The “Digital” Koch Brothers

T he young folks at my office are convinced that, one day, someone will come along and replace one of the big tech companies (pick one: Google; Yahoo; AOL; Amazon; Facebook). They grew up in an era when tech companies sprung up as quickly as they disappeared, when a “little tech company” could become a “big tech company.” The purchase of the Washington Post by Jeff Bezos should put an end to the fantasy that a kid in a garage will be inventing a new search engine that will bring Google to its knees. With the purchase of the Washington Post, along with the lobbying groups funded by Facebook, Google, and others, we now see — in Internet time — what took decades for other industries to accomplish, namely the consolidation of power and influence that will allow a handful of companies to push legislation, and the political agenda, that will keep them in power while crushing everyone else.

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  • Timothy Peierls

    The fantasy that kids in garages are supposed to invent things to bring the big players to their knees deserves to be put away. Big companies are brought to their knees for all sorts of mundane reasons. The breakup of AT&T was due to Judge Greene, not a kid in a garage. (And yes, the telecoms are long overdue for another round of regulation to rein them in.)

    Remember when Microsoft seemed unassailable? We thought (or at least *I* thought) there was nothing to stop them from taking over the world. And they did, sort of, for a while, but now they’re second tier. Microsoft didn’t even make your list of big tech companies.

    You’re going to say the difference between then and now is Citizens United, and I agree that that was huge setback. I just don’t think it’s going to stop the top five tech companies list from changing over time.

    • Jeffs ADD Mind

      Actually, we thought Google was going to be David to Microsoft the Goliath. But Google Apps has been a Google flop and Microsoft still rules the desktop. However, there is another, related issue. If you remember the early days of personal computers, there were hundreds of little companies cranking out great software applications. Where are the companies like Borland, or the creator of the Electric Pencil (that software ran on Tandy computers), or the creator of Ami Pro (one of the best word processors I have ever used) and so on. The market is solidfying so, like oil in which a handful of companies are dominant, in telecommunications, in which a handful of companies are dominant, and so forth, we are entering the next stage of solidification in the tech world. The goliaths need a way to control the narrative. The purchase of the Washington Post — even if it is a dinosaur — will help in that respect. It provides a veneer of respectability that Bezos/Amazon needs as they continually gobble up everything that’s not nailed down. Perhaps when Bezos came up with the name Amazon, he was really thinking “Python,” as in large, constricting snake.

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