Produced and edited by James Sandy; graphics and animation by Russell Birkett; filmed by James Sandy, Joe Sinclair and Tom Hannen
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How did the biggest tech companies end up with virtually no competition?
Well, all of the big tech companies are in incredibly fierce competition with each other. But I think what's made it difficult for smaller companies to keep up with them is they have such huge audiences that the scale advantages keep attracting to the same few companies.
They benefit from network effects, so that means if I'm on now with 10 friends, it's not great. But if I have all my friends on that one platform, that's brilliant. So it tends to be that people flood towards one particular platform.
One of the ways in which the tech companies ended up with virtually no competition is by literally buying out the competition. So take Facebook, for instance. They bought up Instagram and WhatsApp both very early on in their lifetime, because they were looking out for apps that were quickly gathering new users and whom they could see in the horizon as picking up the next big trend. Now, WhatsApp still doesn't make any money. It never had a business model, but yet it was worth $19bn to Facebook.
There are plenty of investors on the west coast of the US that think monopolies are great and they're something to aspire to, rather than something to knock down. The main problem with antitrust law, as it stands at the moment, is that it tends to look in the US at prices as the main gauge of whether consumers are benefiting. And so many of these internet services are given away for free, that it looks as though consumers are benefiting hugely.
But there are people that are now trying to redefine cost in terms of not just dollars, but data or how the actions of the biggest companies are affecting smaller competitors.
But the other way in which I think they've grown to such scale is the sort of Silicon Valley mentality, this growth at all costs culture. So Facebook, for example, its old slogan used to be "move fast break things". They were really looking to keep people on the platforms as long as possible, regardless of users' mental health or the fact that there might be false information on the platform. They just wanted to grow.