Online Deciders Like Apple Have a Point

Gatekeepers like powerful tech companies have a bad reputation for controlling what happens online. But they do not fully absorb heat.

One of the thrills of the digital age is that one no longer needs the permission of powerful institutions. The creators of Cat Tuxedo can set up shop online and don’t have to persuade a big-box store to stock their product. People who have witnessed the emergency landing of airplanes or have lived in the war can share their experiences on social media instead of waiting for news organizations to tell their stories.

People don’t have to win over record labels, book publishers or Hollywood bosses to entertain us. They can reach us directly.

I regularly point out in On Take that this power of the person at the gatekeeper is only half true. Yes, anyone can write an app, create a new product, create a song or share information, but the way to reach people is mostly through Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Spotify and other powerhouses. The old dictators of information, products and entertainment may have lost influence, but they have been replaced by new digital gatekeepers.

It’s a boomerang in a way, and that’s one of the reasons why technologists are turning to “web3”, a broad term for the envisioned future Internet in which individuals have more control and ownership.

Today, however, I come to the praise of the gatekeepers. This does not mean that web3 is a useless idea or that we should bring back the old Hollywood system which decided which actors or writers could work and which were avoided.

But there is also real value when trusted experts decide. Perhaps one of the reasons why gatekeepers keep re-emerging is that they can be very simple.

Apple decides which apps you can download on your iPhone and reviews the software code for each of them. Apple is a dishonest application gatekeeper. And while I’ve written before that the disadvantages of this approach may now outweigh the advantages, we should accept the good that comes from choosing to weed out apps that promote harmful behavior, have a bad interest, and tear up good ideas by the organization. Or try to steal our money.

Likewise, choosing thousands of barbecue grills online on Amazon or elsewhere can be a source of pride. But sometimes stocking up on just three good things to choose from for our local home depot can be a relief.

Bonus: Home Depot may not sell you fake or dangerous grills. And if he does, he may be legally liable. Amazon may not be, if the grills are sold by independent merchants who sell on Amazon as if it were a flea market.

I like to hear directly from politicians and corporate executives on Twitter and see thousands of points of view about the news event. Where else can I learn? Russian military truck tires From someone with direct experience?

But there is also value when journalists carefully scrutinize information and tell us what is important. (Feel free to disagree with this journalist about the value of journalism.)

Bloomberg News Entertainment reporter Lucas Shaw recently wrote that what he said was a web3-related move about empowering musicians or other entertainers to connect directly with fans without streaming services and record labels without go-between. “Most musicians, actors, writers, filmmakers and creative people choose to support the organization with expertise,” he wrote. “It makes their lives easier.”

A great record label or agent can help polish a budding musician or actor, and a discerning publisher can identify book groups to spread the word about a new title. Gatekeepers charge for their skills, but can add more than they take.

This is not universally true. Some gatekeepers are unknown or power hungry, and some creative people don’t want all this interference. But for others, help, instead of doing it all yourself, can be a blessing.

There are things that completely stink about gatekeepers, whether it’s corporate news organizations and little ones like Walmart or Apple and YouTube.

They sometimes make stupid decisions. They rob us of our choices and destroy the autonomy and earnings of those who make fun videos, books or cat tuxedos. Maybe web3 will exhaust the power of a few to act as a mediator for many, or perhaps unify that power as every tech movement has had for decades.

I hope we don’t throw away what is useful about gatekeepers, however, we reconsider them.


  • Elon Musk is making some Twitter friends: Numerous companies, investment funds and wealthy individuals, including Oracle founder Larry Ellison and cryptocurrency exchange Bayanance, have pledged nearly $ 7 billion to buy Elon Musk’s Twitter account, my colleague Lauren Hirch reported. They will become partial owners of Twitter, and reduce the size of the cash loan that Musk needs to help pay for the $ 44 billion acquisition.

    More on Musk: My colleagues John Elegon and Lance Chutel report on Musk’s childhood background in apartheid-era South Africa.

  • When cybercriminals disrupt school: Bloomberg News ransomware attacks cost schools, locking up criminals’ institutional computer systems and data until they are paid. Lincoln College in Illinois blamed ransomware attacks and an epidemic for declining enrollment for its decision to close next week.

  • YouTube videos are perfectly tuned for your kids: My colleague David Segal writes about the company behind CoComelon and other extremely popular children’s online entertainment and data-driven methods – including a tool called Distractatron – which executives use to analyze what keeps young children engaged.

In 1984, Keenu Reeves hosted a Canadian TV news report about the Teddy Bear Convention. It was wonderful. (Yes, that’s real. CBC Extracted this from its archives In 2020.) Thanks to my colleague Erin McCain for sharing the video.


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