Monday, January 7, 2013

The Web’s New Monopolists

From the article: "Ask Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of the social network Twitter and the mobile-payment start-up Square, what his two companies have in common, and he has a quick answer: “They’re both utilities.” Mark Zuckerberg might agree: he spent years trying to convince people that Facebook is not a social network but a “social utility.”

It’s an intriguing choice of words for such of-the-moment entrepreneurs. Utilities tend to be boring, slow-growing beasts. They also—and this is the more important point—tend to be monopolies that are either regulated heavily by governments or owned outright by them.

Indeed, once they get beyond a certain size, technology companies do become wary of the word. Google has been called a utility by lots of people, but you won’t hear the company’s executives using the term (at least, I couldn’t find any examples). And Zuckerberg, when asked in 2010 whether, as a utility, Facebook ought to be regulated, said he hadn’t meant the word that way at all: “Something that’s cool can fade. But something that’s useful won’t. That’s what I meant by utility.” Read more