Mark Zuckerberg’s former college roommate and co-founder of Facebook posted a fascinating proposal this week: break up the social network and watch the problems start to disappear.
But would they? Take Instagram and WhatsApp away from Facebook, Inc. and say goodbye to Russian trolls, fake news, privacy invasions and an algorithm that shows what Facebook wants you to see?
Much of the online chatter can be summed up in two words: nice dream.
“It would not solve the problem,” says Boston based blogger Josh Bernoff. “Breaking up Facebook would enable us to have 3 data abusers (Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp) instead of one, and I’m not sure why that’s better.”
The gist of Hughes’ Op-Ed and subsequent media tour among many TV shows is that the government needs to take action on behalf of consumers, as it did with AT&T back in 1984.
Running for president, candidate Elizabeth Warren agreed with Hughes, weighing in on the side of a breakup, and using the hashtag #BreakUpBigTech. Senator Warren (D-Mass.), who wants to apply the hatchet to Facebook, Google and Amazon, says the big tech firms have “bulldozed competition, used our private info for profit, hurt small businesses and stifled innovation.”
Alex Kruglov, the founder of small online video gaming startup pop.in, is with Warren and Hughes. Taking away Instagram and WhatsApp would “create an environment of more competition,” he says.
Snapchat invented the idea of disappearing photos, and when Facebook embraced the idea and tried to buy the company, but was rebuffed, Facebook responded by copying the idea and using it on Instagram. The Instagram Story feature is now used by over 500 million people daily, while Snapchat has under 200 million active daily users.
Kruglov says situations like this, with government monitoring, would open the playing field and make it fairer. What it wouldn’t do is get rid of fake news, trolls and the like, but he believes government regulation that enabled competition would have a natural effect of diluting these voices.
Just like with regulation of utilities and auto companies, regulation would shift the power from the social network back to users, says Jeremiah Owyang, an analyst with Kaleido Insights.
He doesn’t support the idea of a breakup, however, because that would just create consumer confusion, he says.
We like connecting via Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, because it makes it easier to use the services, just like we like signing on to websites via Facebook connect. And if Facebook had that taken away, some other company, probably Google, would just swoop in and try to connect everyone via its system, he says.
Readers, what do you think? Should Facebook be broken up?
Google held it’s big I/O conference for app developers this week, announcing new low-cost phones and a rebranding of Google Home products. Google looked to address consumer burnout over super-expensive smartphones with a new Pixel smartphone for $399. It’s not waterproof and doesn’t offer wireless charging, but then it doesn’t cost $1,000 either. Our Ed Baig says the Pixel 3A phone is a better deal that the Pixel 3, which starts at $799. Google also lent some confusion to its Alexa rival, the Google Home line. Remember that Google Home Hub we loved when it was released last year? It’s now called the Nest Home Hub because, well, Google owns Nest, which makes several home automation products, and wanted to beef up the Nest name. A larger edition, selling for $230, the Nest Home Hub Max, will be released in the summer. It will also feature a video camera that follows users around the home, similar to Facebook’s Portal device.
Bret Kinsella, who pens the Voicebot,.ai blog, says we could expect Google to change the name of the Google Home speakers to Nest Home later this year.
Ride-hailing company Uber went public on Friday, but didn’t have a great day, closinbg at $41.57, down from the opening price of $45 a share.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos made a detailed pitch for flying astronauts to the moon by 2024. Blue Origin, the rocket venture from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, will launch a manned mission to the moon, in just a few years. Only three nations have successfully landed on the moon: U.S., Russia and China.
While we were away visiting Spain and Portugal, we had several talented folks filling in for us on Talking Tech, and some reruns as well.
—Veteran analyst Tim Bajarin offered us a preview of Apple’s upcoming WWDC developer conference.
—Shannon Rae Green and Dusty Terrill, the duo that hosts USA TODAY’s “I Tell My Husband The News,” podcast, weighed in on schools banning Uber Eats.
—From the vault: our #TalkingTech sitdown with singer Ariana Grande.
—Melissa Kirsch from “The Upgrade by Lifehacker” podcast filled for us with thoughts on how to get off the grid.
—From the vault: one of our all-time favorites, Talking Tech with comedian Lewis Black.
That’s a wrap for the Talking Tech newsletter. Please subscribe at http://technewsletter.usatoday.com, follow me (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, and listen to the daily Talking Tech podcast wherever you listen to online audio.
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