Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

The Birth Of Four Titans

The 2010s mark the birth of a new set of organisations large enough to dwarf over 150 countries. Apple, Amazon and Microsoft are entering the new year as the world’s first trillion dollar businesses. 

A decade ago, Apple struck gold with the iPhone, Google became king of the search, Amazon conquered the land of e-commerce, and Facebook bumped off MySpace.

Last year, Apple’s revenue surpassed the 18th biggest economy of the world, Amazon spent more money than the nation of Estonia earned, and Facebook has a user base bigger than any country.

The problem?

The rules of supply and demand don’t work if there’s only one supplier. 

A rule your wallet deeply cares about. Because without competition, you get a monopoly who sets the price as high as it wishes.

The four titans are large enough to crush any competition and take over the market. 

Google and Facebook supply the majority of online ads. Amazon apparently gets four bucks for every 10 dollars spent.

And if a gifted rival fights its way onto the market, one of the behemoths swallows it whole. Facebook alone bought up 72 companies, including Instagram, Whatsapp, and Oculus.

Which raises another issue, privacy.

Our computers and phones record our every move. Even if you don’t tell a soul about what you did last weekend, your surf history and phone GPS can paint a pretty good picture.

Which is not a cause for concern, if you can trust our data managers.

But when you review the 2010 papers, you’ll find that Facebook leaked information about its users. Apple suffered a security breach. Amazon defended its right to sell a manual for paedophiles. And Google’s servers were broken into by the NSA.

Governments understood the Four had to be leashed. But how do you curb a runaway train the size of a small continent?

State legislators don’t have the means to tackle an organisation of that magnitude.

Internet platforms enjoy network effects where every new user improves the value of a service, without any drawbacks. Email, for instance, only gets more useful the more people use it.

Organisations who deliver physical products don’t reap similar benefits. Amtrak trains, for example, can’t carry an infinite amount of people. Once you reach a certain threshold, the train is full. To serve additional people, you need to build more trains and train tracks.

Digital networks don’t suffer from those limitations. So once the foundations are laid, it can grow indefinitely.

That said, new laws on data and privacy are slowly whittling down the monopolies in hopes of reigning them in. 

Another blow will come from the East in the shape of Tencent, Alibaba, Baidu and more.

Whether the four monopolies will succumb to the combined pressure of government legislation and Eastern competition is anyone’s guess. Only time will tell.

Happy New Year.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach