Google, Apple and your technological awareness
These are the three things responsible for making our smartphones more similar to Television than the land of opportunities that the Internet represented in the 2000s or the Computing of the 80s.
This week, thanks to documents made public in their respective antitrust lawsuits, we now know that both companies are again lying for very similar purposes: to turn the mobile industry (and collaterally, the Internet) into another “television” controlled by only a couple of big companies.
It’s undeniable that both companies are great at what they do. Their “divide and conquer” strategy relentlessly liquidates rights, undermines standards, closes platforms and jeopardizes technologies that offer more opportunities to users. And the most unbelievable part is that they do it with a good number of these users praising how much they do for the community, for their website performance, for their “security,” for the developers or for the very open source projects that they actually demolish.
We’re talking about rights. They may be new, they are still rights, nonetheless. For example, the ability to decide the source of our apps or choose the software we may or may not use on our own devices and computers. The formula to achieve this is almost always the same, either with undesired features or an alleged security threat. We’re all very comfortable and calm when the big technology companies control what we can consume, at least until they show their dark side. Would you say that this has already happened? Do you think that the trust we place in them is well-deserved? And in the initiatives and projects they propose? This is where the stakes are high, and the bar is set by your own technological awareness.
Before I get to the point, I know that no matter how much I preach about what I believe is happening to our future on this measly blog, I won’t convince you of anything. The only solution is to cultivate technological awareness through education, just as we develop social or environmental awareness over time. I don’t mean theoretical technological awareness, the kind that worries about AI performance, its biases or humanism in technology. It’s enough for a good part of the population to appreciate their privacy, their freedom and to value the fact that technology not only drives our economy, but also our lives and therefore, our future.
In any case, and even if it isn’t worth much, those of us who are inside the system have the moral obligation to try to explain what’s going on and what the consequences will be if we continue along this path.
As I was saying, for some time now we can state without any doubt, openly, without exaggeration and objectively that Apple and Google are lying to us. And they’re doing it deliberately. Here are just a couple of events that have recently occurred:
This week, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ordered Apple to promptly comply with the order to allow third-party payment options in its store (https://www.theverge.com/2021/11/9/22773082/epic-apple-fortnite-lawsuit-ruling-injunction-stay-app-store-anti-steering-rules). For months now, Apple has been throwing a hissy fit over this decision, at events or through retaliation against Epic who will definitely not be allowed on the Apple Store for years.
Among other gems, Apple has argued in response to the order that “It is exceedingly complicated” (yes, this is coming from one of the biggest and wealthiest companies in the world). “There have to be guardrails and guidelines to protect children, to protect developers, to protect consumers, to protect Apple …. We believe that these changes, if Apple is forced to implement them, will upset the platform. They will harm consumers. They will harm developers. That is a fact. It is going to happen.”. The company has also mentioned how dangerous app sideloading is, that is, the installation of an app from outside its own store: https://9to5mac.com/2021/11/03/comment-apples-rant-against-app-sideloading-on-ios-contradicts-itself-thanks-to-macos/.
Here comes the most curious part of this issue. Who allows all of this? Apple itself does, in fact, on its Macs. What’s more, it’s been allowed by absolutely all platforms, manufacturers, operating systems, computers and servers for over 50 years. It’s just a matter of implementing something the rest of us already do, allowing the right to choose. You have two options, believe that they don’t do it because of the titanic task of adding a payment method due to their limited resources, or because it would simply not allow them to charge a commission on EVERY single transaction that occurs for any product, app or game.
And not only do they charge a commission, but they also decide for you whether you have the right to access that content. There are precedents set in both Apple and Google for apps that cannot access their store for the most arbitrary policies. For example, because they consider that there are already too many of one type or directly because they are competitors. Good luck defending yourself against Google Play or Apple Store on your own.
As for Google, we already called them out here: https://luishg.medium.com/silicon-valley-and-the-mobile-era-foundation-ea632b70b719. We explained that it was dedicated to developing standards and technologies that harmed the network, app distribution and the development of business models outside their advertising.Today, years later, it’s been proven that we were right, that they were lying.
Let’s take their AMP initiative as an example. In the name of performance and the open web, they wanted to pass all content through their servers, regulate performance at will, divert a large part of publishers’ income and prevent access to advertising products outside their control (header bidding): https://wptavern.com/amp-has-irreparably-damaged-publishers-trust-in-google-led-initiatives.
“When Google received a demand for a trove of documents from the Department of Justice as part of the pre-trial process, the company was reluctant to hand them over. These documents reveal how Google identified header bidding as an “existential threat” and detail how AMP was used as a tool to impede header bidding.”
Yet another example of how they work from their private sewers:
“In summary, it claims that Google falsely told publishers that adopting AMP would enhance load times, even though the company’s employees knew that it only improved the ‘median of performance’ and actually loaded slower than some speed optimization techniques publishers had been using. It alleges that AMP pages brought 40% less revenue to publishers. The complaint states that AMP’s speed benefits ‘were also at least partly a result of Google’s throttling.’ Google throttles the load time of non-AMP ads by giving them artificial one-second delays in order to give Google AMP a ‘nice comparative boost.’”
The chain of trust has been broken. No wonder we were recently concerned about the changes made to the file format for distributing Apps on Google Play (Bundles), with which they intend to hinder the free distribution of apps under the false pretext of saving users a few KBs: https://luishg.medium.com/google-is-turning-android-into-ios-and-getting-full-control-over-devs-to-save-you-some-kbs-9e11b5f709f.
In short, if we assume that, for some time now, the innovation of these companies has been mainly focused on destroying their competition (Google Formed ‘Fortnite Task Force’ in Response to Epic’s Moves to “deter developers from launching outside of Google Play and maintain Google’s monopoly over Android app distribution.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-11-15/google-formed-fortnite-task-force-in-response-to-epic-s-moves) in a way that’s unfair and detrimental to anyone other than themselves, how can we trust their future initiatives?. Are we going to let them be the ones to define what’s to come?. Whether it’s the “Metaverse,” the “Web 3.0” or any other space that would be created with their limited, centralized, “secure” and “efficient” mental framework.
I trust that by then we’ll be ready and we’ll have done our job, educating people about the only tool capable of making a difference: technological awareness.