Posts tagged ‘monopoly’


We should challenge monopolists, not do business with them at the exclusion of ethical parties

17.10.2022

Search engine Mojeek is doing no wrong in my book. Here’s its CEO Colin Hayhurst being interviewed by The New Era’s Jeffrey Peel, making complete sense, which is not something I can say about anyone speaking for Big Tech. We should be shunning monopolists if we truly value progress and innovation, or even a proper, factual debate. We even have laws about it that few seem to wish to enforce when it comes to Big Tech players. It’s well worth a watch.
 
I was disappointed to see that the Warehouse, our big retailer, specifically blocks Mojeek from searching its site. Google is fine. Explanations vary—but they include the theory that the Warehouse wants to get data from its users and Google can provide them.

I’ve written to the Warehouse as an account holder and received no reply. I decided to take it higher, to its chief digital officer, on October 3. As far as I know this email has been delivered, but there’s always a possibility I have her address wrong. Regardless, I am yet to hear back on any front, including social media where I had asked the Warehouse why they would wish to block a legitimate and far more ethical search engine. What does it say about your company when you choose to do business with someone as questionable as Google, yet you go out of your way to block a fully ethical and privacy-respecting business?

Dear Sarah:
 
I contacted the Warehouse through the customer service channels at the beginning of September and have yet to hear back.

As CDO I think you’re the right person to raise this with, though please refer it to a colleague if you aren’t.

I run Lucire Ltd. and have been a Warehouse account holder for some time. Our own foundations are in the digital space, with my having been a digital publisher since 1989. We’re always mindful that our activities promote a healthy online space, which means we keep a watchful eye on the behaviour of US Big Tech. (For instance, we removed all Facebook gadgets from our sites in 2018, prior to the Cambridge Analytica exposé, as we became increasingly concerned of the tracking exposure our readers were getting.)

Our internal search is now run by Mojeek, a UK-based search engine that has the largest index in the west outside of Google. It is also my default, having lost faith in Duck Duck Go after 12 years.

Other than the Warehouse’s home page, none of the contents of your company’s site appear in Mojeek. When I raised this with them, they tell me that Mojeek is very specifically blocked by the Warehouse. Neither they nor I can see any good reason a legitimate, independent search engine would be blocked.

I am told that inside your code is:
 
User-agent: MojeekBot
Disallow: /

 

As concerns over privacy grow, it seems a disservice that it’s blocked.

When I put this to other techs, they theorize that the Warehouse wants to track people via whatever data Google provides. I find this hard to believe. To what end? The amount of information that comes surely can’t outweigh overall accessibility to the website for those of us who have concerns over Google’s monopolistic behaviour and privacy intrusions.

Even if tracking were the reason, I would have thought there would be no great loss allowing a tiny percentage of people to come in via a Mojeek search result and browse the site—including customers like me who had the intent to see what you had in stock with a view to purchasing the item.

I genuinely hope this is something that will be looked into and that a New Zealand company I admire (one which is connected to me through a round-about way—I was educated by relatives of the Tindalls) isn’t party to upholding the Google monopoly.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, internet, New Zealand, technology | No Comments »


Testing the seven search engines in the world

22.08.2022

After reading Mojeek’s blog post from last July, I learned there are only seven search engines in the world now. In other words, I was checking more search engines out in the 1990s. It’s rather depressing, especially as the search market is largely a monopoly with Google dominating it (and all the ills that brings), and Bing and its licensees (like Duck Duck Go) with their 6 per cent.

Knowing there are seven, I fed the site:lucire.com search into all of them to see where each stood.

The first figure is the claimed number of results, the second the actual number shown (without repeats removed, which Bing is guilty of).

I can’t use Brave here as its site search is Bing as well.

Yandex appears to be capped at 250 and Mojeek at 1,000, but at least they aren’t arbitrary like Google and Baidu. Baidu has a lot of category and tag pages from the Wordpress section of our site to bump up the numbers.
 
Gigablast 0/0
Sogou 19/13
Bing 243/50
Baidu 13,700/213
Yandex 2,000/250
Google 6,280/315
Mojeek 3,654/1,000
 

Frankly, more of us should go to Mojeek. It can only get better with a wider user base. Unlike Bing, it hasn’t collapsed. I know most of you will keep going to Google, but I just don’t like the look of those limits (not to mention the massive privacy issues).

Mojeek is now at 5,900 million pages, which must be the largest index in the west outside of Google.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in China, internet, publishing, technology, UK, USA | No Comments »


Big Tech: you’ve already lost against mainland China

21.10.2021

Big Tech often says that if they’re broken up, they won’t be able to compete with mainland China.
   Folks, you’ve already lost.
   Why? Because you’re playing their game. You believe that through dominance and surveillance you can beat a country with four times more people.
   The level playing field under which you were created has been disappearing because of you.
   You’re the ones acquiring start-ups and stifling the sort of innovation that you yourselves once created.
   If the US believes it should create more tech champions, or more innovators, then Big Tech needs to get out of the way and let people start the next big thing.
   But we know this isn’t about China.
   It’s about them trying to preserve their dominance.
   We all know they’ll even sell data to Chinese companies, and they’re not too fussed if they have ties to the Communist Chinese state.
   To heck with America. Or any western democracy. Their actions often underscore that.
   Without the innovation that their enterprise system created, they’ll increasing play second fiddle in a game that mainland China has played for much longer.
   I already said that Chinese apps have surpassed many western ones, based on my experience. Through a clever application of The Art of War.
   And if the world stays static, if all everyone is doing is keeping the status quo in order to get rich, and innovation is minimized, then it’s going to look like a pretty decaying place, sort of like the alternative Hill Valley with Biff Tannen in charge. Just recycling the same old stuff with a whiff of novelty as a form of soma. Pretty soon that novelty turns into garishness as a few more moments are eked out of a decaying invention.
   Where’s the next big thing, the one that’s going to have a net benefit for life on this planet?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, China, internet, leadership, technology, USA | No Comments »


Facebook goes even more pro-bot with change in group policy

02.06.2021

Why are there antitrust or monopoly laws? Why is the usual interpretation of the Chicago School really, really bad for the United States? Umair Haque’s latest post spells it out pretty well, in my opinion.
   Just an idea: let’s not import any of their dangerous ideas into our society, or allow their ever-growing giants to get more of a foothold in our country (and not pay tax here either). Because we have a tendency to kiss their arses sometimes. Just ask Kim Dotcom. Things like their legal precedents are still persuasive here, and with how different their priorities are, we need to place even less weight on them. Let’s not forget the rules we play by here, and that means whomever enters this market has to play by the same.


Speaking of daft decisions on the other side of the Pacific by dishonest parties who have got too big due to what amounts to lawlessness, Facebook has removed the requirement for users to answer questions when they join a public group. These questions were our way of safeguarding the one public group I still look after there, and over 99 per cent of users (no exaggeration; if anything, an underestimate) who attempted to join were bots. I define bots as including any legitimate account running bot software, which I thought was against Facebook’s T&Cs, but not in practice. I still report a lot of them, though unlike 2014 I won’t do them all. I just can’t report thousands that I might see on a single visit.
   I can imagine why Facebook has done this. This way Facebook hides the number of bots from group moderators (as if we hadn’t known of their problems for the good part of a decade), and protects the bots as they continue their activity across the platform. This will encourage even more bots, and as I identified in an earlier post, I see more bots than humans these days on there (and I’m not even a regular user).
   I knew they were liars and shysters so I imagine this is in keeping with that. Cover up just how badly compromised the platform is by bots.
   I haven’t seen much on this change in Facebook group policy, but as changes go, this has to be the most anti-human, pro-bot move they have made in 17 years. No one ever demanded more rights for bots, but here’s Facebook giving it to them.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, culture, internet, New Zealand, politics, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


How is your ad network different from this?

11.02.2021

No point beating around the bush when it comes to yet another advertising network knocking on our door. This was a quick reply I just fired off, and I might as well put it on this blog so there’s another place I can copy it from, since I’m likely to call on it again and again. I’m sure we can’t be alone in online publishing to feel this way.
   The original reply named the firms parenthetically in the last two scenarios but I’ve opted not to do that here. I have blogged about it, so a little hunt here will reveal who I’m talking about.

Thank you for reaching out and while I’ve no doubt you’re at a great company, we have a real problem adding any new ad network. The following pattern has played out over and over again in the last 25-plus years we have been online.

  • We add a network, so far so good.
  • The more networks we use, with their payment thresholds, the longer it takes for any one of them to reach the total, and the longer we wait for any money to come.
  • Add this to the fact we could get away with charging $75 CPM 25 years ago and only fractions of cents today, the thresholds take longer still to reach.

   Other things usually happen as well:

  • We’re promised a high fill rate, even 100 per cent, and the reality is actually closer to 0 per cent and all we see are “filler” ads—if anything at all. Some just run blank units.
  • We wait so long for those thresholds to be reached that some of the networks actually close down in the interim and we never see our money!
  • In some cases, the networks change their own policies during the relationship and we get kicked off!

   I think the problems behind all of this can be traced to Google, which has monopolized the space. It probably doesn’t help that we refuse to sign anything from Google as we have no desire to add to the coffers of a company that doesn’t pay its fair share of tax. Every email from Google Ad Manager is now rejected at server level.
   If somehow [your firm] is different, I’d love to hear about you. The last two networks we added in 2019 and 2020, who assured us the pattern above would not play out, have again followed exactly the above scenario. We gave up on the one we added in 2019 and took them out of our rotation.
   Hoping for good news in response.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, internet, media, publishing | No Comments »


This was the natural outcome of greed, in the forms of monopoly power and sensationalist media

11.01.2021

I did indeed write in the wake of January 6, and the lengthy op–ed appears in Lucire, quoting Emily Ratajkowski, Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden. I didn’t take any pleasure in what happened Stateside and Ratajkowski actually inspired the post after a Twitter contact of mine quoted her. This was after President Donald Trump was taken off Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
   The points I make there are probably familiar to any of you, my blog readers, pointing at the dangers of tech monopolies, the double standards that they’ve employed, and the likely scenario of how the pendulum could swing the other way on a whim because another group is flavour of the month. We’ve seen how the US has swung one way and the other depending on the prevailing winds, and Facebook’s and Twitter’s positions, not to mention Amazon’s and Google’s, seem reactionary and insincere when they have had their terms and conditions in place for some time.
   Today, I was interested to see Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel, referred to by not a few as the leader of the free world, concerned at the developments, as was President López Obrador of México. ‘German Chancellor Angela Merkel objected to the decisions, saying on Monday that lawmakers should set the rules governing free speech and not private technology companies,’ reported Bloomberg, adding, ‘Europe is increasingly pushing back against the growing influence of big technology companies. The EU is currently in the process of setting up regulation that could give the bloc power to split up platforms if they don’t comply with rules.’
   The former quotation wasn’t precisely my point but the latter is certainly linked. These tech giants are the creation of the US, by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, and their institutions, every bit as Trump was a creation of the US media, from Fox to MSNBC.
   They are natural outcomes of where things wind up when monopoly power is allowed to gather and laws against it are circumvented or unenforced; and what happens when news networks sell spectacle over substance in order to hold your attention. One can only hope these are corrected for the sake of all, not just one side of the political spectrum, since freedom—actual freedom—depends on them, at least until we gain the civility and education to regulate ourselves, the Confucian ideal. Everything about this situation suggests we are nowhere near being capable, and I wonder if homo sapiens will get there or whether we’ll need to evolve into another species before we do.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, culture, internet, leadership, media, politics, technology, USA | 1 Comment »


Two big reasons not to use Gmail

03.10.2020

I was absolutely shocked to learn this is how Gmail works.

   As you’ll read in the thread, this has been confirmed by other Gmail users.
   That should rule out ever using Gmail for secure communications. Not that you should be using a service like that for anything important, but the fact is Gmail has become ubiquitous, and I believe a lot of people don’t know any better.
   Just imagine being able to receive some emails meant for your rival by signing up to an address that varies from it by a full stop or period.
   Secondly, we’ve noticed a large amount of spam where we can trace (via Spamcop) the origins back to Gmail. Oftentimes they have Gmail reply addresses, as in the case of 419 scams (where they may use another ISP or email service with a “sacrificial” address to send them). Why would you risk being among that lot?
   Add this to the massive list of shortcomings already detailed here and elsewhere and you have a totally unreliable platform that doesn’t really give a toss. They didn’t care when they removed my friend’s blog in 2009 and then obstructed any attempt to get it back, until a product manager became involved. They didn’t care when their website blacklisting service libelled clean sites in 2013, telling people not to visit them or link to them. And they don’t care now.
   There really is no reason to use Gmail. You’ll risk your emails going to someone else with a similar address, and you’ll be among the company of unethical actors. I can truly say that if Gmail weren’t this ubiquitous, and used by so many friends, I’d just set up a rule on our server and block the lot.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, internet, technology, USA | 5 Comments »


I prefer the 99 per cent who don’t rely on Google

10.03.2020


Almost three screens of apps, none of which require Google.

I had a good discussion on Twitter today with Peter Lambrechtsen, and if you want to have a peek, it’s here. He’s a really decent guy who makes some good points. But it does annoy me that my partner, whose phone is a stock standard one, with all the Google and Vodafone spyware, cannot run Über, either, and that it wasted half an hour of her life yesterday. Between us we’ve lost 90 minutes because of programs in two days that don’t do what they say on the tin.
   I have several theories about this, and one of Peter’s suggestions was to get a new phone—which is actually quite reasonable given what he knows about it, though not realistic for everyone.
   Theory 1: the people who make these apps just have the latest gear, and to hell with anyone who owns a phone from 2017. (Silicon Valley is woke? Not with this attitude.)
   Theory 2: the apps just aren’t tested.
   Theory 3: the apps are developed by people who have little idea about how non-tech people use things.
   We got on to rooting phones and how some apps detect this, and won’t function as a result.
   I’d never have rooted mine if there wasn’t an easy manufacturer’s method of doing so, and if I could easily remove Google from it (services, search, Gmail, YouTube, Play, etc.). Nor would I have touched it had Meizu allowed us to install the Chinese operating system on to a western phone.
   I wager that over 99 per cent of Android apps do not need Google services—I run plenty without any problems—but there’s less than 1 per cent that do, including Zoomy and Snapchat. I live without both, and, in fact, as the 2020s begin, I find less and less utility from a cellphone. So much for these devices somehow taking over our lives. You get to a point where they just aren’t interesting.
   So why does the 1 per cent become so wedded to Google?
   You’d think that app developers would believe in consumer choice and could see the writing on the wall. A generation ago, Microsoft’s bundling of Internet Explorer got them into hot water. More recently, the EU fined Google for violating their monopoly laws. People are waking up to the fact that Google is wielding monopoly power and it’s bad for society. Why contribute to it, when the other 99 per cent don’t?
   If I build a website, I don’t say that you need to have used something else to browse it: there’s an agreed set of standards.
   And I bet it’s the same for Android development, which is why there are now superior Chinese app stores, filled with stuff that doesn’t need Google.
   We prefer open standards, thank you.
   While these tech players are at it, let us choose whether we want Google’s spyware on our phones—and if we don’t, let us banish it to hell without rooting them. (Next time, I’m just going to have to ask friends visiting China—whenever that will be—to get me my next phone, if I haven’t moved back to land lines by then. Just makes life easier.)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in China, internet, technology | No Comments »


Why I don’t sign up to new online ad networks in a hurry

26.02.2020

In the early days, banner advertising was pretty simple. By the turn of the century, we dealt with a couple of firms, Burst Media and Gorilla Nation, and we had a few buy direct. Money was good.
   This is the pattern today if we choose to say yes to anyone representing an ad network.
   I get an email, with, ‘Hey, we’ve got some great fill rates and CPMs!’
   I quiz them, tell them that in the past we’ve been disappointed. Basically, because each ad network has a payment threshold (and in Burst’s case they deduct money as a fee for paying you money), the more ad networks we serve in each ad spot’s rotation, the longer it takes to reach each network’s threshold. And some networks don’t even serve ads that we can see.
   They say that that won’t happen, so I do the paperwork and we put the codes in.
   Invariably we either see crap ads (gambling and click-bait, or worse: pop-ups, pop-unders, interstitials and entire page takeovers for either) or we see no ads, at least none that’ll pay.
   Because we give people a chance we leave the codes there for a while, and that delays the payment thresholds just as predicted.
   At the end of the day, it’s ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ because no one really seems to honour their commitments when it comes to online advertising. With certain companies having monopoly or duopoly powers in this market, it’s led to depressed prices and a very high threshold for any new players—and that’s a bad thing for publishers. What a pity their home country lacks the bollocks to do something about it.
   Every now and then they will feed through an advertisement from Google because of a contractual arrangement they have, and the ad isn’t clickable—because I guess no one at Google has figured out that that’s important. (Remember, this is the same company that didn’t know what significant American building is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC on Google Earth, and the way to deal with whistleblowers is allegedly to call the cops on them.)
   We deal with one Scots firm and one Israeli firm these days, in the hope that not having American ad networks so dependent on, or affected by, a company with questionable ethics might help things just a little.

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, internet, marketing, media, publishing, USA | No Comments »


Capitalism falls down when it’s rigged

04.12.2019

Martin Wolf, writing in the Financial Times, touches on a few points that resonate with my readings over the years.
   He believes capitalism, as a system, is not a bad one, but it is bad when it is ‘rigged’; and that Aristotle was indeed right (as history has since proved) that a sizeable middle class is necessary for the functioning of a democracy.
   We know that the US, for instance, doesn’t really do much about monopolies, having redefined them since the 1980s as essentially OK if no one gets charged more. Hence, Wolf, citing Prof Thomas Philippon’s The Great Reversal, notes that the spikes in M&A activity in the US has weakened competition. I should note that this isn’t the province of “the right”—Philippon also shows that M&A activity reduced under Nixon.
   I alluded to the lack of competition driving down innovation, but Wolf adds that it has driven up prices (so much for the US’s stance, since people are being charged more), and resulted in lower investment and lower productivity growth.
   In line with some of my recent posts, Wolf says, ‘In the past decade, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft combined have made over 400 acquisitions globally. Dominant companies should not be given a free hand to buy potential rivals. Such market and political power is unacceptable. A refurbishment of competition policy should start from the assumption that mergers and acquisitions need to be properly justified.’
   History shows us that Big Tech’s acquisitions have not been healthy to consumers, especially on the privacy front; they colluded to suppress wages before getting busted. In a serious case, according to one company, Google itself commits outright intellectual property theft: ‘Google would solicit a party to share with it highly confidential trade secrets under a non-disclosure agreement, conduct negotiations with the party, then terminate negotiations with the party professing a lack of interest in the party’s technology, followed by the unlawful use of the party’s trade secrets in its business.’ (The case, Attia v. Google, is ongoing, I believe.) Their own Federal Trade Commission said Google ‘used anticompetitive tactics and abused its monopoly power in ways that harmed Internet users and rivals,’ quoting the Murdoch Press. We see many undesirable patterns with other firms there exercising monopoly powers, some of which I’ve detailed on this blog, and so far, only Europe has had the cohones to slap Google with massive fines (in the milliards, since 2017), though other jurisdictions have begun to investigate.
   As New Zealand seeks to reexamine its Commerce Act, we need to ensure that we don’t merely parrot the US and UK approach.
   Wolf also notes that inequality ‘undermines social mobility; weakens aggregate demand and slows economic growth.’ The central point I’ve made before on Twitter: why would I want people to do poorly when those same people are potentially my customers? It seems to be good capitalism to ensure there’s a healthy base of consumers.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, internet, politics, USA | No Comments »