Dr. Mark Humphrys

School of Computing. Dublin City University.

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Dominant companies: Google, social media

Computing has a history of companies becoming dominant in different fields. It might be in the nature of computing that this kind of thing happens.

The 45 largest companies in the world (by market value) as at 2015.
From FT 500.
Note IT companies: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung, Oracle, Facebook, Amazon, IBM, Intel.


The Google monopoly

An old example of a Google flaw

Here is an old example of a Google flaw, which shows the problem in depending on one company.
The problem: Google used to use third-party titles from the DMOZ directory instead of the site's own title.

In this old screenshot, Google linked to my site, not using my own title, but using a misspelled title written by someone else.
Google allowed a way of stopping this using NOODP but many sites never discovered this.
It was just a bad idea by Google.
I even saw sites which were given hostile third-party titles which Google used to link to them.

Today, DMOZ is gone.
My site's title is now correct.

The YouTube monopoly

YouTube (owned by Google) has massive power over what videos people worldwide can see.
You generally need to be on YouTube to be found.

If people are unhappy with YouTube, switching video hosting service is not easy since people lose their channel, uploads, subscribers and view count.

YouTube has a lot of power.
The real issue is the "Web 2.0" revolution.

"Web 2.0" and content-hosting megasites

In the early Web, you hosted your own content on your own web server.

The whole "Web 2.0" revolution of megasites hosting everyone's content with handy software (YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter) is very useful, but it has led to those megasites having massive power over what people worldwide can see.

First, roughly what kind of site will it be:

Some decisions:

There are further difficult topics the sites must make decisions about: racist speech, Holocaust denial, terrorism promotion, gore, blasphemy, stalking and bullying, doxing, death threats, innocent nudity (e.g. medical), allowing accounts for foreign dictators or terrorists.

You might agree or disagree with their decisions, but that's not the point. The point is that these megasites have massive and unaccountable power to decide what people can see.

The Twitter monopoly

Twitter basically invented its market, and so deserves to have a monopoly!

But again, this gives it power. Many of its decisions are controversial.

If people become unhappy with Twitter, switching "short message" service is not easy since people lose their followers.

Social media sites have power

Social media megasites have huge power to decide who can publish: Social media companies are mostly American. Perhaps US government tolerates this for purpose of information gathering. Or perhaps US government is just not on the ball.

But either way, the point is that decisions on who gets a good platform to speak and who does not are made by corporations not governments.

The need to decentralise the Web

ancientbrain.com      w2mind.org      humphrysfamilytree.com

On the Internet since 1987.

Wikipedia: Sometimes I link to Wikipedia. I have written something In defence of Wikipedia. It is often a useful starting point but you cannot trust it. Linking to it is like linking to a Google search. A starting point, not a destination. I automatically highlight in red all links to Wikipedia and Google search and other possibly-unreliable user-generated content.