EU approves law to regulate Big Tech

It is odd that Apple and Google swipe 15%+ from developers who write apps for them. It's the wrong way round as far as I'm concerned. It's the proliferation of apps that sells the devices that use iOS and Android, so shouldn't Apple and Google be paying developers 15% to write apps for them?

The dominance of Big Tech allows them to reverse this relationship. If there were, say, ten roughly equal device manufacturers, each with their own OS, there'd be competition to get developers to produce apps for their platforms. Big Tech might then see their app stores and payment processing facilities as the cost of enticing developers to create apps rather than something to extract yet more profit from.

But the situation is what it is and Big Tech is undergoing a variety of antitrust challenges. The EU is leading the way with new regulations they believe will force Big Tech to open up its platforms more. Margrethe Vestager, the EU's antitrust chief said:

What we want is simple: fair markets…in digital.

Large gatekeeper platforms have prevented businesses and consumers from the benefit of competitive digital markets.

I'm wary, though. The implementation is what matters, and regulators don't have the best track record in that respect. Take the cookie policies, for example. They were meant to protect consumers from their data being used without permission, but what they mainly did was create a bunch of irritating pop-ups that people dismiss as quickly as possible, accepting whatever defaults the site applies to cookies in the process. I went through a lot of the cookie policies at first, judiciously opting out of as much as possible, but that soon gets tedious and now I mostly just accept the defaults. The regulation was ill-defined; it should have insisted that any sort of dismissal of a cookie screen should by default have installed no cookies at all. Then they should have prosecuted the hell out of any site that didn't comply.

The US CanSpam Act of 2003 is another example of a law that failed. It managed to introduce more red tape for legitimate businesses and failed to combat spammers, who moved themselves offshore to evade the Act. The reduction in spam we enjoy these days is mainly the result of better spam filters and actively maintain block lists.

They have to make sure new regulations don't go the same way and work out worse for consumers. There is no point regulating Big Tech simply for the sake of it, or just to stop them making so much money. It has to be beneficial to consumers, and the advantages of any change must exceed the disadvantages, because there will be some.

Whilst a lot of the objections from Big Tech will undoubtedly be to protect their balance sheets, they do sometimes have a point. Apple made the point that being forced to open up their platform removes the consumer's choice to use a locked down platform. There may be something in that if you accept that a locked down platform has benefits, maybe for things like security.

Either way, more of these regulations will come, and if I was in charge of a Big Tech company I'd want to get ahead of the game.