📑 Tech Monopolies and the Insufficient Necessity of Interoperability

Bookmarked Cory Doctorow: Tech Monopolies and the Insufficient Necessity of Interoperability (Locus Online)

Tech is the logical place to start, not just because everyone is fed up with tech, but because tech is so central to everything else we do – it provides the communications and coordination that are at the heart of every mass movement. And tech’s flex­ibility – that protean, foundational ability to plug everything into everything else – means that tech trustbusters have a uniquely suitable tool for prying apart monopolies: interoperability.

Forcing interop back into tech won’t be the end of the anti-monopoly fight, but it’ll be the end of the beginning – the necessary but insufficient step we’ll take before moving on to far more ambitious projects.

Cory Doctorow continues his discussion of anti-trust and the break-up of monopolies. He argues that the place to start is with technology companies. Using the example of the challenge of Australian railways to demonstrate what interoperability would mean for technology companies.

Despite all the handwringing over the inaccessibility of old digital data, the reality is that new computers can emulate old computers and run the programs that were used to create and read that data in the deep past of computing (getting the data off of old storage media that is physically deteriorating is another story). If Austra­lia’s middle-gauge muddle were a matter of digital incompatibilities, some programmers could whip up a “translation layer” that mediated between different tracks and cars and unify the system. If we can connect billions of devices running millions of versions of scores of operating systems to each other via the internet, getting six Australian states’ railcars to connect to each others’ (digital) tracks is a piece of piss.

Although we need to do more than open platform capitalism up in regards to interoperability, it is the start that has the potential to get the ball rolling in regards to change.

One of the interesting points that Docotorw made was that in the end the companies are really all the same, just with different flavours.

Maybe large companies all have the same ideology (“profit”). Maybe the distinctions between their characters are as meaningful as the “flavors” of the different marshmallows in a box of Lucky Charms. Maybe the reason John Legere worked at AT&T and Sprint before going to T-Mobile is that they are interchangeable monopolies whose top ranks all came up together, know each other, take vacations together, and are godparents to one-another’s children. Maybe they aren’t really rivals.
Maybe monopolists have class solidarity, is what I’m saying.

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