back to article Facebook and Apple are toying with us, and it's scarcely believable

Towards the turn of the century, my girlfriend revealed what she wanted more than anything else: a Tamagotchi. She added, in terms that revealed a good working knowledge of the Lysistrata, that it was my job to get her one. Tamagotchi was the fad du jour, a keyring electronic toy designed for schoolchildren in Japan and thus …

  1. Blackjack Silver badge

    even if in Apple's case it's really just a fruit emblem

    Nowadays there is really not much difference between let's say a Samsung Phone and an Iphone, save perhaps for Iphones exploding a bit less.

    When it comes to computers and other products, the abuse Apple customers are willing to take makes me pity them.

    Cue the downvotes.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: even if in Apple's case it's really just a fruit emblem

      Apple make a lot of money from their customers. However, their customers derive a lot of benefit from their products. It's not a zero-sum game.

      (Speaking as someone who doesn't own any Apple products, but has experienced countless frustrations with other OSs, computers, media players, phones etc. and has been aware enough of Apple's offerings to know that that *particular* frustration wouldn't occur on the equivalent Apple product. I also know that Apple kit can have its own issues that can frustrate. If I were to join you in over-generalising, I'd suggest that non Apple products often have issues that stem from clumsiness, messiness and a lack of care in their design or poor coordination between hardware and software partners, whereas frustration with Apple kit tends to stem from informed and deliberate decisions by Apple )

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: even if in Apple's case it's really just a fruit emblem

        As a person who had an iPad Mini once upon a time... Apple kit has frustrations. Sometimes utterly stupid frustrations. But they're different frustrations to the typical Android device (of which I have several).

        Nothing is frustration free.

      2. Xamol

        Re: even if in Apple's case it's really just a fruit emblem

        I think Apple have their own issues caused by lack of care in design or execution.

        iPhone 4 that had to be held a certain way in order to obtain a signal? Bendy iPhone 6? Apple Maps?

          Big Brother

          Re: even if in Apple's case it's really just a fruit emblem

          Yeah and aside from those obvious examples, what else is there? Despite everything Apple products are built to at least appear premium; usually they can at least somewhat fulfill that goal.

          As the years have passed I've realized something critical: Apple's walled-garden approach and strict curation has resulted in a very orderly software society for the majority of end-users. While I do still prefer the software and hardware freedom on offer by other operating systems and devices, that freedom comes at a price, with a distinct sense of disorder and chaos. Sometimes built-in software doesn't work or is incompatible, or there's a distinct lack of any good built-in/first party applications at all; there's no guarantee the vendors won't screw you over and drop support for the product after a short time; there's often 10 different ways to do otherwise simple things (looking at you, MMC, Control Panel, Settings app, Group Policy for settings that just won't stay turned off...); parts are hugely variable in quality; things frequently break between upgrades and updates... But when you buy an Apple product, you generally know exactly what you're getting. The base functionality of macOS hasn't changed in years, even before the rebranding. And if you really want to power user it up, just open the terminal and install homebrew.

          Let me make it clear: I am not an Apple fanboy. I hate their business practices and ethics. I think their products are hugely overpriced and not worth the money, and I will likely never own one. I hate their 0.00001mm travel island chiclet keyboards. I feel like the laptops are way too thin. I don't want to be vendor locked because the first party applications and tools are so tightly integrated into the system and there's no alternatives that can match, either deliberately on Apple's part by them restricting APIs, or because the app is just that good. I don't like the direction the latest OS updates have been going. I despise that they are intentionally making it harder to repair their products without involving them. But despite all of this, I still 100% understand why people continue to buy and support, and I can't blame them for selling a little bit of their soul for such stability and comfort.

          1. logicalextreme

            Re: even if in Apple's case it's really just a fruit emblem

            I agree. I wouldn't buy one of their products (tell a lie, I'm going to get an old second-hand iPad for an application that I need that a vendor refuses to port to Android, which is fine as I've wanted a tablet for various guff for about a decade now) but I've seen and known plenty of people who absolutely are not swayed by shiny branding who swear by iOS for various reasons.

            Version to version of the same Linux distro can mean a complete rebuild and learning how to mash your old setup into whatever software does that functionality in this release, as well as all the associated commands. Version to version of Windows I've usually found less painful because of Microsoft's pathological obsession with back-compatibility, but the net result is that Windows is a complete mess under the hood and too often there's the appearance of compatibility without it actually being there.

            I used to love rooting my phone, flashing custom ROMs, trying out different nifty little bits of tweaky software and the like. I'd spend hours on it. There comes a point in life where you kinda want something to just work without you ploughing hours into making it work, and I suspect that's the appeal of Apple for a lot of people.

            Plus, look at how Google and MS respond to feature requests (check out the Teams ones sometime) and even bug reports. More often than not, they have zero interest in listening, engaging or responding. Google contacts have a field for a birthday. This birthday then appears in your Google Calendar. To my knowledge, it has never been able to initiate a calendar reminder for these, and Google won't listen. I can't imagine that something so hilariously basic (and easy to fix, I'd hope) would be the case in the Apple ecosystem (though perhaps they're just as bad as the rest and have their own stupid WontFixes, I don't know).


              Re: even if in Apple's case it's really just a fruit emblem

              Yep... I'm getting to that point. I've neglected to update to the latest Lineage on my Android because I don't want to have to rebuild my environment (dirty flashes are asking for trouble) and, despite all the little problems I encounter, everything otherwise "just works" right as I want it to.

              I sometimes curse myself for being so damned particular. If I were like the rest of the sheep low IQ peons consumers, I'd just buy a MacBook and be done with it. A world where you rarely have to deal with update fuckups and everything is generally the same between revisions? Heck yeah, I'll take thirty. Compare this to my experience with Microsoft where my Documents folder was deleted due to a programming error, where drivers cease to work at random, where updates cause bootloops, where it takes hours of research to solve what appears to be the simplest of issues... I'll take a firmware update bricking my system and Apple fixing it for free, thanks.

      3. low_resolution_foxxes

        Re: even if in Apple's case it's really just a fruit emblem

        You insinuate that Androids are hard to use? My father in law copes just fine, a man who struggled with VHS player.

        The Americans are very good at this type of marketing hype. Apple and Samsung - with Samsung 50% owned by US pension funds. Very little difference between either. It's been 5-6 years since either had any serious 'must have' feature. I'll use Facebook as it's free and has occasionally got me laid. I've combed the privacy settings and taken precautions (ublock and qwant.Com search).

        Apple just... Took it too far. I loved my 2003 iPod, but I haven't been tempted since.

    2. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: even if in Apple's case it's really just a fruit emblem

      "When it comes to computers and other products, the abuse Apple customers are willing to take makes me pity them."

      Given the specs of the devices I don't see most apple gear as stupidly overpriced - even their low end machines are specced well enough that an equivalent non apple machine would be similarly priced.

      The pricing on the Pro series is skewy - that's for sure, but for consumer gear what's the comparable laptop from lenovo, or dell, or whichever laptop manufacturer you prefer?

      What's a flagship phone from another manufacturer, and how long do they provide updates?

      I'll agree that Apple entry level is often much more than "other" entry level, but that's often because Apple entry level is more comparable with the mid-high mid range of "other".

      The integration between the systems is also pretty darned nice - in the vast majority of places it "just works", there are a few annoyances, but i can't recall a system I've ever used (computerised or otherwise) that hasn't had any.

      [One of my current irritations is that I can't stream to my hearing aids from the Mac - even if that was via airplay through my phone it would be fine by me... but no. Oh well, I just installed a loop in my office instead, which will work since I intend to retain hearing aids with loop connectivity.]

      1. LeoP

        specced well enough that an equivalent non apple machine would be similarly priced.

        Would you please provide a pointer to a $999 display stand or a $699 set of tiny wheels by ANY other vendor?

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: specced well enough that an equivalent non apple machine would be similarly priced.

          Don't know where my reply went...

          I did explicitly call out the pro line as an area where prices were skewy, but those are two optional extras, not actual products.

          I can't imagine why you'd want a server on wheels, but not want to actually mount it in a flight case, particularly not a fairly expensive one. Given that you can buy *virtual* wheels for rocket league for over a grand I'd say these were comparatively great value - no I still wouldn't buy them.

          The stand is fantastically engineered, and I'm glad it's optional. I still can't afford the monitor, but at least I could get it and pole mount it like all the rest of my monitors without ending up with a pile of pointless monitor stands in the attic.

          Are either of them worth the price tag - well, to someone they are; not to me though.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: even if in Apple's case it's really just a fruit emblem

          No - but then I wouldn't spend that much money on a display either.

          The monitor is big, heavy, and very expensive.

          Having a product specifically designed to keep it from breaking and still being able to move it with an absolute minimum of effort is worth it to some people.

          Personally all my monitors are pole mounted, which basically means I would (if I could afford/thoil the display) mean I get the display for a grand less...

    3. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: even if in Apple's case it's really just a fruit emblem

      I generally love Apple kit. It works well, lasts a long time, and doesn't get in the way when I'm trying to do stuff. If this counts as 'abuse', then I'm all for it.

      1. Giles C Silver badge

        Re: even if in Apple's case it's really just a fruit emblem

        I’ll agree with that.

        I currently use an iPhone 7 as my phone, about 4 years old still going well and not planning on replacing it soon, I’m writing this on a newish ipad only because I wanted an upgrade, the bigger and better screen over my iPad Air 1st gen won me over.

        I also run an iPhone 5 for my business but all it does it get email and take calls so I don’t need a fancier model.

        I have a Mac mini for most work. The only problem with the integration between all the devices is when the phone rings you have about 5 seconds to pick it up before the Mac and the iPad start ringing as well which causing a right din as they all start bleating for attention.

        You maybe I did pay slightly over the odds compared to some products, but this kit will last me 5-7 years before I need to upgrade.

        1. Graham 25

          Re: even if in Apple's case it's really just a fruit emblem

          "you have about 5 seconds to pick it up before the Mac and the iPad start ringing as well which causing a right din as they all start bleating for attention."

          So why didnt you just disable the 'Calls on other devices' feature ?

          1. Giles C Silver badge

            Re: even if in Apple's case it's really just a fruit emblem

            Because I am often working upstairs with the phone downstairs.

            Unlike a lot of people i know, I can go without the phone being attached to me permanently

    4. Barking mad

      Re: even if in Apple's case it's really just a fruit emblem

      "Nowadays there is really not much difference between let's say a Samsung Phone and an Iphone"

      A compelling argument for bringing back the far superior Windows Phone where there is a difference.

      I moved from my 950XL to an iPhone 11 and it was a downgrade of the user experience.

      1. needmorehare

        I loved my Lumia 930

        It was fast and the battery seemed to last forever compared to my old Nexus 4. Only thing it was missing at the time was Adobe Flash support so I could watch sweet sweet Newgrounds on the go. My priorities were much different back then and my experience with the iPad 4 and iOS 9 left a rotten taste in my mouth (Safari would crash at least 4 times a day).

        A toast to Windows Phone! The OS which could have been awesome if Microsoft had stuck with it.

        1. Franco

          Re: I loved my Lumia 930

          Had a Lumia 925 and a 950, loved the 925 much more than the 950 to be honest but that was largely an issue of the OS at the time and multiple issues.

          The trouble (IMO) with Apple and the "it just works" brigade is that is only true if you stay within Apple's sandbox. As soon as you bring some toys from the outside to play you'll get spectacular hissy fits. Headphones and wireless displays for example. I also recall many years ago my Uncle ripping music and DVDs to mp3 and mp4 format so he could import them in to iTunes for use on a long flight, only to be told that he'd have to wait 14 hours whilst iTunes re-encoded them in to mp3 and mp4 formats, which they were already in. If you're completely in the Apple sandbox everything is rosy, but not if you already have content elsewhere or if you want to leave.

          1. juice

            Re: I loved my Lumia 930

            > I also recall many years ago my Uncle ripping music and DVDs to mp3 and mp4 format so he could import them in to iTunes for use on a long flight, only to be told that he'd have to wait 14 hours whilst iTunes re-encoded them in to mp3 and mp4 formats, which they were already in

            To be fair to iTunes, it'll happily transfer "supported" music and video files as-is; the only catch is that it renames them and buries them deep inside it's own custom directory structure. E.g. ab/de/ef.mp3

            In fact, this is the default mode, and it's been that way for as long as I can recall - and I was quite happily rocking out with a 3rd gen iPod Nano back in 2007. I've even been able to recover tunes from an iPod after a HDD failure wiped the originals; all the ID3 metadata was intact, so I just had to run a tool to restore the filenames to something more human-readable.

            You *can* set iTunes up to re-encode music before copying onto your device, but that's definitely a optional setting; while this was occasionally handy back in the days of 4GB/8GB devices, it's not really necessary now that storage capacities are so much larger!

    5. needmorehare

      Uh huh

      I pity the folks who don’t realise every company is abusive in one way or another. But there is a difference between fruity devices beyond the logo.

      Android OEMs charge extortionate prices for devices which barely receive a full 3 year lifespan (Samsung included), Linux phones ship with parts which are already obsolete by modern hardware standards and Windows Phones, despite offering 5 year device lifespans, simply didn’t get the uptake they deserved. Yet in spite of how easy it is for OEMs to openly abuse customers via early obsolescence, we are still seeing Apple consistently update their devices in a timely manner for as long as 7 years from launch, even when they are budget variants.

      Even when you buy desktop computers from HP, Lenovo or Dell, you do not see support lifecycles as long as that. Sure, Microsoft offers 10 years worth of security updates but good luck obtaining BIOS/UEFI, firmware and Intel Management Engine updates from your OEM in a timely manner even as little as 4 years after you purchased your machine. My main PC is only 5 years old yet is no longer safe to use online because the OEM won’t provide a proper fix for a critical ME vulnerability identified by Intel’s security tools. We aren’t talking about a cheap box either, costing just shy of £1000.

      People can say what they like about App Store practices, applying onerous sideloading restrictions and using their market cap to dictate terms with third party developers. People can also rip into how Apple screws people with a complete disregard for backwards compatibility when it comes to annual major OS releases. Those are valid concerns. However, Apple is less abusive in many other areas which consumers care about and people seem all too eager to forget that.

      1. Blackjack Silver badge

        Re: Uh huh

        Funny about that.

        Samsung now offers longer support and updates that Google does for their phones.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Uh huh

          That is not in itself a rebuttal to that argument. Samsung has said they will update for four years. First, we will need to see that. They have failed to update for very long before, and we haven't actually seen them do what they've said. Meanwhile, Apple does continue updating, we have seen it, and for longer than four years. The comparison between the two indicates Apple to be better at long-term support. It is easier for them perhaps, but still, the comparison will get made and the facts point one way for now.

  2. xyz Silver badge

    You want to try living in Spain mate..

    It's like someone in the 1930s idea of what the future will be like... But with all seeing computers and phone tracking to maintain "democracy".

    Sounds a lot like any big dick technology operation.

  3. TheProf


    But what are you actually suggesting? Taxing the big companies? The ones who'll raise their prices to cover the bill?

    I don't see how filling a storeroom with Tamagotchi toys makes sense. Selling them would be the best course of action. Sell the bloody things before the market for them collapses.

    Will Google and Facebook reign forever? I'm not so sure. I watched an old film last week, from 2010, and was surprised at how many references they made to 'dead' tech companies. Are the trendy people posting asshat videos on YouTube or TikTok? Instagram seems to be rapidly losing its flavour.

    Yes the situation with Facebook in Australia is ridiculous but here you go Antipodeans,, free news.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Point

      "I don't see how filling a storeroom with Tamagotchi toys makes sense"

      By artificially creating scarcity you may get to raise the price to way higher than is reasonable: hence you make more money than selling them as fast as you make them. That is literally the whole point of this article.

      1. juice

        Re: Point

        > By artificially creating scarcity you may get to raise the price to way higher than is reasonable

        But were Bandai actually doing this?

        In the first instance, and at a glance, the original 1996 Tamagotchi retailed at $17.99 in the USA; so that £20 mentioned in the article sounds about right, once you've done the exchange rate conversion, and added things like VAT and duty/tariff charges.

        Especially if you're shopping at Hamleys[*], which I assume adds a Harrods style price premium to everything it sells, not least because it's not exactly cheap to run a shop anywhere near Leicester Square/TCR...

        Secondly, the fact that the price was broadly in line with the traditional "$1 = £1" tech-price conversion rate also suggests that neither Bandai nor Hamleys had raised their prices to take advantage of this "artificial" scarcity[**].

        Thirdly, this was back in the mid-90s, and we've come a long way since then in terms of logistical capabilities and high-volume manufacturing. So once it became clear that they had a "hot cake" product, there would have been a distinct lead time for getting new stocks manufactured, shipped and distributed. Especially for a relatively small (as compared to the USA) market such as the UK.

        Fouthly, they shifted bucketloads of these little keyrings; Wikipedia reckons that by 2010, they'd sold 76 million of them. And I'd guess that the majority of those sales came from the "version 1" sales back in 1996/1997.

        So in truth, I suspect Bandai was getting things churned out as quickly as possible. And if Rupert's girlfriend had been willing to wait for a month for the next container ship to dock at Felixstowe, she'd have been able to walk into any toyshop in the UK and buy a dozen. Admittedly, whether Rupert's *ahem* needs could have been left unattended for that long is a different matter altogether...

        Bandai isn't the only company who've been accused of artificial scarcity, either. Nintendo got a lot of flack when they couldn't ramp Wii manufacturing up quickly up, despite the fact that with sales of the Gamecube having been relatively low, (22m Gamecubes were sold in total, versus the 155m Sony's PS2 managed), I very much doubt anyone could have predicted that they'd need to ramp manufacturing up to 2.4m per month to meet demand!

        There's plenty of valid examples of artificial scarcity, especially when it comes to luxury brands or works of art. But I don't think it's a valid description for any product which has sold tens of millions of units!

        [*] I've never been in there, though I've spent a fair amount of time round the back of it, either enjoying a cheap pint in the Sam Smiths, or rocking out to some amazing blues at the Ain't Nothing But The Blues Bar...

        [**] In fact, I'm struggling to think of any mainstream company which has deliberately raised its prices when demand has exceeded supply. E.g. Nintendo, Sony with their PS3 and PS5, or Nvidia with their high-end GPUs. If anything, these companies have actually taken steps to try and prevent scalpers from buying and reselling their wares (e.g. Nvidia deliberately crippling their drivers to make them less useful for eCurrency mining), since the negative publicity tends to reflect back on them...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Point

          "But were Bandai actually doing this?"

          The article explicitly says it was Hamleys.

          1. juice

            Re: Point

            > The article explicitly says it was Hamleys.

            Except for the bit where he explicitly ropes Bandai into this little conspiracy:

            The story was that Bandai, the creator of this monster, couldn't make enough of them; they were in very short supply.


            Later that week, while she slept the sleep of the successful extortionist, I surreptitiously dismantled her e-pet, curious as to what was so difficult to make. Nothing, of course. It had the same LCD, solitary blob chip and handful of components as any $5 – to me, £20 plus five quid stoner tax – oriental gizmo. Bandai could have flooded the world with them in a week. A source confirmed that there were indeed huge supplies in Hamleys back rooms: I was the victim of artificial scarcity.

            I haven't been able to quickly spot what the UK RRP for a Tamagotchi was in 1996. but as I previously stated, the US retail price at launch was $17.99. So £20 sounds about right once you factor in VAT and the "London High Street" tax.

            As such, even if Hamley's were deliberately creating artificial scarcity, I'm struggling to see how they were making any money out of it, given that at best, at £20 apiece, they were maybe getting an extra quid or two per unit.

            Then too, if they really did have "huge supplies in the back rooms", this suggests that other shops would have also had stocks available, and would be able to sell them at a price which would undercut Hamley's. Which means that their attempt to extort an extra quid or two out of each buyer would have collapsed.

            Unless of course, Hamley's had some sort of evil deal with Bandai which gave them exclusive rights to sell Tamagotchi. In which case, I would have expected them to be churning them out as fast as they could, and with a significant price premium!

            Overall, this story doesn't really make sense.

            Or to put it another way: SHOW ME THE MONEY. Because as outlined above, I can't see any way that either Bandai or Hamleys would have profited from this. Unless they derive pleasure from watching people undergo forced abstinence ;)

            I mean, I'm guessing it's possible that Hamley's had some sort of "one unit per customer" rule going on, but that's an anti-scalper tactic, not a way to enforce artificial scarcity. And it's maybe even possible that they were trying to use Tamagotchi as some sort of loss leader, but that feels even less likely!

            Fundamentally, if you have a product which can be sourced from multiple suppliers, and which is has a production run of millions of units, then it's fundamentally impossible to impose any sort of artificial scarcity, especially in a hyper-commercial metropolis such as London.

            Overall, I'm guessing that on Rupert's first visit, there was actual scarcity caused by the fact that it was the latest must-have gadget. And by the time he had a chat with his "source", said scarcity issues had been resolved.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Except for the bit where he explicitly ropes Bandai into this little conspiracy

            Posting stupid? Post AC!

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Point

          "And if Rupert's girlfriend had been willing to wait for a month for the next container ship to dock at Felixstowe"

          The whole promotion of this sort of thing is based on scarcity. If you let slip an indication that they're common as muck nobody wants one. The choice of being willing to wait for the next container to arrive to buy one doesn't exist. Either they're rare and therefore wanted RIGHT NOW!!!! or there are plenty here or on the way in which case nobody cares.

          1. sabroni Silver badge

            Re: The whole promotion of this sort of thing is based on scarcity.

            So people keep saying. But I don't think I've ever seen any actual evidence.

            You'd think, as this has been going on since the wii, that there'd be clear, verifiable facts and reporting to back that assertion up.

            A logical explanation, on it's own, doesn't mean shit.

            1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

              Re: The whole promotion of this sort of thing is based on scarcity.

              "A logical explanation, on it's own, doesn't mean shit."

              That's unduly harsh. A logical explanation, on it's own, is a working hypothesis. Can later be confirmed by experiment, or not.

          2. juice

            Re: Point

            > The whole promotion of this sort of thing is based on scarcity

            The problem with this approach is that you're gambling on:

            i) the "restricted" profit margin will be higher than the unrestricted profit margin. I.e. do you sell 10 items at £100, or 50 items at £20

            ii) No-one else is going to be able to step in with an equivalent product

            iii) Consumer demand will remain high

            iv) You have the ability to ride out any backlashes from people who want your product

            Stuff like the above is a pretty safe bet when it comes to things like oil - or even diamonds; OPEC and De Beers (respectively) had a monopoly on a unique product and were able to their money and political resources (and some distinctly underhanded tactics) to maintain their power. Though in both cases, their monopolies have weakened over time.

            But none of that is true for a cheap and easily copied toy such as a Tamagotchi. Especially in a market which as fickle as the toy industry; is anyone still buying Cabbage Patch Kids, Beanie Babies, My Little Pony or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles[*]?

            When it comes to products for children, the only constant is change, not least when it comes to the children themselves. A 5 year old likes their teddy; a 10 year old likes lego; a 15 year old is more interested in video games and/or the effects of going through puberty.

            And that means that if a product line strikes gold, you ramp up manufacturing and you get as much supply into the market as you can as quickly as possible. Because within a year - or even less - people will be starting to move onto the next big thing. As also happens with movies and video games.

            So, yeah. Can you really see a Japanese toy company agreeing to an exclusivity deal with a London toy shop, especially at the prices mentioned?

            "Hey, if we sign this deal, we can sell 10,000 units at £20 apiece, rather than 1,000,000 units at £15 apiece..."

            [*] Ok, yes, they probably are. But are they selling the same volumes as they did 40/30/20 years ago, or are they selling far smaller volumes and having to rely on significant redesigns and tie-ins to keep things going?

      2. Flak

        Diamonds, Oil and Time

        There are other market examples where artificial scarcity is used:

        Diamonds - De Beers is holding and releasing diamonds at a rate that keeps prices high - and has done so for decades.

        Oil - OPEC has exactly the same purpose, with production quotas adjusted to keep prices high (the start of the COVID pandemic was a notable exception)

        Time - that is a really interesting one - we are all allotted 24 hours in a day, with more spare time than at any point in the history of the world, but we think we have no time at all - we create our own scarcity in the market of our time allowance.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Point

      > I don't see how filling a storeroom with Tamagotchi toys makes sense

      It makes sense for the vendor because instilling a sense of scarcity in a consumer's mind can bypass their their rational decision-making process.

      As a result they may pay more for your product.

      Another benefit to the vendor of scarcity (artificial, or just a result of a sane decision to only tool up so many production lines) is that scarcity can lead to free publicity. Current example: I'm not in the market for a new PlayStation, but I'm still aware that there is a shortage of Sony's new console. Left unchecked, this observation might cause one to think 'Ooh, this new games console must be pretty good if that many people want one'

      The 'rational actor' model of economics debunked decades ago, though some more weeding might be required!

      1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

        Re: Point

        "It makes sense for the vendor because instilling a sense of scarcity in a consumer's mind can bypass their their rational decision-making process."

        In exactly the same way as seeing the door slowly closing makes the cat want to run through it before it's too late.

    3. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Point

      "Will Google and Facebook reign forever?"

      Wasn't MySpace where it was at, and AltaVista the best search engine?

      Things come, things go. Arguably Google will be more resilient as they have their fingers in more pies, but all it really takes is someone somewhere to devise something perceived as "better".

      1. Marty McFly Silver badge

        Re: Point

        Big tech has shot themselves in the head with their excessive control and mind numbing legal policies - see Parler, etc, from January. That was the starter's gun at the next technology footrace. Watch for the next wave to be decentralized and based off block-chain. There simply will not be a central 'off switch' operated at the whims of the tyrannical.

        Bitcoin is a great example. Government & banks have been trying to kill it for over a decade. It simply cannot be killed. There is no plug to pull, no company to fine/break up/shut down.

        Look at No, it is not going to topple Google search today or tomorrow. But the seed is planted from which the next big tree may grow.

        1. Franco

          Re: Point

          "Bitcoin is a great example. Government & banks have been trying to kill it for over a decade. It simply cannot be killed. There is no plug to pull, no company to fine/break up/shut down."

          Oh, it can be killed. Just wait till the next time Elon Musk gets drunk and tweets something stupid.

        2. sabroni Silver badge

          Re: operated at the whims of the tyrannical.

          Tyrant: an absolute ruler who is unrestrained by law

          Like the sort of person who would try and stay in power after losing a democratic election.

        3. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Point

          "Bitcoin is a great example. Government & banks have been trying to kill it for over a decade."

          Not really. Some governments don't like it because criminals use it, but few have tried to make it illegal and none have really taken efforts to prevent its use. An actual cryptocurrency would likely get the ire of banks, but Bitcoin isn't good for exchanging value or storing it. As a investment to speculate on, banks hold a lot of it.

          "It simply cannot be killed. There is no plug to pull, no company to fine/break up/shut down."

          If they wanted to, they could do a lot. They know where mining happens. They know where exchanges are. They could act to disrupt it in such a way that it collapses in on itself. They don't because that's expensive for basically no purpose. Why spend millions destroying something unless you really hate it? They don't as stated above, so they don't try to kill it.

      2. KBeee

        Re: Point

        I dunno. The SOP now seems to be get competitors shut down, if you can't do that buy them out and subsume them.

    4. Youngone Silver badge

      Re: Point

      The situation with Facebook in Australia is happening because News Corp has an unreasonable amount of political influence, and they have had a law passed for their own benefit.

      The article neglects that part of the equation.

      I hope Facebook's chickens turn into emus and kick their shithouse down, but that doesn't make them entirely wrong here.

  4. tiggity Silver badge

    Feel odd

    Defending FB (don't use it for obvious reasons & generally hate it)

    But the Oz legislation is so poorly worded (and its FBs choice to not pay) - was just surprised Google (another disliked thing) didn't also stand their ground

    1. Krassi

      Re: Feel odd

      The current Ozzie stance seems more designed to shake up Facebook and make them start to engage seriously than anything else.

      My guess is that Google know to the cent how much links and news snippets are worth to them, and also how much access via Google search results are worth to the news organisations and therefore could agree a deal very fast once they assessed that Oz is serious on this one. People going to Google to search for news probably expect to get a certain quality of results, & not having that would cost Google something. Facebook on other hand firstly seem to have no self-awareness and secondly seem to be happy to fill their pages with user generated trash, cat pictures and fake news at nil cost in place of journalism.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Feel odd

        The Aussie stance is that Suckerberg should give money to Murdick.

        The Facebook stance is that he shouldn't.

        The needs of the Australian public matters little to either one.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Feel odd

      >But the Oz legislation is so poorly worded

      I thought it was still at the manifesto proposal stage.

      What is interesting is that neither Google or Facebook are taking on the music industry...

      Which gives us a clue, as to why there is a problem. The music industry has things so tightly locked down, that you need to pay royalties if you did to music what FB, Google et al are currently doing to news organisations.

      So whilst the Oz legislation may need some finessing, it is trying to do the right thing.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Feel odd

        "I thought it was still at the manifesto proposal stage."

        No. As of last week, this very paper reported that the law "passed the lower house of Australia’s parliament yesterday. Passage through the Senate and into law is all-but-assured.". That's well beyond a proposal.

        I agree that the problems identified are real problems. Unfortunately, laws seeking to solve them often take the form of choosing a victim and regulating just them. Instead of making a law identifying companies specifically or setting conditions such that there are only three or four companies affected, the right answer to most of the abuses of big tech is to regulate them and everyone else. That might mean clarifying how much of a newspaper article can be quoted as fair use under copyright law. If that's the headline only, so be it. Instead, this law sets up definitions of search engines, social networks, and news companies arbitrarily and writing regulations to attempt to make that solve the problem. It might solve some of the problem now, but when other companies start doing the same thing, it will require even more patches to keep working.

        The same sort of problem is seen when trying to tax big tech. Big tech avoids a lot of tax and many countries are justifiably angry about that. However, many of them decide to fix this by making a specific tech company tax, instead of actually researching how the big tech companies are avoiding tax and changing the tax law to make those loopholes go away. In the short term, the two solutions will look similarly effective using the metric of how much money they got, but in the long term, the first law will get nullified by smart tax accountants and lawyers who argue whether something is truly big or tech while the second will be stronger and will protect as well against a similar violator who operates in a different industry.

        1. Graham 25

          Re: Feel odd

          "Big tech avoids a lot of tax and many countries are justifiably angry about that"

          Those countries being the ones where the company doesnt pay the tax but pays it in anotehr jurisdiction.

          The problem with all this bleating from countries is that if they start that game, other countries will start to target their multinationals to strip taxes out of what they get now and they will find everyone in the world will want a piece of their hime grown companies.

      2. MrBanana

        Re: Feel odd

        "...neither Google or Facebook are taking on the music industry."

        Google = Youtube. They have become guardians of the music industry. They scour the uploaded content, looking for just the smallest snippet of sound that could be construed as belonging to someone else. A stated "fair use" policy is anything but. If you are lucky your inclusion of 10 seconds of sound will get your video demonetised, worst is a copyright strike against you. Three strikes and your channel is deleted.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Feel odd

      No surprise from me.

      Facebook is being dragged through the mud by the press and Aussie politicians alike for its stance; now a similar law is being eyed up by Canada and Downing Street is 'concerned' by Facebook's actions. Meanwhile, Google lobs Murdoch a few coins from the petty cash and its reputation remains unsullied.

      The only surprise is that Nick Clegg hasn't been let loose to tell us that Mark is entirely lovely and wants to make the world a better place by selling adverts and making everyone stupid and angry.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    "Towards the turn of the century, my girlfriend revealed what she wanted more than anything else..."

    With this opening sentence, the article could've progressed in many, many ways indeed; perhaps this sentence be the start of a new Register column?

    That said, artificial scarcity works amazingly well, tapping into something very deep in our psyches. I still feel somewhat smug that I managed to get a ceramic/steel Daytona a mere six months after it came out; the last I read there was a 7 year UK waiting list - now closed. I am well aware this makes me somewhat sad/insert your own expletive here. But I am still a bit smug. And some of you will definitely dislike me because I got a Daytona and you didn't, which makes you a bit sad too.

    Why doesn't Rolex just get their robots to make more of these? Because they easily could. In a similar vein, Patek the maker of watches for overpaid CEOs, has discontinued their 5711 Nautilus which trades second hand at an astonishing yield your pension people can only dream of. Again, they could've made far more of them - as mechanical watches go, neither is absurdly complex.

    I have a little sympathy for Apple - they built the App Store when no-one else had for a platform that was so, so different when it first came out; they spent a lot of money and took a lot of risks and are now reaping great rewards. I am not an App developer, but if I was, I'd just be glad someone else was running a delivery channel that works so well, because I couldn't have written anything nearly as good myself. Could you? Could you really? Because some gnarly command line thing that breaks every so often won't fly. Is this worth 30% of income? Very hard to tell really - you and many obviously think not, but I'm not so sure.

    As far as social media goes, just stop. Don't use them, turn off notifications, delete apps. Don't think of these platforms as walled gardens - think of them as a septic tanks with a loose lids.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      I suspect that Rolex and Patek had no choice but the threat of quartz watches back in the 1980s as a learning opportunity, and so did a deep examination of themselves and their market.

      (Sidenote, I'm fascinated by mechanical watches, but I don't like their reliance on eventual servicing - somehow it feels wrong, like the reliance of many a quartz watch on a new battery every few years. Both the servicing of mechanical watches and the manufacture of button cells require a level of infrastructure. There is one premium watch brand who released an automatic watch with silicone components, allegedly negating the need for servicing, but at stupid money it isn't designed to shake up the industry)

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: Luxury goods

        Rolex and Patek are in the jewellery business, not the wristwatch business. If you want a truly accurate wristwatch, you can buy a Bulova Accutron, accurate to better than 15 seconds per year for a few hundred pounds rather than the (tens of) thousands for a diamond-encrusted, solid platinum and gold device. The Swiss Chronometer requirements are to be accurate to within a range of -4/+6 seconds per day.

        Rolex, Patek, Omega, TAG Heuer, Breitling, etc. make mechanical jewellery that do not need batteries and keep tolerably accurate time. Although Omega's new 'Master Chronometer' series with the silicon rubber hairsprings are a neat way of being immune to magnetic interference.

        (I own both an Omega, 40 years old no longer working, and a Breitling, electronic, working, so am one of the mugs who literally bought into the hype. Oh well, live and learn.)

        1. John Sager

          Re: Luxury goods

          Yep. They are 'Veblen goods', artificially rare & expensive so ownership is supposed to say something about the owner. It says 'tosser' to me though. I have a Citizen Eco Drive watch I bought many years ago at Argos with £100 off. It loses 30 secs every 4 months or so consistently so it's easy to reset every so often. It has everything I need in a watch, but no gold or diamonds, so no-one is going to steal it unless they value its performance like I do.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Luxury goods

            I bought my watch for the strap. It's one of those (now unfashionable) expandy-metal-linkage jobbies. The idea is that I can wear it all day, then it stretches over the cuff of my motorcycle jacket so I can see the time during my journey without crashing. I used to be happy on my shitty old cheap Chinese scooter, but my wife bought me a Triumph cruiser. Either she bought into the hype, or maybe wants me dead? But I digress ...

        2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Luxury goods

          With watches, they can very much be fashion accessories, and people perhaps not realising the 'same' watch can vary wildly in price, depending on who's brand has been applied to a Swatch/ETA SA movement.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Luxury goods

          “... you can buy a Bulova Accutron...”

          You sure can, although the world has changed a bit:

          (Safe for work/lockdown)

        4. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          Re: Luxury goods

          I bought a Casio 'Waveceptor' because it is radio-controlled, so no need to set it for accurate time-keeping, and it is solar powered, so the battery drain from radio control and the leaks that usually follow battery replacement are gone.

          As far as i know they are not easy to find in the UK any more, so presumably i am from a very limited group who want a watch that just works and keeps working.

      2. MrBanana

        I love all types of watches, from the ridiculously naff gold LED retro watch from eBay for £10, the Russian Pilot with a mechanical alarm, my dad's old Omega Seamaster, and the first serious watch I bought with an unexpected company bonus. It's a Rolex, but an understated midsize from the 1950s. You wouldn't know what it was unless you looked closely, Even then most people go "oh...", in a an obviously disappointed way. I don't much care what they think.

    2. BenDwire Silver badge


      I have no idea what a Ceramic/Steel Daytona is so I googled it. It appears that Plumbworld have them in stock for £54.

    3. ChrisPv

      Re: "Towards the turn my girlfriend..

      Everything what we consider “created” by Apples Twitters or Facebooks of the world are NTT Docomo and other Japanese and Korean mobile industry players products repurposed for the web.

    4. jmch Silver badge

      Re: "Towards the turn of the century, my girlfriend revealed what she wanted..."

      I'm pretty much in agreement with you, but not sure about this... "Patek the maker of watches for overpaid CEOs, has discontinued their 5711 Nautilus which trades second hand at an astonishing yield your pension people can only dream of"

      How does Patek benefit from the second-hand market of it's watches at super-inflated prices? Surely it would benefit more if it re-issued some sort of 'limited edition' at an extortionate price rather than discontinuing them altogether?

      As to "Why doesn't Rolex just get their robots to make more of these?", AFAIK one of the main ideals of Swiss "Haute horlogerie" is that they are made (or at least the components are assembled) by hand, and there is a limit on the number of people who actually know how to do that and how fast they can work. So while it might be possible to ramp up production a bit, it's not possible to really crank up production. In other words, the scarcity is only partly artificial.

    5. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: "Towards the turn of the century, ..."

      "But I am still a bit smug. And some of you will definitely dislike me because I got a Daytona and you didn't, which makes you a bit sad too."

      Before you can be smug, what's a Daytona? In the USA it's a model of car nobody cares about. Or a racing series, which you can't "get".

      Edit: "The title is too long.", must have been the additional "Re: ".

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What grants companies this sense of untouchability?

    the same that grants any bully his / her / their sense of untouchability - and unaccountablility. Think any company, think any government (local or central). Plus a large circle of paid, or wannabepaid yes-man/women/undecideds. Sometimes, when they've grown so big and noisy, the REAL BIG BULLY starts paying attention, although it might have overslept and is no longer the baddest mother(...) in town. Popcorn? :(

  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    What's needed is for governments to take a bit more interest in dealing with monopolies although in the case of mass media monopolies by the time they exist it's already too late. Academic publishing monopolies should certainly come under review, however.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gatekeepers with absolute powers make bad overlords

    Ironic that news organisations are the antagonists to Facebook, with exactly the same problem.

  9. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

    "With Apple, you can't use an iPhone if you don't use the App Store, and you don't get to sell anything to iPhone users if you don't go through the App Store. "

    Neither statement is correct.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Neither statement is correct if you're pedantic, but it's clear what was meant. Are you contesting these points because you actually think that technicality changes the situation, or just to point out the inaccuracies of language?

      "With Apple, you can't use an iPhone if you don't use the App Store,": Well, you can use it as a phone with a mail client and browser, but if you want any of the apps that it is perfectly capable of running, you'll need to use the App Store.

      "and you don't get to sell anything to iPhone users if you don't go through the App Store.": You can sell them lunch, so technically not true. If you want to sell them software that runs on their devices, which is what's relevant, then you do have to go through the App Store.

      Before someone brings up jailbreaking, A) Apple forbids jailbreaking in their terms of service, making it a grey area although recent laws have made it clearer, B) in order to patch security holes, Apple frequently prevents jailbreaking from happening, and C) only a very small subset of Apple's users even knows you can jailbreak let alone how.

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        I'm pointing it out because it's materially incorrect and also misleading, because it implies a realtime dependency where none exists. You can easily use an iPhone without the App Store. Both my kids do, and my girlfriend's parents. My kids aren't allowed to install apps, and my girlfriend's parents have no need of apps that aren't preloaded. Without the App Store an iPhone is a fantastic phone, camera, music player, navigation device, health tracker, email videocall and messaging terminal, plus calendar clock and all the usual PDA tools. Fine for many users out of the box.

        It's also perfectly feasible to put apps on your iPhone without the App Store and without jailbreaking, all legal and all above board, using Apple's own Configurator 2. I have two apps on my phone which aren't available in the App Store; I sent my UDID to the developer, paid by PayPal, and 3 minutes later received a .ipa file which could be directly transferred to my phone. Whether you'd want to do this or not depends on your personal situation and attitude towards device security, but it's incorrect to say it can't be done.

        So yes, in both cases the "technicality", as you put it, does change the situation. It's also lazy of the article author to make these assumptions; unfortunately all too typical of the Reg writing about Apple.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          I'll grant the first inaccurate statement is worth some consideration, but only some. A smartphone which can run apps is most frequently used by people who will install at least some apps on it above those default Apple ones. But it's true, an iPhone with no account set up can still do various PDA-style tasks, and that may be enough for some.

          The second one though... No, I can't really accept that as a reason the App Store isn't a monopoly over distribution. In order to sideload a file like that, you need to find an ID number which isn't easy to find (there are a bunch of numbers in the about section and that one is not there), send it to a developer who has to provide a custom version specifically keyed to your device, and accept the risk that the developer will suddenly stop doing that when Apple sends the strongly worded email about not adhering to the store terms. When compared to Android (settings, security, allow apps from unknown sources, open the APK), it's a very different experience.

          1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

            Nobody mentioned a ‘monopoly on distribution’ though, did they? The article clearly stated it wasn’t possible to use an iPhone without the App Store. I’ve just shown (one of the) ways that it IS possible. Ergo: my statement stands, the article is incorrect.

            Also, ‘various PDA-style tasks’ is a grave understatement of the capabilities of an iPhone without the App Store. Out of the box, it’s incredibly full-featured and suitable as is for many users as camera, phone, music player, messaging and comms terminal, internet browser, health tracker and much more; PLUS all the ‘PDA-style tasks’. Again here; the article is incorrect and my statement stands.

            I’m really not sure what your point is in arguing this; the article is clearly, factually and provably incorrect. End of.

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              I think I made myself quite clear. I agree with you on the first point, with the reservation that people often buy iPhones to run third-party apps. I disagree with you on the second point, and think the article is broadly correct when it claims that developers can't sell their apps outside the App Store. Despite some theoretical workarounds, it remains infeasible. I notice your second reply focuses only on the point on which we partially agree.

              My point in arguing this is to illustrate that your defense of Apple is ill-founded. Despite your comments, the article did attack Apple on the basis of their monopoly of distribution. The statement about not being able to sell "anything" without going through the App Store is just such an attack. Your defense of it as inaccurate is in my mind incorrect. Not that there aren't arguments in favor of such a monopoly, but I don't think that is a good one.

              1. werdsmith Silver badge

                What a load of nit-picking playground BS.

                You like apple or you don't. If you don't, then don't use their stuff.

        2. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

          Using Apple configurator the way you describe it, outside of a specific organization, is a clear breach of the license agreement for the software:

          C. Usage Limitations.

          1. Subject to the terms of this Agreement, you may use the Apple Software only with supported Apple-branded products (“Supported Apple Products”) and solely for purposes of internal technology management within your company or organization. You may not use the Apple Software with non-Apple branded products or for any other purpose.

          Please proceed to the nearest extermination chamber for immediate disposal.

          Thank you for your cooperation

      2. needmorehare

        There are two ways to sell apps on iOS

        The first method is via the App Store, which allows you to run a restricted set of frameworks, subject to a sandbox created from a set of mandatory access controls. All code which executes must be digitally signed and unaltered, while using a hardened runtime designed to mitigate exploits. This severely limits what any given application can do, relative to traditional computing platforms.

        The second method is via Progressive Web Apps. Most of the top apps in the App Store would function pretty much identically as PWAs, so to suggest this is not a valid way to sell apps is inaccurate. Pretty much all Electron apps on Windows work as PWAs on iOS and even technical tools like password managers have web ports. Ditto for anything which you’d just use the website for on an ordinary computer.

        Should Apple provide a third method via its Notary Service like what it does for macOS today? Well, right now, iOS enforces that apps can’t be rolled back to old, insecure versions, just like the OS itself. To introduce current macOS non-store distribution methods would ruin that ideal security model. Ideally, Apple should provide a means for developers to run their own repositories which prevent rollbacks, using notarisation to enforce the use of sandboxing and hardened runtime. This would allow for major security improvements on macOS while also granting more freedom to developers on iOS.

  10. Paul Smith


    The author of this article and a few of the commentards appear seems to be under the mistaken belief that they are customers of Facebook or Google.

    The service that both companies sell is their ability to put relevant ads in front of people. You are not their customer, you are their product. You are what they sell!

    1. Giles C Silver badge

      Re: Customer?

      Makes you wonder how many people would opt for an add free social media at say £5 - 10 per month?

      Still wouldn’t make me want to be on it though....

      1. Duncan10101

        Re: Customer?

        I would do it, if there was a service. I can't be bothered to start my own though.

  11. John Sager

    Section 230

    Just make them publishers, with all that that entails. They can't be common carriers as to carry anything and everything without editorial control would lose them most of their advertising customers.

    1. Graham 25

      Re: Section 230

      More than that, they would cease to exist.

      The current Australian kerfuffle show how governments are idiots on anything complex - not realising that if you insist someone does something for nothing then they will avoid doing it at all. I don't use Facebook and never would but I have to laugh at the Aussies being surprised that when they tried to force Facebook to carry news and pay for the privilege, that Facebook walked away and said people can get the news from the original source.

      And the government tries the censorship complaint when everything is still there, as available to the public before.

      1. Franco

        Re: Section 230

        No surprise whatsoever, given that the Australian Government has been one of the most vocal on having backdoors in to encryption for low enforcement use and no amount of explaining, mansplaining or writing it on clubs and hitting them with them to insert the information manually will ever convince them that that is stupid and unworkable.

  12. Mike 137 Silver badge

    By no means unique

    "... what the company says, goes – without engaging in discussion or any admission of error or ambiguity."

    Almost any business I deal with these days, whenever one mentions a concern or problem of any kind, the immediate response is infantile denial - just like politicians.

    This is a general cultural trend - it's just more obvious when the players are monopolistic behemoths.

  13. zb42

    This article incorrectly refers to Facebook users as customers.

    Facebook's customers are the advertisers and political campaigns that pay them money.

    People who use Facebook are not customers of Facebook, they are livestock.

    1. Duncan10101

      Fo shiz! How can anyone claim to be a customer if they don't pay for anything. A (very) quick goggle for the word reveals: "A person who buys goods or services from a shop or business." ... so, duh. No, I don't use social media. Oooohhh .... unless El Reg counts. Does it????

      1. CrackedNoggin Bronze badge

        If your information gets sold then you are not paying?

        If Facebook plays a kingmaker role in politics then you are not paying? To quote AOC

        "Some of this is criminal. It’s malpractice. Conor Lamb spent $2,000 on Facebook the week before the election. I don’t think anybody who is not on the internet in a real way in the Year of our Lord 2020 and loses an election can blame anyone else when you’re not even really on the internet."

        Looks like Zuck found something better than being president. AOC herself spent millions on Facebook.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          If you are a cow and your milk, or your meat get sold? If you are a sheep and your wool gets sold?

          These are not customers. Faecebook thickos are not customers because they get harvested, they are dumb beasts.

          1. needmorehare

            Errr what?

            Facebook users get the following:

            * Blogging services

            * Live streaming

            * Instant messaging

            * Group communications

            * Photo/video hosting

            * OpenID authentication

            In exchange for these convenient services, they give up some amount of individual privacy. I think most people know what the trade-offs are. I’m not even a Facebook user and I know what they are.

  14. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    The difference between Apple & the old IBM...

    I could never understand, having been born in the late sixties, why every middle-aged businessman I spoke to was such a fan of u$ in general & Bill Gates in particular. When Apple set up their store, someone mentioned that it was a lot like the old IBM. Then it clicked. Those businessmen hated IBM so much that they just wanted to see them ****** over, they didn't care about anything else. Just like way to many people my age & a bit older took forever to realize that Google was the new u$.

    IBM eventually faded because it is ultimately a very-late-stage industrial age company. The bulk of its value comes from from the work that its engineers and technicians do. In that environment, the inevitable costs of the exponential growth in management and the accumulation of societal resentment means that eventually, customers are going to go elsewhere.

    Google & Facebook are information age companies. There value comes from the acquisition, interpretation, and sale of information. Each has a profile on you whether you EVER visit one of their properties. (Actually, they usually have several. Linking those profiles is a high-value activity.) They mine your movements across the web like gold companies mine tons of ore. The difference is, the cost is almost entirely in R&D. The marginal cost of execution would be trivial except for the fact that they are literally tracking billions of people every day.

    It gets worse. As industrial-aged companies expand, transportation costs limit the size of factories and economic distance to markets. Information age companies not only are nearly immune to such limits, the value of each piece of data increases as it is linked to additional data. Therefore, if you double the amount of data you have, its value might easily be four times as much. Due to the particulars of information theory, it may well be worth much more than that.

    Which means that splitting F & G will destroy value. Think through the implications.

    I'm not nearly so concerned with Apple. I hate (really, really hate) the walled garden, but in the end, theirs is an industrial age business. Eventually, they will cease to be cool, and when they do, they will go down the same hole that Apple Computers went when Jobs left, and for the very same reasons.

    Just to be clear: mere taxation (and most regulation) of business as a means of remolding society under someone's definition of a "just" society is a fools errand. Big businesses LOVE these things because they can easily afford the accountants, lawyers, and lobbyists to keep the men with guns and badges at bay, while smaller concerns---don't. Much better to encourage competition. How to do that in the information age, however, is very, very far from clear.

    1. Jan 0 Silver badge

      Re: The difference between Apple & the old IBM...

      If you mean μ$, then write μ$.

      1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        Re: The difference between Apple & the old IBM...

        They're not worth the effort to figure out how to place a micron...

    2. jmch Silver badge

      Re: The difference between Apple & the old IBM...

      "mere taxation (and most regulation) of business as a means of remolding society under someone's definition of a "just" society is a fools errand."

      All laws are written to mold society in some way or another. Current legislation in most western nations conforms to what big businesses in the last 20-30 years have considered to be "just". I'm pretty sure the billionaires laughing all the way to the bank don't consider the years/decades they have spent remolding society through their buying of politicians as a "fools' errand"

      "Big businesses LOVE these things because they can easily afford the accountants, lawyers, and lobbyists to keep the men with guns and badges at bay, while smaller concerns---don't"

      Big businesses love complex regulations because they can be abused, and as you say it's a game where those with the most / best lawyers / accountants win. Most regulatory and tax laws they write themselves through their lobbyists, think-thanks etc. exactly to create the loopholes they want. If anything ever goes to court, they know they can win because their lawyers wrote the laws in the first place.

      On the other hand there are very legitimate reasons for many of the tax breaks, exemptions etc. So if society sees giant corporations acting abusively as a problem, there are a few simple levers that can be activated:

      - equal taxation for all income, whether it be wages. capital gains or dividends. The idea of 'capitalist' income being taxed less comes from the idea that entrepreneurial activity is higher risk than finding a job. But higher potential reward is implicit in that type of activity even without extra tax benefits, so scrap these, pool all income a person earns from whatever source, and tax it all at the same rate.

      - cap deductions based on revenues. Tax deductions, breaks etc are usually put in place to help people and businesses with real issues, not for a company with billions in profit to make even more billions in profit. So cap all deductions to a revenue ceiling (could still be tens / hundreds of millions, so large SMEs can still benefit)

      - link cross-company and particularly overseas payments to a public register of ultimate beneficial ownership. If the overseas company you are dealing with has unknown UBO, you are not allowed to deduct expenses paid to them from your profit margin for tax. If the overseas company you are dealing with is your parent, subsidiary, or has common ownership, the tax office is allowed to use a deemed value for any transactions instead of what you wrote in the books.

      If any business is complaining that they would go out of business with this model, it means that their business model is based on milking taxpayers not serving customers, so let them go to the wall.

      (just that politicians bought and paid for by big corporations would never vote for anything like that).

      1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        Re: The difference between Apple & the old IBM...

        "All laws are written to mold society in some way or another." Yes, and we can do a lot of useful physics assuming cows are spherical, as well.

        I specifically called out attempts to form "just" societies. No one claims that the Disney Law is just. Never did. But when Senator Kennedy pushed through an excise tax on yachts, the result was for the industry to flee the country. Laws limiting the size of political donations result in bundling packs, dark money, and "directed giving" programs. It goes on & on.

        Build a tax system around the model of efficient collection of funds & nothing else is the sort of regulation that results in a freer society. But "free" is not the same as "just"--and there is always some Pol Pot wannabe that wants to make society "just".

    3. DartfordMan

      Re: The difference between Apple & the old IBM...

      What's interesting is how long it took IBM to realise they weren't top dog anymore. Years after the shine had gone off the 'Nobody got fired for buying IBM' attitude, there was still an arrogance in the company that they could take or leave customers or technologies. They still did a lot of really good stuff (like Apple and Facebook etc), but they just had this view that customers were lucky to buy from them.When they bought a new company, loads of customers would drop the product and find someone else to buy from ... and still the penny didn't drop.

      Same with Microsoft, loads of people saw Google as a saviour from the total mastery that MS wanted; trouble is when the new liberator takes over, they become a dictator because they know best and we need to be controlled for our own good.

  15. Barking mad

    Getting people off Facebook is like clearing a country

    "Getting people off Facebook is like clearing a country, village by village; the history of clearances and forced migration is not good."

    Agreed but unlike most of the other clearances and forced migrations in history, getting people off Facebook really is for their own good.

  16. braindunk

    Apple's spat with Epic is actually Epic's spat with Apple

    Apple has been providing a platform, iOS, since 2006 that has evolved now into a set of distinct and related platforms: iOS, iPadOS, and tvOS.

    Microsoft provides a platform called Xbox.

    Sony provides a platform called PlayStation.

    Each of these platform providers extract a commish from vendors selling software-based experiences on said platforms.

    Why is Epic getting on Apple's teets but not MS or Sony?

    1. Franco

      Re: Apple's spat with Epic is actually Epic's spat with Apple

      As I posted in the comments of the original story about the lawsuit, as Apple leads so the others shall follow. Microsoft and Google charge the same royalty rate as Apple in their app stores, because Apple set the precedent. Any company that tried non-user changeable batteries or removing the 3.5mm jack before Apple got a huge backlash.

      If Epic win their case then the others will almost certainly pre-emptively drop their royalty rates too.

      1. needmorehare

        History provides context here.

        Fortnite is a video game, and video game stores set the precedent of taking a large cut of developer profits long before Apple ever did. PSN, Xbox Live and Steam all predate the App Store. All of them charged a hefty commission long before Apple’s App Store came along.

        This is why people think it’s Epic’s spat with Apple because they’re not going after the video game stores despite the fact they charge far more and hold similar, if not total control over distribution. We also know why Epic won’t go after these video game stores. If they did, console prices would have to go up, making their shovelware far less accessible to vulnerable children and, by extension, parent’s wallets.

        I honestly hope Epic loses because their case was made in bad faith, unlike Spotify, who have IMHO a very strong case which deserves a solid legal remedy.

        1. Franco

          Re: History provides context here.

          Yes, but in the days of bricks and mortar stores buying a video game was a one-time tranascation, unless an expansion came out or something like that. Nowadays game boxes contain codes when you get one at all, and an awful lot of games are littered with microtransactions, which Apple et al take the same royalty rate on.

  17. CrackedNoggin Bronze badge

    Incidentally I voted with my pocketbook by choosing never to an iphone so far - more out of being a cheapskate than any ideology.

    I see the root problem, or at least the root reality, to be that there isn't a stable line of phone hardware upon which independent phone OS development can depend for stability. Or perhaps that's not the root, and the root is advertising revenue from passive monitoring being an economic incentive that opaquely suffocates the development of such a stable line of phone hardware. E.g., Samsung wouldn't want to cross it's biggest partner.

  18. Emmeran

    I have a certain respect for Apple

    I bought my Ex-Wife an iPad.

    Best decision I've made in my entire life.

    Go see the Genius Bar and leave me alone.

    1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

      Re: I have a certain respect for Apple

      So you bought her an iPad and presto she became you ex-wife?

      Faster even than a trip to Reno?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stop calling it a "Link Tax"

    Facebook do not have to pay a link tax.

    A "tax" would be payable to the Government. This is not a tax.

    Facebook simply has to pay the original content creators for the news content they publish (and profit handsomely from). That's all. There is no payment to the Government. Presumably, both Google and Facebook will continue to avoid paying their taxes. That's a separate matter.

    ex-PM Malcom Turnbull has been advocating for a link tax, to be paid by Facebook (and Google, et al) directly to the Government. The Government would then pass (some of) it on to the journalists. The problem with that approach is that the Government could then pick and choose which journalists received the money. So Rupert would get it all.

    The direct payment method means Rupert does not get so much. If people stop reading that news, Facebook stops buying it and buys from some other news source.

    Quality public-interest journalism costs real money. Australia's small population (25,000,000) and geographically dispersed cities make the business model for news organisations extremely perilous. When Facebook and Google diverted the revenue streams to themselves, journalism suffered and, in turn, democracy itself suffered. This matter is extremely serious.

    This is good policy. I think the rest of the world is watching closely, and wants to do the same thing.

    The head spinning part is that a 'bad' do-nothing government completely clueless on IT (and all things post-1950) has somehow stumbled onto a 'good' policy, and bizarrely found it's backbone and not backed down. Why? How? Why now? Who cares!

    If Facebook were to completely withdraw from Australia (as Google threatened to do, but they were obviously bluffing), that would be ideal.

    1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      Re: Stop calling it a "Link Tax"

      The term "tax" applies generally to any non-avoidable surcharge. You want an IBM computer? Pay the u$ tax. That was written into the contract that made BG famous.

      It is FAR from clear to me from a policy perspective what solution would "work". Like Net Neutrality, this is really big businesses fighting over dollars using their preferred tools--governments & PR.

  20. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Big Brothers

    In our modern World we created many Big Brothers, and choose happily to follow them in goose step parades.

    As said a great philosopher: "Quand on pense qu'il suffirait que les gens arrêtent de les acheter pour que ça ne se vende plus!"

    (When you think that people would just have to stop buying those things so they won't be sold anymore" )

  21. Disk0

    Last I looked

    Your lords are still running the show

  22. Matthew Taylor

    Very well written

    I enjoyed that article, it's not often you see things written so well these days. Nice one.

  23. jonnyu1

    Not only business - government too

    A good article - I recognise it all - but it's not just business, it's government and government agencies too.

    Loyal customer as cash cow owned by the corporation is a well known proposition.

    My limited experience with Apple kit matches - BT (or GPO Telephones - I am that old) or it's offshoot, 'Openreach' is still doing the same thing...

    CIPFA - the UK Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accounting - mandates the gathering of information from local authorities, packages it, and sells it back - often in a form which is not helpful, and it's impossible to request change

    The Ordnance Survey is not dissimilar with public data.

    Open has it's problems (forking and incompatibility being but one), but in principle it's better. Natural or artificial monopolies are bad.

  24. juice

    This is a pretty crap article...

    In the first instance (and as discussed at overly great length above), the situation at Hamley's wasn't an example of artificial scarcity. It's an example of actual scarcity, backed up by an anecdotal claim of "my mate said they had loads in the storeroom" anecdotal tale.

    Secondly, what Apple is doing is not quite the same as what Google are doing, and in neither case are they doing the sort of "artificial scarcity" behaviour which was allegedly seen at Hamleys.

    E.g. Apple's App Store is essentially a monopoly where they get to both control what is published and take a cut of the revenue.

    They're not walking up to any third party developer and demanding that they raise the price of their software - and/or restrict access to said software to specific people or hardware. They do restrict what type of content you can put in the App Store - especially if it competes with their own software - but that's a different issue altogether!

    So that ain't artificial scarcity.

    Meanwhile, Google and Facebook are republishing other people's content, effectively for free. So again, this isn't artificial scarcity - if anything, it's exactly the opposite!

    In truth, in Apple's case, I'm somewhat grudgingly on their side. For me, the best analogy of the App Store is a shopping mall; anyone can submit an application to open a shop and sell their wares, but it's the owner of the shopping mall who decides whether or not to grant that application. And the shop owner will then have to pay for the privilege of having their shop and wares within said shopping mall.

    I'm aware that things are a bit more complex than in the above scenario - i.e. Apple is taking a per-sale cut, rather than just charging a fixed rent - but fundamentally, the App Store is hosted on Apple's infrastructure and is used to sell apps which run on Apple's OS, which is running on Apple's hardware.

    It's Apple all the way down, and given that they're not at the monopoly level where splitting them up into a new set of Baby Bells seems appropriate, I'm struggling to see why they shouldn't be able to set the rules and prices for people wanting access to their eco-system.

    Admittedly, it doesn't help that it feels like Epic is distinctly dodgy, in and of itself; they've been using the money from Fortnite (and their chinese owners) to try and disrupt the video game market; first by challenging Steam and launching their own app store, and then by doing things like giving away high-value games for free (e.g. GTA5) and buying exclusive access to new titles (e.g. Outer Worlds).

    And those activities - market dumping and actual artificial scarcity - are the sort of thing which tend to get the attention of government agencies. But for now, as they're an "underdog" (albeit one which is 40% owned by a $69 billion chinese company) versus Steam and Apple, they're getting a bit more free rein.

    (Even then, I suppose you can argue that both Sony and Microsoft are also offering free games to people who subscribe to their services, and also tend to buy exclusive/timed access to third party products. As do other companies, such as Gamestop. But Epic has been a lot more aggressive in their behaviour. Still, there's always shades of grey...)

    Google and Facebook? There, I'm more on the other side, though there's definite concerns about the long term ramifications, as well as the wider picture as regards IP laws. E.g. as other people have pointed out, the main beneficiary of what's going on in Australia will be Rupert Murdoch and his properties, not some mythical plucky individual writers and publishers!

  25. ParasiteParty

    Microsoft Guilty Too

    This is exactly the reason why I am uncomfortable with Microsoft wanting to host your email as opposed to offer the tools to do so yourself. We're being forced away from privately Hosted Exchange and very strongly encouraged to move to Micro$haft 365. We will not fall for it and will instead be moving everyone to Zimbra.

  26. IceC0ld

    got to admit, for once, I was wondering how the article was going to be wrapped up, neatly completed, happy endings and all that

    and then

    My Tamagotchi-obsessed girlfriend got what she wanted by insinuating she'd create an artificial scarcity of one particular commodity



    not just the proverbial LOL

    but damn nigh ROF too


  27. WereWoof

    Business as usual

    This scaremongering has been going on for a long long time:

    Sheet music is going to ruin the lives of musicians

    Pianolas are going to ruin the lives of musicians

    Phonographs going to ruin the lives of musicians

    Tape recorders are going to ruin the music industry

    Video recorders are going to ruin the film/tv industry

    Napster is going to ruin the music industry

    Torrents are going to ruin the music/film/tv industries

    Streaming is going to ruin the music/film/tv industries

    Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

  28. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

    Rentier gatekeeping?

    What is the author on about? Facebook does a lot wrong but monopolistic practices is not one of them, and is not what Australia's legislation is about. Apple is a walled garden but not a monopoly. They don't belong in the same article together, and neither one is remotely like buying Tamagotchis at Hamleys. The proposed National Trust is a trust of what? I suppose he must mean the 2021-version of Facebook and Apple intellectual property, preserved for all time for the public benefit. Or will the National Trust also manage the future development as well?

  29. MachDiamond Silver badge

    A mutation of "Too big to fail"

    Google and FB can pilfer news stories and get away with it because they are so big that enforcing Copyright law against them would anger so many of their users that have become accustomed to reading the news on those platforms. Links are not a problem. The news outlets can be perfectly fine with headlines that link to their web sites. The problem is when the article/story is copied to the other platform and surrounded by ads that pay to that other platform. Writers cost money. Photos cost money. If I were to create a news skimmer that went out several times a day to steal news headlines wholesale and repost them to my web site, I'd get skewered. There would be no discussion, no government debates. I'd get a letter from their attorneys demanding settlements and threatened with lawsuits if I didn't pay up, immediately. Why does the scene change for large publicly traded companies? I'm all for testing the whole concept of "too big to fail" and "so big they're immune". I'd also like to see laws that put C-level executives in danger of doing time for legal abuses.

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