There was a time… it seems silly now, and Aleks talked about it on BBC TV recently, when the web was open, free, and very very democratic. Pretty much every site was some dude in their bedroom hitting a keyboard (like me!), but that didn’t last long.
Remember download.com? It used to just be download.com, then it was CNET’s download.com. Now it is owned by CBS Interactive, who also own TV.com, ZDNet, News.com, VersionTracker.com, gamespot.com and many others.
Remember slashdot.org? it’s now part of geeknet, who also own sourceforge.
Remember IMDB and Alexa? Both owned by Amazon.
YouTube? owned by Google, of course.
Slowly but surely, in fact maybe not even slowly, all the sites on the net buy each other until there are fewer and fewer owners that control what we read, buy, see, listen to and discuss. I see this as very bad. I’m not some bearded anti-capitalist hippy, I’m VERY much a capitalist at heart. But I’m a pure free-market, small-business style capitalist. I love the idea of a dozen different companies competing to make the best product, and to give the consumer better value. I worry these days that the net is heading towards a time where we don’t do that. Games are going that way too. Lionhead bought by Microsoft. Maxis bought by EA, etc etc…
Facebook are having a rough time over dodgy privacy settings. The problem is, it’s too late to hassle them about it. Facebook have won. they are huge, valued at 20 billion dollars. Thats bigger than the GDP of Nicargaua. Nobody is about to topple facebook as the top social website. Competition is failing.
Amazon have a similar position in the UK for shopping. Ebay have it for auctions, Google for search, maps, video and most likely small business advertising too.
The really scary thing is that this is MUCH worse than the situation at retail. With physical stuff we have vast competition. I bet you can name ten manufacturers of laptop. ten manufacturers of cars. Now name me ten online book stores.
Or even five.