In this article I tell a story about the history and the present of the three tech giants. Moreover, this article explains my philosophy that compelled me to quit social media.
In the previous post I made a simple attempt to establish my argument that is-social media act as a proxy to make people feel they don’t lack any shallowness in the real work and the value they provide to physical world. As I argue in that post, I am a post-millennial who is born right into the hands of Facebook. I am 21 now. I joined Facebook when I was in the high school and I was with Facebook for the most days of my teenage years and finally I quit Facebook almost an year back.
Why this article?
I have written a few posts about how social media can adversely affect a focused life and work that matters the most. But those posts were about the significance of doing productive work. But from my own reading about this topic, there is an unsung deep understanding which hasn’t been heard or seen by many social media users.
Every user only see what’s on top of these apps and they don’t go deep into them or otherwise they are being masked from what’s really going on behind the scenes. To be honest, there is a world out there which is been using you while they call you as users. The last time I heard someone calling their customers as users was the drug dealers!
The History: Uprising of Techno-Capitalism
Let’s begin from the developers of the most popular operating system among the millennial and the post-millennial.
“Embrace, extend and extinguish”
This was a phrase the U.S Department of Justice found, was used internally by Microsoft to explain their business strategy.
This phrase was first used back in 1995 outside Microsoft when they were publishing the Office 95.
John Markoff, the writer of New Times Article titled “Tomorrow, the World Wide Web! Microsoft, the PC King, Wants to Reign Over the Internet” said
“Rather than merely embrace and extend the Internet, the company’s critics now fear, Microsoft intends to engulf it.”
This business strategy laid the foundation of a techno-capitalism which was later adopted by Google, Facebook and all other Silicon Valley conglomerates.
In my own terms, I would define techno-capitalism as,
“Developing standards by extending the market share of the products to engulf the market itself”.
Let me give you an example from the history;
Back in the 80s Lotus-1-2-3 was the first killer spreadsheet software which was part of the IBM-PC. IBM is the only computer manufacturing company which has such a long history than its competitors. IBM was founded in 1911!
To overcome the popularity of Lotus, Microsoft knew they had to embrace what made Lotus popular and created the Excel software which was initially run on MACS. It had the same functionality as Lotus and an improved UI using the graphics capabilities of MAC.
Now Microsoft extended the Excel by the introduction of the Office 95 which included Word, PowerPoint and the Excel software running only on Windows 95 OS. Since Office 95 was part of the Windows 95, there weren’t any need for the industrialists to think about any standalone software packages. Simply, the millennial started to adopt Excel.
With the gaining popularity of Windows and clever marketing of Office 95, Microsoft simply extinguished the Lotus-1-2-3 and the IBM-PC which was an industry standard.
At present IBM has a net worth of $171 billion whereas that of Microsoft is $510 billion.
Microsoft made the Office apps an industry standard.
Microsoft then entered the world wide web out of the PC. Netscape browser was an industry standard by then. Microsoft extinguished Netscape with by launching Internet Explorer 3 by integrating it with Windows 96 as a free component.
Game over for Lotus-1-2-3 and Netscape.
Microsoft became an autonomy in PC software market.
Google extinguished the prevailing standards and became an autonomy not because they were only few search engine companies, but by launching the free email service called Gmail. It engulfed the Yahoo mail and Hotmail. Gmail was launched on April 1 just like the Apple was launched but neither of them wasn’t an April fool’s day joke.
Then google introduced AMP(Accelerated Mobile Pages Project-to launch web pages faster on mobile devices). It was later adopted by Reddit, Twitter and LinkedIn. But AMP acts as a Content Delivery Network between the user and the requested web page. Simply sites that don’t use Google AMP get pushed out of the Google search. results.
Now, who the capitalists are more evident and established. There is no room for start-ups to compete with the giants. Even if somebody begin to make it to the top like once Instagram did, the giants like Facebook can foresee it and they simply engulf them. These giants hold the tech market by competing among themselves.
The competition strategy is still the same.
“embrace, extend and extinguish”.
But the only thing that changed is the capital.
Back in the early 21st century the capital was directly from user’s pocket but not anymore.
The Present: Attention Capital
The currency for the Tech Five is the human attention. They don’t want you to pay for their services. They want you to listen, watch, use and consume their products for the whole day. The more you spend your time on their products the more revenue they receive from the advertisers. They bombard you with notifications. The attention engineering algorithms diagnoses your data to help improve your experience. They want to make the data which you consume more relevant for you so that you will stick around for longer time period. The more time you consume the product the more ads they can run for you.
Now it will be clear to you that the giants are competing among themselves to grab your precious time and attention to their own products. Facebook is competing with twitter as it is with Youtube, Amazon, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Spotify and pretty much everything. Surprisingly, the time you have is finite and since these companies cannot increase your time, instead they have three possible solutions to this problem.
- Increase the size of population with internet access.
- Entice the current users to spend more time on the products.
- Create more people!
Google’s Self Driving Car
Google’s self driving car may look great for the humanity but google does have some gains from it.
You can think of it as making available the untapped resources of human attention spend while driving.
It may seem as an extreme measure to make users spend more time on google apps but while considering the benefits that humanity and google receives, there is no need to deny such an intention from Google’s part.
So let me get back to social media.
Social Media is not an invention but an ad serving entertainment market.
image source: medium.com
Jesse weaver has written a similar article titled Instagram and the Cult of the Attention Web: How the Free Internet is Eating Itself.
It’s notable that he calls the present internet as attention web.
One of his arguments is that, products are designed as habit forming ones hooking users and making them daily users.
As long as google and other silicon valley conglomerates are slowing down the new inventions by creating barriers for new startups and making the customers as consumers, I don’t want to be a part of such an inhuman technology.
We need philosophical approaches while embracing a technology rather than embracing everything that has an internet connection. It should be every person not the government or the monopoly who owns the power on how we perceive the internet. We should decide do we want to continue in such a monopoly of internet giants or make ourselves own our own portion of internet like I do with this blog. The internet needs flavor and not the same looking personal templates created by Facebook. I’m not here to change the whole system. But by quitting social media I am establishing my freedom of choice and expression and even my behavior as a person. I am being part of a coercive power of legacy in digital networks and not a digital monopoly.
I am standing for a humanistic technology.
This is my philosophy towards approaching technology.