The Wall Street Journal wrote an extensive article, titled “In The Grip of the New Monopolists,” about how the Internet does not feel like a model for what the “free market is supposed to look like—competition in its purest form.” In my opinion, the Internet does not feel like a monopoly at all.
The WSJ wrote “Google ‘owns’ search; Facebook, social networking; eBay rules auctions; Apple dominates online content delivery; Amazon, retail; and so on.” Joining all of these services are free. In my economics class, I learned that a monopoly exists when an individual or enterprise can control significant terms on which people can have access to their service or product. I believe that Internet consumers have tons of options for their different Internet needs and that it is a free market.
For example, let’s say that you want to go on the Internet to use a search engine. Wikipedia has a list of over 100 search engines broken down by different types. Consumers aren’t forced to have a Google account. I could just as easily avoid Google altogether and use Yahoo! or Bing.
I don’t believe that Facebook owns social networking either. For example, I have a profile at Digg.com, StumbleUpon, Flickr, YouTube, Hi5, MySpace, Friendster, Reddit, Yahoo! Buzz, etc. Plus Facebook is free. They do not control the terms on which I have access to social networking services. If Facebook ever decides to start charging for their services, I’d go back to Friendster and delete my Facebook account.
Apple may be one of the top players in online content delivery, but there is a plethora of options. If you think iTunes and Apple streaming services suck, you can stream movies through Netflix, Blockbuster.com, and Amazon.com, Zune Pass, Hulu Plus, etc. You as the consumer have control of who you want to use to fulfill your online content delivery needs.
Amazon.com “owns” retail, WSJ? Really? I do a lot of shopping on the Internet and I’d say that 1/10 things I buy are on Amazon.com. Here is a list of competitors that Amazon.com: Newegg.com, Meijer.com, Walmart.com, Target.com, Buy.com, Dell.com, Lenovo.com, HP.com, Sony.com, Mwave.com, eBay.com, Craigslist’s for sale pages, Sears.com, eBay, Etsy, Gamestop.com, etc. You cannot say that Amazon.com owns retail when there are a countless number of alternatives.
I think saying that a company has a “monopoly” on a product or service is a strong word. On the Internet, there are so many different options for many different tastes. What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below.