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Big Revolution - Tech fiefdoms of the future

Welcome to today's newsletter, where I'm feeling quite pessimistic about the global tech economy. — M
May 20 · Issue #424 · View online
Big Revolution
Welcome to today’s newsletter, where I’m feeling quite pessimistic about the global tech economy.
— Martin from Big Revolution

Big things you need to know today
  • A popular Android video app called VidMate is up to no good. It drains users’ batteries while committing ad fraud in the background, and leaks user data, BuzzFeed News reports.
The big thought
Credit: Kyle Glenn on Unsplash
Tech fiefdoms of the future
The news about Huawei being shunned by big Western tech companies isn’t just bad news for Huawei, or for people who wanted to get a new Huawei phone this year and will now have to do so in the knowledge they won’t get Google’s apps, security updates, or even the Play Store. It’s bad news for all of us, as it’s the latest example of the balkanisation of tech.
There has been much talk in recent years of the ’splinternet’ — the idea that the internet is breaking off into national and regional chunks, each with very different standards for what is acceptable. Take China’s heavy censorship of everything that reaches its citizens, or Russia’s plan to literally detach its own internet from the outside world, for example.
But it’s bigger than that. As the recent debate over 5G tech has shown, we may be reaching a point where governments will only trust tech companies from countries they trust. How might China react to the latest action against Huawei? Is it feasible for them to stop Apple buying iPhone components from Chinese manufacturers? Or to stop allowing the iPhone to be manufactured there, even?
No-one would win in a situation like that. Chinese firms would lose business, Apple would sell fewer phones as they’d have to be more expensive, and consumers wouldn’t be able to afford the phone they want.
And by extension, we’re looking at the prospect of a world where the global tech economy is broken up into completely separate chunks.
Of course, it may be that this all gets resolved. After all, China is investing a huge amount of money in Belt & Road to extend its economy across the world, and American companies won’t be happy to lose foreign business, either. But it’s likely to get worse before it gets better, and to some degree, the idea of ‘tech fiefdoms’ with their own spheres of influence, rules, and business practices, seems inevitable.
The globally-connected promise of the early days of the internet may fall apart because we humans can’t play nicely together at a global level.
One big read
Can “Indie” Social Media Save Us? Can “Indie” Social Media Save Us?
A look at the ‘artisanal’ alternatives to mainstream social media platforms, being cooked up by the global indieweb community.
Don’t be scared to try something new: switching between Mac and Windows is easier than ever
Bonus Big Read! I wrote up a longer piece about my switch from Mac to Windows, based on what I wrote in this newsletter last week.
One big tweet
Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham was probably trying to be inspiring when he wrote this, but click through for the replies. This tweet didn’t go down well….
Paul Graham
The next time someone claims that starting startups is for rich kids, remind them that Airbnb happened because its founders literally could not pay their rent.
12:52 AM - 19 May 2019
That’s all for today...
Back inbox tomorrow with more. See you then!
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