In the early days of DoubleClick, a prospective employee asked what my ultimate goals were for the newly formed internet advertising company. With the arrogance of a young startup founder, I responded, “To be broken up by the Department of Justice.”
That was 1996, and we were still trying to persuade established companies to buy ads on our newfangled platform, so my answer was obviously a joke. Yet in 2007 Google announced it was acquiring DoubleClick, and now the company I used to lead is a target of Justice’s antitrust investigation into the search giant. Facebook, Apple, Twitter and Amazon are also in federal trustbusters’ crosshairs. Their offense? That hundreds of millions of happy customers freely choose to use their products.
We faced formidable competition when I led DoubleClick, but we successfully executed a simple strategy: build a product so great that customers would eventually drop the competition for us. All the tech titans now under investigation won in similar competitions for business and eyeballs. The growth they have enjoyed isn’t a crime. Media rants about a supposed tech oligarchy demonstrate a bewildering lack of understanding of how markets work.
What is Big Tech’s offense? Size. Politicians and pundits seem to assume that big is bad. Though many of their products are provided free of charge, tech titans now face political attack for their success. Yet if you don’t like their products, the competition is only a click away.
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