The growing threat from FANG

FANG — that’s Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google — are (is?) performing a huge about face on the internet, and nobody’s doing anything about it. Few people are even noticing.

I always thought the internet was meant to be an open platform that anybody could access and use. It was supposed to democratize things, and for a long time it did. Individuals could start a blog, or a business. Lots of great ideas have improved our collective lives because the cost of entry was so low.

Those days seem to be ending as web traffic — and ad revenue — is increasingly being funneled into walled gardens. Youtube. Facebook. Echo and Google Home. Netflix.

Don’t get me wrong, these are great services. But they’re not open platforms.

If I want to start a website, I don’t need anybody’s permission. I just do it. But if I want to do something on Echo, I have to make a deal with Amazon.

There are some cool things that publishers should be able to do with these new technologies. I mentioned a few in this post: How Alexa and Google Glass will revive print publishing. But … we don’t really want to do those things if we’re beholden to FANG.

The internet may be going through a transition from keyboards and screens to voice. But if that happens, there’s no open platform to access it. There’s only Echo and Google Home. And they are not your friends. Amazon and Google are not trying to provide an open place for innovation and new businesses. They’re building their own businesses and squeezing out the competition.

Just the other day I heard a local radio station announce that you can listen to their station through Echo. That’s a very convenient thing, and since radio is monetized through ads, it probably makes sense for the station. At least it does until Amazon changes the rules and sours the deal. And you know they will. (I am altering the deal. Pray that I don’t alter it further.)

I would love to allow vision-impaired subscribers to hear their subscription content through a device like an Echo. But you know what that would mean. Amazon would take control of the customer relationship. That’s the standard trick that publishers keep falling for. (Don’t do it!!!)

If the internet moves to voice, Google and Amazon will rule the internet.

That is far more significant than any conceivable threat the net neutrality folk are worried about.

We are about to hand the internet over to FANG.

Sure, you’ll still be able to have your website. But that’s not where the people will be.

What’s the solution? I think it’s clear. Either somebody needs to create an open platform to rival Echo and Home, or those services need to be regulated as common carriers.

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