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Giants behaving badly: Google, Facebook and Amazon show us the downside of monopolies and black-box algorithms

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The internet is a wondrous thing — a limitless universe of content and products and information, all of which can be summoned up from the comfort of a chair or the palm of the hand, like some sort of science-fiction dream from centuries ago. Unfortunately, the reality is that massive quasi-monopolies control a large part of that universe, and their self-interested choices and black-box algorithms shape and in some cases define what we see, what we can search for and what we can buy.

This week has brought lessons in all of those areas from Google (s goog), Amazon (s amzn) and Facebook (s fb), each one a cautionary tale about the sci-fi future we live in. So here’s a roundup of the latest bad behavior by the platforms we use (or are used by) as we go about our increasingly digital lives. If we’re missing any other good examples, please let us know in the comment section below.

Amazon throws its weight around

To take the most recent example first, the online bookseller has dramatically escalated its battle with Hachette, one of its suppliers, by not only showing the company’s titles as unavailable in some cases, but mucking around with how they are categorized, so that they are (presumably) more difficult to find. As our Laura Owen describes in her post on the issue, this is a clear example of the online retailer throwing its weight around simply because it can, and its behavior has drawn fire from many who see it as a monopolistic tactic:

Why it matters: Some argue that Amazon isn’t doing anything that different from what many retailers do when they are trying to put pressure on their suppliers — physical retailers like Walmart are notorious for squeezing the companies that supply their goods so that they can get better terms. But Amazon arguably has a market share in ebook sales that dwarfs anything in the “real” world, and by hiding or making it difficult to find specific titles (including a book about Amazon itself) it renders them literally unavailable in ways a physical store could not.

What you can do about it: To be honest, not that much. Obviously, searching for and buying books from other retailers is one way to fight back against Amazon’s behavior — but many other online outlets such as Barnes & Noble are unappealing, in part because competition from Amazon has forced them to cut back on the books they carry and has made them less useful.

Google’s black-box algorithm strikes again

The search giant is the undisputed king of the proprietary, unfathomable algorithm, and this week it showed again why that is a dangerous and frustrating thing, after Metafilter founder Matt Haughey described in detail how his 15-year-old online community — known for its high-quality content — saw its traffic decline sharply following an update to the Google indexing algorithm. Reliant on Google not only for the bulk of its traffic but also the bulk of its advertising revenue, Metafilter has had to lay off almost half of its staff.

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Why it matters: Just as Amazon does for books, Google has a market share in both search and search-related advertising that dwarfs any of its competitors, and so it is the default way for users to find things. If you don’t appear until page five of the Google search results for a specific term, you might as well not exist at all. And because Google’s algorithm is proprietary, it says virtually nothing about why sites move up or down — even experts like Danny Sullivan can’t explain why Metafilter’s traffic fell by 40 percent, nor can they suggest how to correct it.

What you can do about it: You can use alternative search engines like Microsoft’s Bing or DuckDuckGo, as some do, but this will have little to no effect on Google’s dominance or the success or failure of sites like Metafilter. You could write to your congressman or the Federal Trade Commission, but antitrust is a blunt instrument when it comes to correcting such behavior, and usually winds up closing the door after the horses have long since left the barn.

Facebook makes things appear and disappear

We can thank director of product Mike Hudack for throwing a spotlight on the role that Facebook plays in what we see and/or read, with a post that criticized the media for focusing on shallow click-bait — a post that triggered a thousand responses from anguished journalists, complaining that Facebook itself helps determine what gets shared and what gets traffic, and so is partly to blame for the problem. On a related note, Facebook has also been criticized for making newsworthy posts about things like the Syrian war disappear, with little or no explanation about why, nor any avenue for appeal.

Why it matters: Facebook may not be on par with Amazon or Google (at least not yet), in part because the whole idea of a social platform is more nebulous than search or ebooks, and so it’s difficult to accuse it of having a monopoly on anything. But at the same time, it clearly plays a major role in driving users towards certain content, and the algorithm it uses to do that is Google-like, in the sense that we know virtually nothing about how it works, or why it prefers one type of content to another. That makes Facebook almost as bad as newspapers used to be.

What you can do about it: You can stop using Facebook, but that’s not going to stop a billion or so other people from using it, and therefore it’s not going to stop them clicking on what Facebook decides is newsworthy or not newsworthy, and driving traffic to those sites, and thereby helping to determine whether they live or die. And unlike Google or Amazon, there isn’t even much of a case for antitrust, because it’s not clear what market Facebook dominates.

These companies are not alone: Apple (as a commenter has noted) is also notorious for banning apps and services from its platform with little notice. So what can we do to blunt the force of this kind of behavior? For one thing, we can think about the repercussions of using the giant proprietary platforms we rely on, and maybe direct some of our time or attention or financial resources to others, in the hope that competition will be encouraged. As Columbia law professor Tim Wu (the man who coined the term “net neutrality”) argues in his book The Master Switch, the technology world often sees the pendulum swing back and forth between competition and oligopoly. All we can do is try to help it swing a little faster.

Post and thumbnail images courtesy of Thinkstock / Design Pics

37 Responses to “Giants behaving badly: Google, Facebook and Amazon show us the downside of monopolies and black-box algorithms”

  1. Robotech_Master

    The Department of Justice has investigated Amazon for predatory pricing. (Emphasis added.)

    In response to these arguments by Kohn and others, DOJ describes as “speculative” the fear that Amazon might use its monopoly power to raise prices in the future. DOJ claims that it closely examined allegations that Amazon engaged in predatory pricing, and found persuasive evidence lacking. It further notes that Barnes & Noble and Google had either entered or planned to enter the e-books market well before the Agency Agreements were signed. Similarly, Barnes & Noble was able to attract a $300 million investment from Microsoft in order to compete with Amazon even after the filing of the proposed Final Judgment shed doubt on the future of e-books agency pricing, and Google recently announced a new investment in a tablet computer intended to promote its e-book sales.

    —from page 38 of Judge Cote’s opinion approving the publishers’ settlement.

    Of course, Amazon has behaved illegally in the past. There was the time it tried to force small publishers to use its own CreateSpace service exclusively rather than another POD service. One of the publishers took Amazon to court over it, and Amazon backed down and settled after it became clear the company was in the wrong.

    I have very little doubt that any one of the multi-billion-dollar conglomerates that own the Big Five nee Six publishers could afford considerably pricier lawyers than a small press. So if they really do think Amazon is actually doing something illegal, why haven’t they taken legal action over it themselves rather than continue to bluster about it?

    You know what kind of action they did take? Illegal action. Rather than attempt to argue the law in court, they outright broke it. What do you think that says about their behavior (and, for that matter, their ethics) versus Amazon’s?

  2. Jeffery Lee Vale

    Don’t buy anything from a monopolistic company; especially if it treats its employees as bad as Amazon treats theirs. Giving others your business might require tradeoffs of one type or another, but that is what you call accepting sacrifice for doing the right thing.

    More importantly, however, is the need to realize that Capitalism is obsolete. It was never intended to be electrified; a fact for which you only need consider the absurdity of human skill as a viable commodity in the future.

    The bottom line here is that no operating system remains relevent indefinitely. And Capitalism, as our economic operating system, is no different. More to the point, however, is the fact that, at some point in the process of upgrading, and fixing, any complex piece of software, there comes a time when any further attempts to address shortcomings risk creating more problems than they were meant to solve in the first place. This ought to be complex systems 101, but it seems we have blinders when it comes to matters of social equity.

  3. Lexiphanicist

    Nice writeup. Instead of looking how to knock giant incumbents off their perch, it’s more important to offer positive alternatives, as you did with mentioning DuckDuckGo.

    In place of Amazon, there are now wonderful ‘Netflix for books’ options Oyster and Scribd. For Facebook there is, well, the telephone and Skype. Admittedly, Google is the most implacable.

  4. You must remember that Google’s algorithm used to be public, and it resulted in dishonest people taking advantage of it. Look up “Vitaly Borker” for a prominent example, but this was common.

    A partial solution? Stop doing search engine optimization! If nobody tried to game Google then they wouldn’t need to tweak their algorithm to compensate.

  5. A Ch0w, sneeze

    There are at least 5 other book stores capable of replacing Amazon. Hachette should grow up and stop whining.

    What has Andreseens quote got to do with anything on this page, and what antitrust regulation is required when you can type ebay, overstock, barnes and noble, waterstones in your browser and order any book? Same for Google. I feel bad for metafilter (never heard of them before), but if Google stopped being useful to me, I’d be typing any one of a dozen alternatives in the address bar.

  6. Sojourner Truthverdad

    ^ Key topic:
    Google ‘Search Quality’ fiasco —
    GOOGLE HYPOCRISY & Predatory Corruption
    re: obscene fraudulent nonsense-string (scraped names) WebSpam that is prevalent
    in Google Search Results…

    > Question:
    Is Google deliberately abetting
    corrupt obscene fraudulent Israeli/Russian-jewish organized-crime WebSpam &
    WebSCAM porn for profit ??

    Related, significant info. re: Google Corp.:
    (& see Link, July 2013)
    “Google gets Lowest Score Ever in Customer Satisfaction Survey” =>
    =>> also, view: “Customer Service Scoreboard” site (note: Google Corp. has ‘Terrible” rating) =>

    Please be aware that…
    (‘Google groupie’) Ashley Berman Hale serves as an operative shill
    for Israeli/Russian-Jewish organized crime protecting
    their ‘Porn Empire’
    — this explains why her comments are uselessly snarky
    and she is deliberately unhelpful to the victims of corrupt,
    obscene, fraudulent (scraped names, phone#) WebSpam sites —
    corrupt (random nonsense-string) Spam-Junk sites which are clandestinely
    abetted by Google Corp. (for profit) and which ludicrously proliferate
    in typical awful-quality Google search results.

    * please note: I am honestly reporting the above
    info. — I myself am jewish heritage & I’m the
    daughter of holocaust survivors —
    however, the public should realize it is a FACT that many criminal-scam websites
    perpetrating ‘search abuse’ (including obscene & fraudulent scraped names,
    phone# etc.) WebSpam sites, are controlled by Israeli/Russian-Jewish organized crime   
    — and are harbored/facilitated
    and protected or even promoted by Google Corporation.

    ASHLEY BERMAN HALE provides ‘cover’
    for Google Corp. harmful corruption
    & lack of responsible business practices…

    please note:
    I assuredly guarantee that Google Corp. affiliates immediately remove
    any corrupt WebScam listings that
    mention themselves !
    > Google Corp. affiliates protect themselves
    but not YOU — the general public —
    from corrupt obscene fraudulent random-aggregator WebSpam (scraped names,
    phone#, etc.) that is creepily, awfully abundant in typical Google search results !

    => Google’s HYPOCRISY
    & deleterious corporate practices !
    Google’s so-called SPAM REPORTS are
    apparently USELESS wastes of time!

    > Attention: MATT CUTTS,
    Google ‘Search Quality’ Team
    (& affiliated Google staff & Google shills)

    Please note: Ashley’s prior “Webmaster Central” comments are not relevant,
    because as I stated, I already prevously submitted Google Spam Reports
    several times —
    And… the (supposed) Google standards-violating
    corrupt obscene WebSpam site is quite BLATANTLY
    & OBVIOUSLY using randomly SCRAPED Names & words, as displayed by
    Google in the crappy search results NONSENSE-String SNIPPET
    (shown below) !

    WHY has Google ‘search quality’ apparently
    DETERIORATED, in general ??

    Unfortunately, Google ‘search results’ are chockfull of corrupt,
    harmfully fraudulent, erroneous &
    meaningless (random-aggregator juxtaposed scraped
    words/names hodgepodge) listings —
    including ludicrous & obscene SNIPPETS that display
    people’s full names & business names, fraudulently mis-used

    see egregious example —
    this type of sleazy WebSpam which Google Corp. seems to abet…
    Note: Ashley Berman Hale thinks that the fraudulent mis-use
    of randomly scraped names is not problematic for… other people
    (for the ‘peons’), but let’s see how she
    likes to be exploited by Google Corp. sleazy corrupt recklessness
    when it happens to her:

    droom design …‎
    … http://www.for rent ……
    ASHLEY BERMAN HALE Cisco … teacher leani may mp
    http://www.oral sex pastoral marine …

    WHY is Google Corp. seemingly promoting &
    proliferating this obscene and fraudulent
    scraped-names nonsense garbage ??
    — Exactly WHO is profiteering
    from deliberately awful-quality, crappy &
    sleazy search results !!

    Attn: Alan Eustace, Amit Singhal, Matt Cutts
    and GOOGLE ‘Search Quality’ Team

    See example of corrupt obscene nonsense-string (search abuse) WebSpam
    that is fraudulently & erroneously mis-using my full name, which is displayed
    in Google snippets.
    Note: I don’t have any connection whatsoever with this disgusting corrupt
    website, which has obviously scraped my name and other contents
    of randomly-juxtaposed names & words… (see problem snippet below) =
    Google Corporation’s typical misleading, fraudulent
    OBSCENE SPAM-JUNK ‘search result’ SNIPPET =>

    !!LOOKING FOR CASUAL SAFE SECURE SEX!! droom design …‎
    … http://www.for rent … Matt Cutts … teacher
    leani may mp Larry Page http://www.oral sex pastoral marine …

    !!LOOKING FOR CASUAL SAFE SECURE SEX!! droom design …‎
    corrupt Google WebSpam … Amanda Rosenberg … Amit Singhal …
    typical Google crappy search result … http://www.for rent  John Mueller ….. Matt Cutts … teacher
    leani may mp  Larry Page  http://www.oral sex  pastoral
    Sergey Brin marine … Sundar Pichai …. Alan Eustace

    –> Attention: GOOGLE EMPLOYEES
    REMOVE THIS (Fraudulent Search Abuse) Snippet
    The Google ‘Web Removal Tool’ procedure has been USELESS
    Also, I have tried filling out Google ‘Spam Report’
    form several times to no avail !
    This is the specific ‘Search Abuse’ WEBSPAM site =>‎   

    ^  Quite Obviously  –  Google search results
    are ‘rigged’
    & riddled with warped corruption — implemented behind the
    darkly opaque curtain…
    >> Untrustworthy, duplicitous GOOGLE Corp. in recent years conducts itself
    in a deleteriously callous
    manner toward the general public.

    • A Ch0w, sneeze

      You sound like a crank. We don’t care about your race or history.

      You don’t use Google because it sucks in your view.

      I use it cos I can say “convert xyz eur into usd” or quickly translate or define an English word. I ask it questions and it fives me answers or forwards me to sites which are relevant. It’s doing a good enough job that I don’t even bother checking out the competition. Whenever I use a computer where Google is not the default, 3 searches later, I give up and start going to instead of searching in the address bar.

  7. bing? how can you offer up bing as an alternative?
    bing is nothing more than big business using its vast treasure trove to buy it’s way into markets.
    ballmer said ms is willing to lose up to 10 billion dollars to “compete” with google.

    10 billion dollars. they really really REALLY want your data. you can be sure they don’t want it to sit on it.

    here’s a few things you can get for around 10 billion:
    2 uss nimitz class air craft carriers and a billion left over.
    an up and running international space station.
    100 top of the line boeing 787’s.
    a cern large hadron collider.

    they really really REALLY want your data.

  8. If you have rely all or most of your income coming from Google/Amazon/Facebook/Apple\Microsoft\etc. traffic then the fault lies with that business owner. Not big bad corporate outfit.

    Big corporate share some responsibility but you can’t put all the blame on them. It’s always easy to blame someone else for your shortcomings.

  9. Same squawking, different times.

    Back in the day, the network news controlled what you read, saw, or heard about. AT&T controlled the phone lines.

    What’s different now? Only that the whole thing has moved online.

    So what? Most people know what they’re seeing is filtered. The intelligent seek information from multiple sources. Those who prefer to stick with their own, don’t.

    More government is not the answer. Government is in charge of education, and look what a mess that is–and poor education is one reason for most of the problems listed in this post and elsewhere. What’s needed is for the government to work properly and have an understanding of what it is try to regulate.

    Of course, in this country, the “government” is us–all of us, in the form of the people we vote for to represent us. We get what we choose.

  10. Allowing Amazon and the noxious google to grow unmolested while imagining the landscape they gobbled on the way up to be restorable any time we get sick of their rules is akin to saying global warming isn’t a problem so long as we’re still ok. And if the water gets too hot, why we’ll deal with it at that future time. Amazon reminds me of nothing more than the trusts that had to be busted up during the progressive era in the early 20th century. We’re precisely where we were then and the majority is complacently looking for the lowest priced ideas as opposed to a wide range of them. This is what we’ll reap.

  11. Alton Drew

    If the FCC wants to treat the Internet as an end-to-end platform that consumers pay broadband fees in order to access, what would that mean for Apple and Facebook’s actions as edge providers in a net neutrality world?

  12. Jerry Vandesic

    Arguing that Google is engaging in antitrustworthy behavior is a real stretch. Their algorithms might not be perfect, but they reflect the thoughts of Google employees regarding what is relevant to a particular topic. If you don’t like how Google rates your site, you really don’t (and shouldn’t) have any redress.

    It’s the same situation with those end of year top 10 movie lists — if you don’t like how your movie rates, you don’t go running the government asking to have the rankings changed.

    • JohnS

      If the company making the top 10 lists 1) owned 90% of the ratings marketshare 2) also made movies and 3) was constantly rating their own in the first places while arbitrarily downgrading others’ it would attract antitrust concerns for sure.

      • That’s not how it works JohnS. First off…Google doesn’t have a 90% marketshare. 2) Google doesn’t make any of the content it crawls. 3) Google quite often rates other services above their own (Yahoo Finance over Google Finance) in its search rankings.

        See Roger’s post. Hate to break it to ya…but, because you don’t know why these companies lose their rankings…you can’t argue it wasn’t for the right reasons. For every metawhatever (BTW…who has ever heard of this company?) others benefitted. Do you hear them complaining? Are you upset that others won?

        The author behaves as though these companies are punishing businesses against consumers wishes…if this is true…then consumers would flock away in droves. It’s not like Facebook, Amazon or Google is charging users for their loyalty. People choose the services they like. If you want to switch…go right ahead. It’s not these companies fault that their versions of innovation are superior.

  13. Valentine North

    I’m not going to be “independent” and use gtalk when everyone I know uses yahoo. Same for facebook or whatever online socializing platform you’re using.
    Where I live, people use them, but not that much, ignoring them completely, regardless of age, is common.

    Google is popular because it’s good. Whenever I get irritated with the search results, I try other things, like bing, yahoo or duckduckgo. But they don’t really compete. They show the same results, or a poorer selection. Trust me, when I was desperate enough to search 20 pages for every query with every engine, I learned a lot.
    I should mention though, different results are not always bad.

    For Metafilter … the year is 2014. You want front page placement, then you work at it. Redesign, renew or hire someone to understand SEO for you. Service quality and ads will only get you so far. Also, maybe webblogging is on a downward slope? Google trends says so :p

    Amazon … is really cool, but if I want books, there are a few websites that offer the same, cheaper and with free shipping, as for other things, eBay is better.

    PS Is the article written from the perspective of an European or not? We have a few politicians trying to cut down their power, so things are not quite so grim …

  14. Roger Kondrat

    Hi Matt

    Been following you since your G&M days, love your stuff.

    A couple things. I disagree with much of what you are proposing here and I’m not even a crazy right-wing guy.

    Looking at Google as that was my fav of your examples. Have you tried using Bing? It’s literally horrific by comparison. I keep trying and I’d personally love to leave Google search for many of the reasons commonly mentioned, but Bing is no where near a competitor to Google. What can Google really do about this? There isn’t much other than start doing their core business a$$ backwards.

    While I can’t speak to Metafilter, Google is always tweaking and from my perspective as an end user that is very willing to leave at any time, Google is doing their job really well. As well your pointing out a 40% decline at Metafilter is rather sensational. You provide little context and since we don’t know what caused that collapse and 40% isn’t Google punishing them, because if it was we both know from experience it would be 99%-100%. Also can’t state with certainty that they’ve been all above board. Did you see the logs? Did you speak with their SEO team? What if Metafilter got caught with their hands in the cookie jar and now they are using you to embarrass Google hoping to further politicize the issue. That’s hardly unlikely.

    Facebook has always been a joke. They very nearly could get away with murder. I would love to leave them too, but no one anywhere has anything going on like them. Facebook let’s me backup my photos and videos with unlimited storage. This is so awesome! Sure I give up stuff, but I use Facebook and not the other way around. I’ve probably clicked on 1 ad ever and I button up my details and lie to Facebook about other stuff quite often too. I’m not going to deny that.

    If I could even pay just $5/month get to sign up and in to services with another provider and have unlimited storage I’d be there. I find Twitter too limiting by the way. Do you know of someone I could use other than Facebook or Twitter? I just don’t see any options. I was once on Myspace for a whole 30min. Just about had a headache from it.

    Amazon has competition in so many categories and you are right no so much in the US for ebooks or even books for that matter, but your comment that B&N couldn’t do the same is somewhat idiotic. It’s easy B&N just stops putting books on the shelf. I’m sure this has happened many times in the past, but we only hear about it now due to the wonderful Internet. The joke of all of this is really on the record labels, movie studios and publishing houses. I laugh at them all the time! How you can fault Amazon for wanting to lower outrageously priced ebooks, I can’t really understand.

    Amazon’s goal is to get a book in every kids, adults and the wider worlds hands. Literally doing that is both noble and an outright business priority. Do you know why we pay so much for books today? Have you looked into the reasons? We pay this much because the publishers’ goal is to keep prices comparable to paper books. Yeah paper books. The books that require a huge supply chain to produce, that cause deforestation, that cause the leaking of acids into the environment for bleaching of the paper and that cause the need for massive warehouses to store these books. This is ludacris! Much of what I’m saying could be applied to the Movies and Music markets. I’m tired of hearing these whiners complain. If it wasn’t for the muscle of Amazon and Apple on these lazy markets/industries we’d be paying lots more for books, music and movies and that’s assuming we could even get them digitally. I wonder if that’s possible.

    We need genuine competition, not excuses to limit companies that are doing great work. We need to stop giving excuses to the companies that are full of excuses. If Google, Amazon, or Facebook wakes up one day and literally steps on someone’s throat to stay ahead, then I’ll cry foul and be right there with you, but until that day you are peeing into the wind and that’s just not pretty to see.


  15. ecw0647

    I find this whole thing wildly amusing. Critics of Amazon have been trying to persuade people to use independent bookstores and other sources for their books. They should be thrilled since Amazon is now making that easier. Really, it’s pathetically easy to do without the latest Patterson anyway.

  16. dlwatib

    You really can’t avoid people herding. They do it naturally. It’s instinct. They choose to use services like Google and Facebook and Apple precisely because those companies facilitate their herding.

    My herding instinct is apparently broken because I don’t use any of those services. It’s easy to live without them. I use DuckDuckGo for most of my searching. I have a Samsung phone that I hardly ever use any smart phone functions on. I use tumblr for posting photos. Be independent. Break your herding instinct.

    • Aankhen

      I’m not sure using DuckDuckGo, a Samsung phone and Tumblr count as being independent or breaking your herding instinct. :-P

    • Bill Stewart

      I chose Google for my search because they got even better than Altavista at delivering very fast results and identifying pages that were actually what I was interested in with a minimal fraction of uninteresting pages. And they’ve continued doing that by trying to identify people who try to raise the search rank of their uninteresting pages by tricking Google’s robots, and tweaking their algorithms to down-rank pages and sites that do that.

      If that’s herding, it’s the kind of herding you get when a bunch of cats all hear the same electric can-opener, not the kind where sheep follow the other sheep.

      • Same reasoning for me, but you have to be blind or just not thinking critically to have failed to notice the drop in search result quality over the years.

        It’s not really Google’s fault, more people publish more stuff and try to game Google’s algorithm, so there’s a lot more obfuscating factors. But the fact remains, Google’s search results are just “OK” now. Having your search page load on time is not even an issue for any of the engines these days. So combined with the lower quality of Google results, there’s really no reason to use them over another engine these days.

        Unless you’re just attached to that feeling you got back in the late 90’s when Google debuted their clean, awesome, search page.

  17. Ray Cromwell

    Why isn’t Apple included in this analysis? Apple routinely censors and blocks things from the App Store, often for what is perceived as somewhat vague of capricious reasons. If you’re primarily an iOS developer, you are absolutely locked into the App Store, with 100% dependence on Apple’s decisions, which is not quite the case with the Amazon/Google/Facebook examples.

    • Ed Vim

      Let’s not forget Apple also is a major player in funding Rockstar, the infamous patent troll company that exists solely to be, well a patent troll . And of course there’s Apple’s active role is supporting MPEG-LA, the conglomeration of corporations established to keep proprietary codecs as a cancerous entity throughout the entire Web while feeding FUD about anything related to open standards or Open Source in general.

      • JohnS

        Apple supports the MPEG-LA as much as Motorola, Microsoft, Sony, Toshiba, Samsung, LG, Cisco etc

        It’s the only realistic model to license technology otherwise you’d have to deal with 150 different patent holders.

        Same goes for most other technologies where the patents haven’t expired.

    • Tim Olson

      This is in the article: “These companies are not alone: Apple (as a commenter has noted) is also notorious for banning apps and services from its platform with little notice.”

    • “Why isn’t Apple included in this analysis?”

      Because Apple doesn’t have an overwhelming market share any place? As folks in the tech press like to keep reminding us, Android is kicking Apple’s ass in pure number-of-seats terms.

      That can’t be said of Amazon, Google, or Facebook. In fact, I’m not sure why Apple would be “included in this analysis”. If you’re unhappy with Apple as a developer, there’s certainly Android and WIndows Phone as alternatives for you.

      If Amazon won’t list your book, which alternative online bookseller do you go to? If Google hides your site from people looking for it, what’s your recourse? If Facebook refuses to put your content in anyone’s feed, what social network do you use as an alternative.

      Sorry, Matthew was too quick, in my opinion, to side with the reflexive Apple-haters here.

    • Joe Belkin

      Sure, Apple will censor a few apps here and there BUT not because it’s protecting their own apps. While Apple gives away or sell apps, if you’re a competitor – you are still free to sell or give away your apps – look at maps. you are free to load any of hundreds of map apps – or look at itunes, while you do have to use itunes to load your music, you are free to buy or NEVER buy anything from the itunes store – developers or hackers hate the walled garden but for end users, it’s like Yosemite – wide open but with rangers …

    • Umair

      Because they haven’t abused it like the others. The only news of banning I’ve heard pertained to porn. Art mistaken for porn and banned but subsequently restored; satire mistaken for slander / libel and banned but subsequently restored.

      They apply the same rules to everyone and they have stated their rules, which doesn’t make things perfectly clear but infinitely clearer than proprietry algorithms and no explanations.