I probably learned more useful things from working as a lowly assistant for an expert witness in US v AT&T, than from my formal education. So I was all agog when the next big anti-trust case came up, US v Microsoft. But that was also when I began to realize the need rethink of the core concepts. This article in Medium (I hope it will not be paywalled) makes an insightful comparison between the tying arguments that were central the Microsoft case and the loose claims of monopoly being bandied about in relation to Facebook now.
While some of the questions and concerns echoed those the senators had two decades ago, Microsoft and Facebook’s situation could not be more different.
Facebook is a social network that operates on multiple operating systems. It has multiple apps, like Messenger and Instagram that feed into it. Because it traverses platforms and borders, it has over 2 billion users, more than double that of Windows 10. I know, 2 billion users, almost a third of the world’s population, sure sounds like a monopoly. But it’s not. A monopoly is defined not by numbers, but by choice.
When Microsoft dominated the system platform and Web browser space, they did it by taking choice away from consumers. If you bought a PC, you bought a Windows PC (you could buy a Mac, but only from one company, Apple), and if you bought it in the time of Windows 95, your Web browser was Internet Explorer.