Interesting NYT column by Kara Swisher:
Here’s a little quiz. When was the last time a significant social media network was founded in the United States? And what about a competitive search engine company? An online ad network? And what about a truly wide-ranging e-commerce start-up?
Here are the depressing answers. The social network Snapchat, in 2011. For search, Microsoft’s Bing appeared in 2009, a replacement for its Live Search. I’m drawing a blank on an ad network. With e-commerce, the answer is probably Wayfair, which arrived in 2002, and still has only 1.3 percent of the market (most retail innovation has been in niche areas, like luggage (Away) or special fashion (The RealReal)).
To put this another way: Facebook and its Instagram unit have close to 50 percent of the social media market, dwarfing all the other companies in monthly active users tenfold. Google has about 90 percent of the search market, with Bing and Yahoo dwindling ever further behind by the month. Google and Facebook also suck up 60 percent of the digital ad spend, with only Amazon moving up aggressively in that fast-growing space. And speaking of Amazon, the retail giant has about 50 percent of total e-commerce sales in the United States, with eBay and Walmart at 7 percent and 4 percent, respectively.
Finally, it looks as though the US government is beginning to think that there might be something wrong here. Which prompts three questions:
- What took them so long? Was it just that they were still in thrall to Robert Bork’s The Antitrust paradox?
- Have they left it too late?
- And how do you punish companies that can absorb a $5B fine without missing a beat?
(Interestingly, Amazon.co.uk is currently selling a paperback copy of Bork’s book for £207.02!)