By Alfredo Hernandez
In the 1990s, the world and its vast markets turned to the internet and have never looked back. From this “.com boom” has sprung a multitude of prominent corporations.
Amazon and Google, established in 1994 and 1998 respectively, have cemented themselves firmly in the lives of individuals outside of their original digital realm.
Amazon, originally an online book-selling service, has become a one-stop shop for any and all sorts of retail purchases, even groceries. Meanwhile, Google, originally a search engine, has expanded into fiber-optic internet services and even space exploration research.
With this expansive growth into both the tangible and binary world, one cannot deny the monopolistic tendencies of these titans of the Internet. However, the question still remains if these corporations are benign or bent on world domination. With current developments, the scale seems to be tipping in the direction of the latter.
Recently, lawsuits have been filed against Google for an alleged cornering of the market in respect to pre-loaded search engines on Android devices. The prosecution states that the manner in which Google forces itself as the default search engine on Android devices constitutes a violation of the consumer’s right to choose his or her own search engine. Google furthermore knows that many people will not go through the hassle of changing search engines, resulting in more profit for Google through paid ad searches.
In a similar vein, Amazon has encountered a large amount of criticism about how it handles book publishers and authors. In a digital world, electronic books have thrown a wrench into the loom of traditional bookselling. Amazon pushes strongly for e-books as they drive sales up for their Kindles, undercut shipping costs, and offer authors less money on royalty fees. Publishers, on the other hand, favor the sale of physical copies as they keep them relevant in the book market.
In response to the controversy, many publishers have pulled books from the online service; however, they soon realize how they still need Amazon. With limited avenues through which to sell books, publishers and authors are forced to either accept Amazon’s policy of low-price books or struggle in an industry that is slowly going the way of the CD. With little money to go around, publishers will either have to lower advances on writers or neglect new writers altogether, forcing unproven talent to be cast aside in order to fund the already established moneymakers.
No matter the effects, it is difficult to visualize the long-term benefits of Internet monopolies. If left unchecked, they may and are already hinting that they will adopt the policies of those they have usurped. The big-name players are already showing signs of the old, buying up fledgling internet startups to either squash competition or sweep them under their umbrella.
These electronic titans of the Internet are vying for the throne of the online market, which is slowly proving itself to be the most valuable medium that humanity has ever created.