use this is low.

Then maybe the Eternal September will pass, and October will finally come.

> number of people with the skills necessary

I repeatedly run the experiment to pitch a low-tech solution to a high-tech fund and aim exactly there:

Reduce the required skill to 1) signing a hosting contract and 2) copying a single file to that webspace. Really!

So that's several orders of magnitude more people than today. Instantly.

But got it the 3rd time officially now, that such would have no societal impact and isn't considered innovative, either. The time isn't here yet.

You download a file and run it on your Pi, its literally made to teach children computing. You can buy a used android phone and do it easier a pi is too expensive or hard.

Questions people will ask:

1. What is a Pi?

2. Where's the keyboard/mouse/screen?

3. What does "download a file" mean?

4. What does "run it" mean?

And as for using an Android... that immediately defeats the purpose since they're basically Google data vacuums.

I don’t see your point. Using the Internet is a data vaccum, you will probably google it even and watch the lecture on YouTube.

You don’t need to do any of this this listen to the Feynman lectures.

Been a programmer professionally for 20 years now and I regret not learning more sysadmin skills. But I'll catch up.

In the meantime, more links about how these things are done will be appreciated.

I've been programming professionally for 30 years now, and I have learned sysadmin skills---the skills required changed at least three times and the skills I learned in the 90s/early 2000s are largely obsolete, the skills from the early 2000s/2010s are on the way out.

You can't win, you can't break even, and you can't get out of the game.

i dont think thats true

ip, tcp and udp are the same, rip ospf and bgp are pretty much the same linux's skbuffs or bsd's mbufs are the same as before, the linux dma api changed a bit, but the ideas are the same.

there are some changes on the disk layers with geom and such, but nothing super fundamental

there are a bunch of layers of indirection now with VMs and cgroups, but deep down things are the same.

> You can't win, you can't break even, and you can't get out of the game.

there is nothing to win :) its just computers, dont take it so seriously


The fat that this website is down and only links to their Discord is very ironic.

we can put 32g of microsd cards in special locations so we can share content and /etc/hosts without anyone knowing

For a short while, when sneakernet was still higher capacity than the internet, people used to embed USB drives in trees and other public places. You'd walk up, plug in, and download the content. Things like full wikis of specialized subjects. Or videos of neighborhood events. Ideally, they were always made somehow read-only. I wouldn't want to imagine what would happen if they were read/write. We'd be right back to the internet we have today.

Still, it's something I do wish would have taken off. Maybe we could still do something like that today by setting up miniature web BBSes on hotspots in or near public parks. Not everything in the world should be open to the entire planet. As long as you weren't in a tourist district, you could be pretty sure the content was at least locally generated.

i am working on putting a pizero2+solar panel as a hotspot in a tree deep in the nearby forest, you will be able to connect to it and get content

i will put all kinds of public domain data on it, from most of gutenberg books to all kinds lectures encoded with h265

will be so cool to have to go to the middle of the forest to download a book :)

the whole thing should cost no more than 30$ (biggest challenge is to make sure that the battery bursting in flames wont melt the case and set things on fire)

Spend a bit more and get a quality charge controller, and a gel-chemistry battery.

I'm doing my part:

- Degoogled for three years now - Voting with my money (such as supporting Pine64) - Self-hosting my website and some services - Self-hosting at work as much as possible - Learning and applying basic tech instead of some black box from some giant corp - Shopping regional as much as possible - Shopping on alternative online stores - etc.

Im on the same page but personally I think it won’t make a big difference.

It's not so much about making a difference as it's about living by principles.

I boycott Facebook, Amazon, and Disney.

I agree that living by principles is worthwhile. But so few people do it that it will have so little impact on market forces and inequities that they are wholly irrelevant to the OP topic. You may as well tell us that you've decided to take up flying by flapping your arms.

You may as well tell us that you've decided to take up flying by flapping your arms.

How is having and deciding to live by a set of personal principals, even if there isn’t an outcome on “market forces” in any remote way comparable to believing you’re a bird?

> It's not so much about making a difference

You don't always have to make an impact on the world. Sometimes making an impact on your world is enough.

Unfortunately you were never the target audience. Companies like Google operate on the scale of billions, and the vast majority are completely unsophisticated and only able to use whatever software is easiest.

The point of technically-minded people switching away from these companies isn't that we expect everyone else to all follow our example at the same time. Instead, the goal is to support these alternative services financially; and with bug reports, feature requests, and pull requests; so that those alternative services become the easiest to use, at which point the rest of society will switch without having to be told.

That may seem unrealistic, since billions-scale companies have much greater resources to invest in user experience, but you have to think of this as asymmetric warfare, with their size being a liability rather than an asset.

For example, large services need to justify their expenses by maximising the amount of money they extract from users (just look at the latest controversial feature of Edge[0]). Also, keeping these alternative services running provides an existence proof to regulators about how services don't need to be exploitative, giving them cover to write rules that re-balance the playing field, such as requiring social media and messaging companies to make their services interoperable.[1]



Yep. Same thougts here. But I feel that a turning point may come at some point though

> the vast majority are completely unsophisticated and only able to use whatever software is easiest.

Not really "the vast majority" ...

I believe the problem on Google's side is that it is easier to do good services on easy stuff, like mail and simple search querries like "who is the president in Finland" or "when does X close".

So Google prioritizes trivia searches over searches an unsophisticated dentist would querry to look up some procedure.

Programmers just seem to rely more on websearches where other fields have like magazines, workplace courses and conferences.

You don’t need everyone to change, the commoners imitate the elite.

Who will the masses ultimately follow: solitary tech savvy geeks who warn of naked emperors? Or armies of corporate-sponsored feel-good social influencers who entertain by promoting only themselves and the fad-du-jour?

I know none of the former who have built self-promotion-based $multi-million empires. I wish that were true of the latter.

The masses will do the easy thing, signal was made and adopted by WhatsApp for example.

The magic and evil of software and hardware is that you don’t have to understand it to use it. Elon musk memed people into crypto.

A comment about one aspect of big tech, i.e IT infrastructure (think AWS, GCP, Azure, and now Cloudflare etc.):

I don't see this mentioned enough but it wouldn't be surprising if some companies will want to start owning and running their own IT infrastructure. Buy your own servers and setup a small data-center for a small to medium business. This will be a thing again. The pendulum has to swing, but the question is -- is there money in enabling this for companies that want to go this way? I expect some startups in near future to target this opportunity and help shift towards decentralization (again).

Currently I work in a company that's very cost-conscious about hosting. They are generous in salaries but are mercilessly practical about IT costs and the abilities of computers -- especially the latter part is something that most of the programmers today have almost completely forgot.

I have 3 spare laptops lying around; weakest of them is with a Celeron J4155 and I have put a web app with no caching on it (it does have a persistent DB) and hammered it with my workstation until it finally started giving up at ~2500 req/s (Elixir/Phoenix stack). Again, that's a Celeron J4155 with a SATA III SSD in an M.2 factor (so disk speed caps at 550MB/s at best; usually 400-460) and 12GB RAM. Most programmers wouldn't touch such a machine.

I imagine I can buy 2 more of these laptops and make a completely replicated 3-cluster of the entire stack of our company and the slowest requests (on admin UI where we have a lot of SQL JOINs) would likely never go above 200ms. That totals at about 600 EUR (yep, I bought the laptop second-hand for 200 EUR). Then 500 more EUR for a good UPS to plug the laptops and my routers to. Boom 1100 EUR and several weekends later I can likely charge my own employer for hosting at 100 EUR a month for their entire infrastructure and I would likely still be ripping them off even with that.

The only real cost is human time and energy invested in making it work. But for most companies that's not a 24/7 fight so that cost is fairly low. You can do it twice a year and you're likely never going to have problems.

So yep, I am completely with you here (if my rant didn't make it obvious). Infrastructure costs are already being heavily optimized by companies out there.

You are vastly overestimating the IT capabilities of most companies. The human time and energy cost that you handwaved away is a real killer because that is expert knowledge capability that is highly valued by the market. Maintaining an IT staff and infrastructure to support a large organization that has to perform any kind of reasonable SLA for services eventually puts you in direct competition with Major Cloud Providers at scale. A scenario where you can outcompete them with their large customer bases becomes very difficult to imagine under current technological and market conditions.

It's not a matter of outsourcing culture. Cloud providers really do provide computing in a cost efficient matter since they practically provide IT infrastructure at wholesale, and it produces an anti-trust risk because, as you pointed out, the actual hardware that can make it go is not nearly as expensive.

I am not handwaving anything away. We're a company that has less but very strong programmers (we don't even have DevOps / sysadmins, our CTO is doing it and I'll likely be taking part of his responsibilities at one point).

And we don't have the requirements of most big Silicon Valley companies that you reference. It boggles my mind why so many commenters IMMEDIATELY assumed we're a hyper-growth startup or whatever. We're an expanding data provider and our growth is super predictable, and our set of requirements changes like once a year.

So really, not sure why you and others keep repeating things I already agree with. The cloud wins from one point / scale and on, absolutely; otherwise it wouldn't ever take off. I am saying that people give up way too quickly and run to the cloud long before they need it -- that's all.

If running your tech stack on local hardware is right for you guys, than more power to you. That is also what works for me for my personal and hobby computing requirements, where I maintain a home machine. But there is kind of an implication that most people who start developing on cloud services are just clueless programmers who never learned the basics of system provisioning.

Even with the specs you mentioned, you can rent a lightsail server that is comparable on AWS for like 80 usd a month, so I would push back against the idea that using cloud services in pretty much any scenario is a purely technical decision.

Part of the context of discussing things this way is the original article: do the prevalence of service companies signal the end of big tech? I would say no, because the only way to not be reliant cloud service providers is to do what you describe and compete directly with their infrastructure services by forming your own technical infrastructure. But the logical conclusion to doing things this way is that eventually whoever can control more physical infrastructure has an advantage. What if Amazon is able to replicate your service offerings? They would be able to immediately able to offer their version using their cloud services at a fraction of the price because they can amoratize the cost of computing over their cloud business. Then, when they have eliminated you as competition, they can recoup everything by increasing the price. This is a HUGE anti-trust concern, and one that all tech companies should be at least a little bit concerned about in the long term. It doesn't go away because you can have an (in your case more expensive than lightsail) up front investment to own your companies computing resources.

If they can do it at the fraction of the cost then I'd use it. Trouble is, AWS pricing is hard to parse, especially post factum. In my company's case, the leaders are not happy with the lack of billing transparency.

I think that's not only a good reason not to use AWS, but also the fundamental problem with the position that cloud service providers pose. It would be much healthier for companies and organizations to directly own their own computing resources, rather than effectively leasing them from one of three cloud service providers, but it is absolutely more of an investment for companies to make.

Sure, agreed. I am on the opinion that Amazon does not have to be that monopoly-oriented but alas, humans being humans right?

Give me an AWS service with predictable billing and ability to put hard limits so you don't have your credit card charged for surprising amounts if you get bursty unexpected loads, and I'll be all over them without thinking of on-prem hosting.

But you yourself admit that you have an unusual setup with a few very strong programmers. Few are like this even in Silicon Valley. As for other industries, they're not even close. So your company's setup won't transfer well to the rest of the world.

I would not be so sure of your last. The SV mold is the outlier but most USA programmers can't see it because they don't work for non-US companies. Everywhere I was all around the EU in my 20 years of career so far, the SV way of doing things has not been the norm.

So it pays off to be wary of filter bubbles. The SV way of doing things assumes a ton of VC money to burn, something that, to this day, is still not a wide trend in the EU (even if it happens here and there).

Plus that company's setup is not unusual in any way per se; the only "unusual" thing is "we don't run to the cloud at the first IT problem". A ton of other companies are like this, I'd bet even in the US.

> The only real cost is human time and energy invested in making it work. But for most companies that's not a 24/7 fight so that cost is fairly low. You can do it twice a year and you're likely never going to have problems.

If this were true, what made the cloud providers popular in the first place?

Outsourcing culture. Nobody wants to nurture talent -- that would also mean to invest in relations with your employees and not alienating them. Shareholders prefer to sacrifice a little more of their profit so they deal with less potential problems. And the pull of the idea that every human in the org must be an inter-changeable cog is too strong (even if that idea continues to be absurd, and always was).

Hosting apps in the cloud was a fair exchange 10 years ago because operational tooling in general was more immature. Nowadays it's much easier to self-host many pieces of software though.

This isn’t it, you might not know or if you haven’t been in an environment like it.

Without a cloud you’re always running up against limits, out of power, out out cooling, out of rack space, out of hardware. You get new resources by adding to wish lists and seeing if the end of quarter budget will agree with your request which might be filled in a few months, maybe next year, often never.

You hoard hardware that ends up doing nothing most of the time so you have it when you do need it. Management spends a lot of time and energy managing the datacenter budget.

With cloud you get what you want without asking too much and management periodically spearheads savings efforts to show off, but ultimately usually spends a lot more than they would have otherwise with less friction.

A big part of cloud adoption, according to my theory, is getting executives out of the way of computing resource needs and freeing up their time to fill with something else like bothering employees for more status updates (which are easier and require less skill).

> Without a cloud you’re always running up against limits, out of power, out out cooling, out of rack space, out of hardware.

I grew up in this era and keep hearing this repeated but it simply wasn’t true. Enterprises would plan ahead and buy enough hardware for years and it would work fine until you bought more. The myth that you need to scale your infrastructure 10x in a day doesn’t apply to 99% of enterprises, and even if it did it’s probably a result of bad planning on the part of leadership. As a result of the current paradigm businesses end up renting servers at a substantial markup for fairly obsolete hardware.

In general it's really the opposite. In 2004 you needed a rack full of $3000 servers to run your medium business. Now it's two physical machines using 5% of the power to virtualize everything that used to run on two dozen.

Over a given period of time, computers get faster/cheaper by more than most businesses expand. When you need to expand, buying a newer, faster machine may cause you to save money because the faster machine uses less power than the existing one.

You are talking big businesses here, I've seen people just ask the CEO if they can buy 3 brand new servers and him agreeing, verbally, and the servers arrived next week, and two weeks later were completely setup and were useful.

This lasted for 11 years and only stopped because two of the 5 senior engineers retired and because the company was bought a few weeks earlier.

So again, don't look at this through Silicon Valley lens. Most of the companies in the world have a very different mold compared to SV.

Then there are service contracts to make surr the systems keeps running with little downtime. Which may be impossible to get for 11 year old equipment. Then there are pesky details like needing a disaster recovery site.

Professional hardware is expensive and server h/w is a small part of it.

> Without a cloud you’re always running up against limits, out of power, out out cooling, out of rack space, out of hardware.

I bet most customers of cloud services are not in a high-growth phase, so this is scenario most organizations aspire to ("What if we suddenly got popular?" is a fantasy that's hard to disabuse someone of internally, if you want to be known as a team player

> Management spends a lot of time and energy managing the datacenter budget. With cloud you get what you want without asking too much...

I fully agree, this is the core reason why most companies gravitate towards cloud: management abdicates control of costs to engineers, resulting in less friction - but its OpEx, not CapEx, so the bean counters are chilled about it. If the same low-friction approach were applied to DC equipment, you'd get similar results, but cheaper.

I used to be a big proponent of self-hosting. The raw hardware cost makes it look like a great deal. However in my experience hardware is less than 5% of salary cost and having enough admins on hand to make your infra reliable is usually going to end up costing you more in the end.

Don't some of those salary costs transfer over to the cloud. Someone still has to manage it

You need a lot less people per computer when you have millions of computers like big tech has than when you have 10.

The cost of these services is not because big tech has to use that much to run them, but because big tech would make less money if they lowered prices. AWS generates tons of profits, why lower that for no reason?

> You need a lot less people per computer when you have millions of computers like big tech has than when you have 10.

That's not the people we're talking about. Racking a server and setting it up to do virtualization takes maybe a few hours for one person, if that, over a period of years. Maintenance on the host itself is the same.

The real labor cost is in setting up and maintaining applications for your specific needs. None of that goes away by using someone else's hardware.

> The real labor cost is in setting up and maintaining applications for your specific needs. None of that goes away by using someone else's hardware.

But AWS does a lot of that for you by offering cloud services and not just hardware. That is why people pay so much more for AWS than other just hosting solutions.

That doesn't explain why their pricing for generic VMs or bandwidth is so high, or why anybody should want to pay them for that.

It also doesn't really work. Some textile company is going to have some line of business software to run their textile mill. Amazon doesn't provide that. You still have to do labor to configure it. These are the hard things, because they're custom and don't have a huge installed base of people who already encountered and solved all the problems you're going to have. But for the same reason, they're the things AWS doesn't provide.

What they provide is common things like DNS. But DNS is easy to set up and maintain, because it's common, and so already has smooth edges. That's not where the labor was going.

> Outsourcing culture. Nobody wants to nurture talent.

Also, outsourcing moves the blame to someone else if things go wrong. (and things in infra go wrong nearly constantly).

The problem with this kind of thinking is ofcourse, that there is no risk taking and innovation in suchs an organisation..

AWS lets me provision servers all over the world at any point, which is required by customers both for compliance and for latency SLAs. Even billion dollar companies are going to find that a huge lift to build out themselves, and they have opportunity cost while they try to do it.

This selfish outsourcing culture is killing all the Gilfoyles out there!

What about scaling down? Once you bought hardware for self hosting you are stuck with it.

What about it? We're talking small businesses here, this will not be a warehouse full of racks worth of machines to try and sell. We're likely talking 3 to 10 PC-sized machines in a closet or storage room. You can sell those on 2nd hand market pretty quickly and even if you sell them at 30-40% loss you are extremely likely to have already paid off the other 60-70% during the machines' service time.

old laptop is fine then :)

The costs the OP described are pretty minimal.

You never know. While working in an ITAM role, I've had a manager point out a line item asking why we need 30 DisplayPort cables. This was in an org with multiple sites, 2000+ employees, using dual monitor setups both in house and remote. Whether physically, or in the cloud, companies whose primary business isn't tech-related see the IT side as an annoying cost center rather than a cost of doing business in the 21st century.

I'm curious as a hosting and cloud noob, do you have an estimate how much that would cost monthly or yearly if hosted on a cloud?

Not really, because AWS costs aren't transparent. You can't drill down properly and even where you can, the prices are disappointingly high.

It gets really tempting to setup a backup/failover node on one of my spare laptops lately...

Interesting. I am not intimately familiar with the subject matter, so I will be curious then to see how the next 10 years play out.

Keep in mind that most big clients of cloud providers are startups running on VC money. It's not their money and they don't care about wasting it, and VCs don't particularly care either.

This has now created an entire ecosystem of developers and "devops engineers" (what we used to call sysadmins) who know little beyond the cloud and have to keep using it for career-related reasons. This in turn pushes companies to use the cloud as finding talent for old-school on-premises infrastructure is difficult.

Beancounters love OPEX and avoid CAPEX

beancounters are not in charge of the direction of the company. In a lot of cases, it makes a ton of sense to go for capex vs opex.

My old employer had a strategy which basically boiled down to owning everything inside this company expect for the coffee machines and cleaning crew. His reason being? This made it possible to run on very thight margins when the economy takes a downturn without having to scramble for money because of leased/loaned equipment etc.

In the 2008 crisis, this is how he stayed afloat with his company, and even made a pretty profit during a time of crisis too.

Surely the beancounters can also see the effects of capex on the valuations of the cloud providers.

If they're publicly traded, no one's going to give Bob's Consolidated Widgets a 65x PE or 2x+ PEG ratio, even if they have the best IT strategy in their market.

Curious, can you explain why? In my experience (just one company where I had some interaction with accounting), there was a preference toward CAPEX. The costs of building a product, ie software development, was prefered over OPEX, in this case, analytics. Since I was doing both development and analytics, they preferred me to account part of my time as CAPEX. Not sure if this is normal but for context it was a non/pre-public company.

OPEX is just an expense in the current fiscal year. CAPEX depreciates over N years. This alone means that a one-time payment is much simpler on the books.

I don't think your salary counts as CAPEX, it's a normal monthly expense for the company.

That human time happens to be quite expensive.

Not in small companies.

It's most of the cost at small companies. A lot of people underestimate the total cost of having employees perform tasks at unpredictable scale with unpredictable problems versus just writing a check each month.

It's true that cloud providers aren't reliably cheaper as some assumed at one point. But there's something to be said for cutting out the fully burdened costs of some number of employees (especially given everyone is saying tech talent is expensive and scarce at the moment) and just letting AWS deal with it even if you could theoretically do it cheaper yourself.

Not only that, but if you have a business that actually makes, sells, and ships something, your AWS bill is probably a tiny fraction of your expenses. Switching to physical servers would be a little like getting solar installed on your house - great in theory, but if the most expense it will displace is $150/month, is it the right problem to focus on?

True. Although I’d argue most companies are small enough that AWS itself represents more overhead than is optimal. They’d be better of on Heroku, or even just a single VM.

Certainly you can overcomplicate things with any of the big public cloud providers. As you say, many smaller companies would be better off with a SaaS, maybe a PaaS, and some VPSs, whether from one of the big guys or someone else.

I had to laugh at someone's comment around re:Invent last week that just because Amazon has to offer 17 types of databases for its customers (or whatever the exact quote was) doesn't mean you have to collect them all as if they were Pokemon.

What if the cheap guy quits?

I'm aware of the risks. That's why I said a culture of long-term relationships must be fostered if you want to pull such operations off.

Where I work right now people don't just quit two days later. They like the company and if they feel they want to go someplace else they're not being difficult about it. They cooperate in passing down their knowledge to colleagues before they go.

Infinite scale up (direct fan-out to mass market), high margins (able to overpay for commodities), and outsourcing production work to stable businesses are all facets of the Hollywood business model that Surveillance Valley adopted. Once the concept was socially proven, then nobody gets fired for buying IBM.

What happens when your local internet connection goes out and you can no longer serve traffic for your business? What if there is a power outage? Who will spend the time replacing disks as they fail? Where is the data backed up to, so that a failed disk doesn't lose business data?

I like where you're going with this but you could take it a lot further with little expense. Amazon and MicroCenter have a huge stock of refurbished HP mini PCs with i5s, 16gb of ram and an M2 slot for about $350. Throw in a small m2 ssd in each (~$50) and keep your UPS, that's about $1700 you have a decent cluster for an efficient stack like phoenix.

How much money would your company save by hosting on some old laptops instead of in the cloud?

5 digits of USD per month. Whereas normal on-prem hosting can be started with almost no dollar cost, tomorrow.

Right now they/we can't do it though, the talent is there but that talent is super busy reworking software that's no longer well-adapted to their new requirements. We'll see if the topic becomes more relevant in the future.

Not to forget - there are more choices than big-cloud and host-everything-yourself.

One can rent VMs from Hetzner at 1/3 the price of AWS (and 1/10 the data transfer fees). No managed services, like Dynamo or S3, but will full convenience of on-demand scale-up

Or, for mid-sized corporations - buying a rack of computers, wiring them together, and installing OpenStack to make an internal cloud - that isn't some black magic wizardry either

Oh yeah, completely agreed. As mentioned in another comment we might just go Hetzner and buy a singular server in another provider for backup and failover. We'd likely be just fine with 6-7 of the smaller Hetzner servers, too.

that works as long as there are enough of you for every team/app/service/whatever to build and operate all that around the clock and without bus risk.

A lot of these threads end up talking about "scaling" from a pure hardware perspective. Once you start talking about medium-to-large companies, the real scaling headache is people, process, and organizations.

Not sure if I made myself clear but I definitely meant my above as aimed at small businesses (which my current employer is).

Obviously from one scale and on the cloud is very much worth it. IMO the discussion has to be shifted to "before which point you can easily get away without the cloud?".

At some point, an internal cloud starts being interesting and gives a clear org boundary, using cloud-based software and interfaces.

That's true as well. It all depends on how much is the employer willing to invest in their employees in the end; if they foster longer-lasting relationships then many interesting internal projects become feasible or even desirable.

Those invested-in employees will probably still leave, especially if they're very good and you can't match big tech salaries. And, in any case, you need redundancies for when they're on vacation, out sick, etc. Not to say you shouldn't develop in house competencies but you should do so deliberately because there are probably a lot more costs and risks than are obvious.

We're not blind to the tradeoffs. It's a long process to both change culture and nurture the necessary skills in your staff, AND take care of having human redundancy.

My point never was to idolize on-prem; I have agreed in other comments that from one point and on the cloud absolutely wins.

I'm mostly pointing out that there is a lot you can do before bowing your head to Amazon and accept $30_000+ monthly bill for infrastructure that I can fit in my 1 square meter food closet and which would likely cost me (or a few other experienced backenders) 2-3 weekends to setup.

Absolutely. I'm definitely not in the "You're crazy if you don't just use AWS/GCP/Azure" camp. I'm just also not in the "See how cheap it is to just stick a system under my desk" camp. Totally dependent on use case and circumstances.

True. It's not a religion or a credo. We're simply evaluating our options because our cloud bill is way too high for what we do.

Time will tell but IMO it's super important to reserve the right to take a deeper look if you don't like your costs.

We're not as helpless as big tech wants us to believe.

And figuring out those costs can be really hard. People like Corey Quinn have built a whole business out of helping people make sense of their AWS bills.

Yep, but it's all self-interest. At one point you ask yourself: must I really go down this rabbit hole?

IMO the thing to watch for is regulations around what rules you need to follow to be compliant in how you operate your data center or physical servers. It’s very likely big tech will lobby for rules that appear to be anti big tech but actually will make it harder to operate independent from a big tech provider… think net neutrality (not saying I don’t think we need it just as an example)

>I expect some startups in near future to target this opportunity

But most of the problem isn't with infrastructure. Once you start using AWS's services it is the software that is most problematic. And that is why all these infrastructure / cloud provider wants to do serverless.

Right now there is a lot of money to be made in moving companies to the cloud, I predict that in 10-20 years time there will be a lot of money to be made moving them out of that same cloud.

I hate having to learn all of AWS, GCP and Azure proprietary tech, I’ll take a Linode box any day thank you

I believe this has been stated to be the core thesis behind Oxide Computer Company's business model.

but this is already the case for a LOT of companies. HN seems so focused on cloud and sillicon valley that they forget there are hundreds of datacenters filled with colocated space and connectivity.

Colo is cheap, connectivity is cheaper then it has ever been, and most bussiness don't require massive scaling to do their bussiness.

Also, owning your own infra allows you to innovate and play a game outside of the borders aws, gcp and azure are drawing up for you.

I was thinking the exact same thing recently. If you can setup and manage an infrastructure by yourself, you have pretty good advantage in term of cost.

Why? Especially for small and medium businesses, the capital costs involved rarely make sense, and if you're leasing, might as well lease from a cloud provider which saves you time and people. There are many smaller players which are OK depending on uptime requirements - OVHCloud, Digital Ocean, Hetzner, Scaleway, Linode, etc.

The capital costs are very easy to make back. For us, the payback period was <1 year, and our machines provided unbeatable performance with very good transparency into issues, which made it relatively easy to track down issues. Dedicated machines are really, really powerful now, and you can do with a few what it used to take racks. I feel like the perception of “it’s too hard” or “it’s actually more expensive” is subtly encouraged and reinforced by the myriad companies that stand to benefit - all those hosted services, the cloud providers, etc. And they make it easy for individual employees to appear more productive, but in exchange for costing their companies much more in the long run, and introducing a lot of inter-service latency and complexity. Misaligned incentives.

The major exception for us is S3, scaling storage seems like it would suck terribly.

> subtly encouraged and reinforced by the myriad companies that stand to benefit..."

Not just companies. Web developers love the complexity of their stack. Some monolith written in native performant language and put on a decent hardware can cover needs of the most reasonable size business. This simple fact makes them very uncomfy when presented. Many of them would not be even aware that such things are possible. They'd rather be spoon fed by the likes of the Amazon telling them how to develop their wares. The fact that the more inefficient their software is the more money said Amazon will make is ignored. They'd invent all kinds of largely BS arguments to avoid going a simpler route. One can just read numerous articles on HN describing "our stack". On a client site they have this React atrocity. Sure this thing works well for orgs the size of FB. But they're not FB and never will be.

this happens lower down the stack too.

Distributed redundancy is a good example. There are very, very few situation in which this couldn't be resolved with a simple BGP daemon on a server and anycast.

I don't disagree with you but I wonder if you are underestimating how many years of useful service can you get out of dual Xeon E-2690v3 systems. Almost no business actually needs the latest and greatest -- the only serious concern when hosting on-prem is energy consumption and heat dissipation. If that can be covered well the rest is much easier to cope with.

I do have some server hardware on premises (well it is in my basement and I have fat internet pipes) but I do not mind going middle road and renting dedicated servers on Hetzner and OVH. They're surprisingly cheap for whet they offer. The same performance / resource wise hardware on Amazon would make one bleed the money.

Agreed, and that's just what we might end up doing btw. A bit more manual sysadmin work which we end up doing on EC2 instances currently anyway. And a lot of money can be saved by EU dedicated server hosting.

Are any companies selling a package to make this happen. Your Own Cloud Starter kit only $1.5M

>Hell no it's not ending, why would you even think that? Because a few governments only started cautiously talking about breaking apart giants? So what? As if corporate lawyers don't find holes in any new regulation literally the same week. Governments take years to formulate a legislation, and your average corporate legal team defeats it in days.

In some way wish it is ending. As human society, we don't need any more mega big company. Everything ought to kept local and small and diverse, so there is no central control, it is only resilient way to thrive for tech and innovation.

Apple sells billions of iPhones, all with the same hardware and OS. As a result it can afford to spend a lot of money on design.

You would not enjoy an iPhone made by your local electrician.

Not local, but small and competitive was nice. Electronics were so much more fun twenty years ago. Nowadays a company is a bold risk-taker if their glass sandwich has an extra button on top.

Consumer stuff sure, but we didn't have today's proliferation of hobbyist platforms back then either. The fun things are still out there, they are just different.

Have you tried the Framework Laptop? It's a great example of how small start-ups can build better devices than the giants. Difficult, yes -- impossible, no.

It's a niche product for hardware hackers. (That's why its sales are so low.)

Whether it's a niche product or not is beside the point. The point is that a small entity can build a device that is arguably better designed, better reviewed, affordable and readily available for purchase.

Me, an economist: if it's better, why does nobody buy it?

People are buying it... so much so that Framework has been struggling to keep up with the demand. All of their early batches sold out well in advance. I placed my order two months ago and it was backordered for a month. Batch 6 (the current batch) is the first batch they've had all year where they haven't been massively backordered.

I'm glad, but Apple ships millions of Macs every quarter. When Framework catch up, then I'll agree they're better and not niche. Of course as a hacker I might prefer Framework, believe it is better, even evangelize it. That's a different use of the word, though.

The original question was whether a small company can make a better device than a very large company.

Here you've defined "better" to include "can ship very large quantities", which is almost a circular way of defining the answer to be negative, no matter what the company does.

If it can ship very large quantities, it's not a small company.

It doesn't really matter that it's a niche product. The mere fact that it's out there does show to less tech savvy people what's possible. That's very important because many of them are not even aware things can be done differently.

The Framework is only better than a MacBook Pro if you care about repairability, customizability, freedom, etc., which most people don’t. It’s also worse in many ways — less polished OS UI, worse screen resolution.

> The Framework is only better than a MacBook Pro if you care about repairability, customizability, freedom, etc.

Those are three pretty huge things... For me personally, repairability is secondary to their very convenient modular IO port system.

> Less polished OS UI.

You can have them install Windows without the typical manufacturer bloatware or you can put *nix on it. For me, that's better than macOS.

> worse screen resolution

The resolution on the MacBook Pro 13 and the Framework are nearly the same: 2560 x 1600 vs 2256 x 1504.

Imo people overstate how good the macOS UX is. It's fine if you're used to it, but when I started using it for the first time there were lots of little unpleasant surprises and inconsistencies. The way people talk about macOS' design gave me expectations that macOS did not meet.

Framework laptop is not possible without the supply chain investments made by large conglomerates.

True, but is that relevant? All companies, big and small, depend on all manner of services, materials, infrastructure, etc that are provided by other entities.

Even if that's true, what does it matter and what are you implying? No innovation because the big good corps paved the way before that?

Imagine what would happen if Rome made those big and long roads all across Europe and then nobody used them out of respect of all the labor that went into them. :D

Hmm, Many corps, government, humans etc. aim to become bigger and global. So, there is no easy way to keep them local, small and diverse. And once they grow big most of them turns blind eye on small local companies just like how amazon is doing now.

This is a problem that will prevail forever and can't be solved easily. We can experience today too in china the government do crackdown but most of us hate it right? If they don't regulate they grow beyond party.

(Taking example of china because I don't know other country which does crackdown on big giants like this)

You can largely achieve this by barring companies from managing or owning even pieces of other companies directly or indirectly and taxing based on number of employees. Add a scaling tax on assets including IP and it becomes very hard to have Walmart sized mega corporations.

It’s a more interesting question to ask if this would be more economically efficient.

> "It’s a more interesting question to ask if this would be more economically efficient."

it's almost self-evident that it would be more efficient. the more interesting questions are how and why. fair and efficient markets at steady-state would largely be composed of a few medium-sized companies and a bunch of small companies, with new entrants occasionally. that would enable healthy competition that would drive progress while keeping chaotic upheavals mostly at bay. it would also distribute wealth more widely, which means we'd get more diverse ingenuity and more interesting entrepreneurship, rather than having the capable simply stowing away at large companies taking their safe and boring little toll on the income river.

I don’t think it’s clear because economies of scale do exist. Honda can simply spend more on R&D than a company 1/10th it’s size. Large companies definitely have their own issues, but there isn’t some clear maximum size where companies universally become less efficient at say 1,000 employees. It’s more a question of management overhead and flexibility etc.

economies of scale taper off because other effects (like coordination problems) tend to overwhelm it with scale. also, capital becomes less efficient at scale due to opportunity costs and the innovator’s dilemma, for instance. there are many more reasons why economies of scale aren’t the be all and end all of market economics.

I agree, my point was it depends on industry. You can’t build a modern Fab for a 100 million it simply takes billions to be competitive. Further, you need a pipeline of Fab’s to afford the R&D etc. At the other end a McDonalds franchise can be as profitable as their corporate restaurants.

there's no intrinsic reason a capital-intensive industry can only be winner-take-all. capital-intensiveness is primarily a financing issue, and assuming capital finance has been corralled into being a competitive market, it isn't a particularly insurmountable problem. tokyo public transportation is an example of a capital-intensive market that still has competitive dynamics.

It’s not just about capital, my point was the benchmarks where different between industries. You can scale a soda bottling plant in the way you can’t scale a single sit down a restaurant simply because you can ship soda hundreds of miles without issue.

Fab’s are built at such scale in part because finished chips are really easy to ship being both durable and value dense. They also benefit from that scale because of the nature of the lithography process which has many individual steps which need to be done in the same factory, but each step is very fast and operates on a full wafer at the same time. Millions of chips per year is basically the minimum scale that’s in any way reasonable.

I'd like to just see them distribute their actual profits instead of being allowed to "hoard" it. That would also go a long way in fixing the stock markets supposed "growth by any means" criticism. I'd argue that the hoarded profits are one of the main drivers of all these acquisitions that reduce competition and lead to consolidation.

> So, there is no easy way to keep them local, small and diverse

I was lately thinking about some kind legislative action against network effects. Let's make it easy to migrate to other platforms.

Obvious way to do this is to require big companies to implement "data export" feature with specification.

This has limited utility in practice because the data models reflect the underlying implementation and architectural details, particularly in the kinds of scalable systems big companies have. Specific tradeoffs are made in data models that reflect the tools available to the designer that might not apply to your environment. Moving data models between two systems that were not designed together can create a several order of magnitude difference in performance, cost, etc in using that data model.

It is a common problem for data model migration, even outside the context of the big tech companies. I've had cases where the systems were effectively not replicable even though the data was made available because the source system relied on some bespoke piece of data infrastructure software that no one else was likely to replicate. (Even hypothetically open sourcing this infrastructure isn't that helpful because it is usually extremely specific to the operational environment for which it was designed -- you can't drop it into your operational environment.)

All of which adds so much asymmetric friction and cost, which the source provider does not incur, that merely making data models exportable tends to generate limited user value in data models that inherently encode network effects.

The GDPR pretty much requires that already. You need to be able to export your data and another service must be able to parse them automatically, if reasonably possible.

Not easily, I agree, but it could be done. For example, there could be higher taxation rates for larger companies.

I wonder how this would work, considering higher tax rates hurt the profitability of a company.

The interesting thing about big tech in that regard, is a 50% income tax rate wouldn't be enough to stop them.

Big tech piles up large amounts of cash as it is and they have no idea what to do with it (other than shovel it back to shareholders). They have far beyond the margins they need to keep expanding, even with a 50% income tax. So the first thing it would do is cut into shareholder returns (less cash), their multiples would contract as investors would find them less appealing. Half of America is invested in big tech (in one form or another), and those are by far the most active voters. If they see their portfolios tank due to a huge hike in corporate income taxes, they'll promptly punish the politician/s that are responsible for it. Big tech would keep growing at 50%, so what's the alternative? 70%-80%? It's unlikely to ever have the support required to get it passed, it just plain sounds very egregious as a policy. At very high levels it comes across as: we like to punish success; and that's how it would be run against politically by the other side (Republicans).

It's always interesting how people view taxation as punishment, as if the money just disappears into a black hole instead of being used for bettering the lives of everyone in the country. America could easily fund universal health care, which would be a massive boost to quality of life, if they taxed bigtech a bit more.

Instead you have Americans refusing to go to the doctor because they're afraid of the bill.

The us government already could fund universal health care and chooses not too. People in the US are wary about taxation because we already have a comparable tax rate to other developed nations, with more prosperity, and yet we get comparatively far fewer public goods in return. It's a raw deal. Where's our high speed rail, our public transit, our health care, our public bathrooms? Why is that money going to Raytheon instead?

Could it?


Total Revenue is $4T, Total Spending is $6T, and

> Social Security will be the biggest expense, budgeted at $1.196 trillion. It's followed by Medicare at $766 billion and Medicaid at $571 billion.

That is $1.35T spent on healthcare just for old people (over 65) and poor people. And it is not even the whole amount, since most 65+ people still have to buy insurance. Even if you cut out the 5% profit margins of managed care organizations, or even 15% assuming their function is wholly unnecessary, it still seems unlikely universal health can be offered without increasing tax revenues.

In 2019, total healthcare spend for all of US was $3.9T.

> That is $1.35T spent on healthcare just for old people (over 65) and poor people.

Aged, blind, disabled, and poor, plus less poor children and pregnant women.

it's not that weird. no one talks about raising taxes for the people who would see a net benefit from more public services.

50% income tax is the standard upper echelon tax rate for individuals in the developed world.

I wish that too, believe me, but the interests of the corps is to pull us towards a cyberpunk future when they can stop your (artificial and cloud-connected) liver from working if you post something vaguely anti-establishment somewhere. They have been very trigger happy lately.

This is why we need to protect free speech.

IMO the far left challenging free speech is a bit of a trojan horse. Yes, you can use censorship to suppress distasteful ideas, but it's also obvious that if you give corporations the power to censor whatever they want, they will also use it to censor anything you say to criticize them. Look at what the Chinese government is doing, they can basically erase anything that makes China look bad from the internet in less than 30 minutes. Is that what we want here too?

Free speech is not a "far right" idea. It's the basis of democracy.

Turning important society-wide (and hell, world-wide even) problems into yet another "us vs. them" diatribe seriously does not help anyone and it's just a distraction.

I don't care if I group up with "lefties" or "righties" to make important societal changes happen. If they are on board with the vision, let them believe in Santa if they need that to sleep better.

it's a truism that free speech undergirds democracy, but you get to it via a false dichotomy (left vs right) handed down to us by surrogates of power (political scientists, in this case) to distract and divide the populace. the only useful (but not wholly accurate) dichotomy regarding political economies is the one between the powerful and the powerless. this is the timeless and unending conflict, not left-right, liberal-conservative, or any of that other bullshit. free speech is one tool of the powerless populace to keep the powerful in check.

But what if one of those local, small, and diverse communities doesn't conform to the globally approved ideology? Diversity in modern culture means physical window dressing. True diversity of communities might lead to people with no-no values living with others with the same no-no values. How can that be allowed?

If anything introducing new legislation clearly helps out big tech in the end by raising the bar for their (smaller) competition thus deepening their moat even further.

It's no wonder FB is pretty much always positive about this law or that law that will supposedly regulate tech in one way or another.

It's like saying, "Oh no they're talking about breaking up Ma Bell. Telecommunications is over." Sure Bell got broken up but the industry as a whole ballooned.

So apparently the US government is very responsive to the concerns of anti-competitive behavior when it's between one corporation versus another.

But they seem particularly apathetic to the privacy considerations, robocalls and all things telemarketing, junk mail, insane product placement, and the blatant manipulation of our dopamine system by such corporations.

Does that sound like something that's going to end the big tech era or just keep driving it further?

>I am actually afraid for small tech now. And that one day me using a PiHole might get criminalized. Or a rootless VPN used for blocking invasive traffic on an Android phone might become a reason for some lobbyists to pressure my ISP into stopping my internet access.

Big tech is unlikely to attack that way. It's far better for big tech to stop these things via new technology, rather than try a political process which will require expensive brib^W lobbying and is subject to backlash. Big tech have a far bigger advantage on the tech front than the political front.

PiHole could be trivially sidestepped by hardcoding the DNS server and then encrypting DNS in the name of security (Didn't some Androids have Google hardcoded?). Android/iOS could allow some apps to ignore VPNs (this already happened with some Apple software).

IMO they attack on all fronts, the one both me and you mentioned included.

Gmail is pretty much a standard right now (even if there's no public technical standard involved; only Google's apps can communicate with Gmail). That's monopoly dressed as "new technology".

In the meantime the pressure in the EU is mounting between the both camps of the encrypted messaging ecosystem.

So yeah, both things are happening in parallel.

> PiHole could be trivially sidestepped by hardcoding the DNS server and then encrypting DNS in the name of security (Didn't some Androids have Google hardcoded?). Android/iOS could allow some apps to ignore VPNs (this already happened with some Apple software).

Yeah, you're sadly correct. I dread the day when this will start becoming the norm. But it's also true that many common citizens can stop using service X or Y and it would cost them nearly nothing (with some prominent exceptions like Gmail or Whatsapp).

I think big tech will attack that way once they start to feel threatened enough by competing innovation, or they can't hang on to their advantage through softer means

Right now big tech just acquire all threats. If anti-trust starts to get more teeth, and shifts towards regulating scale and power more directly with less focus on ham-handedly trying to regulate specific outcomes based on political fashion or poor analysis of feasibility or second-order effects then we will likely see the lawyers come out in force. Which is okay if we can find the right political leader, because the facts on the ground for small business is hanging right there for a savvy leader to craft a killer narrative. The problem is democrats have completely lost the thread on what benefits real people, and the republicans are still hungover from an era where facts were meaningless so they really have no platform or principles at all anymore. I do have hope that a grassroots leader can emerge though.

> PiHole might get criminalized

That would suck, I hate ads but also just like split up subscription shows, not sure if I'm willing to pay for that either. There's so many I am currently subscribed to 3 different shows and maybe watch 1% of their content. I wanted to watch a movie and I would have had to get Paramount Plus like wtf... at least a lot of things show up on YT where I can rent it there.

My response is primarily about YT and mobile phone usage (where I don't have a browser extension adblocker). On mobile I don't open websites, just scan the suggested articles.

> Governments take years to formulate a legislation, and your average corporate legal team defeats it in days.

Cynically I suspect the lobbyists defeat it before it is even signed (ensuring the legislation has appropriate loopholes, etc).

Agree feel like we have entered Blade Runner style future where mega tech corporations essentially run everything.

Agree that it's small tech in danger

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