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People seem to think this is a compelling argument against antitrust enforcement but it's really not. Anyone familiar with economic history knows that new high-tech industries tend to have a lot of competitors in their early years before settling down.
There were dozens of oil companies in the 1860s, dozens of car companies in the 1900s, lots of small-scale experimentation with radio in the 1920s, etc. Then Standard Oil, Ford/GM/Chrsler, and NBC/ABC/CBS emerged and became dominant for decades.
It's relatively easy for new companies to emerge when the industry is still young and growing. New customers who don't yet have established brand loyalties. Untapped innovations for a new company to discover and exploit. It gets harder as the industry matures.
So *of course* some of the companies that seemed dominant in the commercial Internet's first couple of decades got supplanted by newcomers. That doesn't mean that today's giants will inevitably be disrupted. Google/Apple/Amazon might be the ABC/NBC/CBS of our era.
But the other thing is that the hyper-competitive Internet of the 1990s and early 2000s was created by decades of effort by federal regulators to ensure a competitive market.
Antitrust regulators sued IBM, AT&T, and Microsoft. FCC regulations required Baby Bells to allow the use of modems on their lines. AT&T was prohibited from entering the computer industry due to competition concerns. That created fertile ground for Amazon, Google, and Facebook.
One reason that Apple was able to disrupt Nokia is that there was an open, competitive market for wireless service. That market existed in part because FCC regulations limited how much spectrum the largest cellular providers could own.
If the FCC had let AT&T and Verizon gobble up their smaller wireless rivals, the duopoly might not have let Apple have the amount of control over its phones it needed to produce a dramatically better product. Nokia might still be the dominant cell phone provider today.
You can also think about it the other way: you can imagine a world where regulators blocked Google's acquisitions of YouTube and Android, Facebook's acquisition of Instagram and Whatsapp, Amazon's acquisition of Quidsi, etc.
Then people in 2030 would be writing about how the decline of Google, Facebook, and Amazon in the 2020s proved we don't need antitrust enforcement to prevent Android, Instagram, and Quidsi from abusing their market power. We don't notice the competition that didn't happen.
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