I wrote down some thoughts back in 2011 about government regulation of technology. And looking back, I stand by that post.
But I wanted to spend a few extra words due to the recent Access Act proposed by Senator Warner and others.
My friend Fred has an interesting post on this topic as usual. Fred likes the approach outlined and has some suggestions on how to make it stronger.
I do like the idea of portability and data ownership. For example, I should have the ability to easily take my photos from Facebook or IG and move on. I know Flickr made this task nearly impossible and always bummed me out. It’s wrong.
But believe there is a distinction between data ownership and everything else. I need to consider topic some more — but my initial thinking is regulating how these service work with each other is not useful or even necessary. In fact, it may be harmful to consumers.
Take Senator Warners example about AOL AIM. First, I just don’t believe AIM would have remained dominant if the government didn’t act. Just look at AOL’s track record for innovation, even in those days. Also consider MySpace for yet another example. A walled garden that was massive but didn’t innovate, declined and died.
Further interoperability doesn’t necessarily always help the smaller company either. Facebook is cloning Snapchat every chance they can get. Snaps only chance is to keep creating and making Snapchat a more compelling experience on their own (it seems to be working btw). Can you imagine if the government forced Snap to interoperate with Facebook Messenger. First, it would be a horrible user experience and second, it would hurt Snapchat more than it would hurt FB.
(Related point. I deleted my Facebook account earlier this year and haven’t looked back. I’m so happy that Facebook can’t find a way to message me elsewhere)
But ultimately I believe in software innovation and remain optimistic that startups can out innovate. It happened in operating systems, it happened in the browser wars and it will happen in social media.
The beat goes on.