A widely-used, communication service was acquired by another widely-used communication service. There was much revulsion and vocal muting on Twitter in certain tech-savvy circles.
Of course there were jokes. There are always jokes. Witless fools.
Most of the conversation centered on what an obscene amount of money it was. It is an obscene amount of money, but it’s 7 Trillion messages a year on that service. Think of having possession of those “mouths” and “ears”. You could surreptitiously monitor and index all kinds of things that could be sold. You could also introduce, on the fringes, brands to converse about. Most importantly for Facebook: You now possess a competing service.
Possession of a competitor is the best thing you can do. It is far better than shutting them out of business. What you get to do is assimilate their customers to your needs at your pace. If they were fleeing a dying service they could go anywhere, and maybe not to your lackluster service.
We see this all the time these days with Large Company A acquiring Large Company B. Reducing choice means that the company needs to put forth less effort. Less effort means larger margins. Bloated negligence practically pays for itself!
“National competition law usually does not cover activity beyond territorial borders unless it has significant effects at nation-state level.” — Wikipedia Competition Law
Picture an ice tray. Now fill the ice tray only enough so each cell is still separate. That is the 1900’s laws we live by. Now fill the ice tray so those cells start connecting. That’s the internet. We are a world where the laws are confined to cells of the ice cube tray. Nothing above those cells is seriously regulated or controlled. There are no trusts to bust on the internet.
Foil hats are optional.
I don’t think anything greatly offensive will arise from this newest acquisition by Facebook of WhatsApp. I am not paranoid about this one particular thing. What I am paranoid about are the ongoing, and ever-worsening, conditions that allow for these mergers and acquisitions.
The concern over Comcast’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable has been nice, but it’ll probably go through. Yet there isn’t concern about the accumulation of personal communication. The concern is just over the valuation of the personal communication.
I put up the first chapter of a silly short story I’m writing last month. It’s a near-future piece of drivel where personal information, and opinion, has been subsumed as a form of labor. Where material concerns convince characters that the most important thing is generating interest for corporations. A token, merely a trifle. You can’t get something for nothing, you know. It’s a bleak farce, but when I see headlines like today and last week, it makes me worry that by the time I get around to finishing the short story, it will have already happened.
I wasn’t a user of WhatsApp, but I have signed up for GroupMe. How long until GroupMe is acquired? How long until I am acquired?
User for sale. Condition: Slightly used.