The Wild West Days Of Silicon Valley May Be Ending

November 24, 2017, 12:30 pm EST

BR caricatureWe talked last week about what may be the bottom in the “decline of the retail store” story.

Walmart may be leading the way back for traditional retail. And it’s doing so, in part, by pouring money into e-commerce to fight back against Amazon.

Just as the energy industry has been beaten down by the rise of electric vehicles and clean energy, the bricks and mortar retail industry has been beaten down by the rise of Amazon. But those energy and retail companies that have survived the storm may have magnificent comebacks. They’re getting fiscal stimulus, which will lower their tax rates and should pop consumer demand. And they may be getting help with the competition. The regulatory game may be changing for the Internet giants that have nearly put them out of business.

Over the past decade, the Internet giants of today have had a confluence of advantages. They’ve played by a different rule book (one with practically no rules in it). And many of the giants that have emerged as dominant powers today, did so through direct government funding or through favor with the Obama administration.

One of the cofounders of Facebook became the manager of Obama’s online campaign in early 2007. In 2008, the DNC convention in Denver gave birth to Airbnb. By 2009, the nearly $800 billion stimulus package included $100 billion worth of funding and grants for the “the discovery, development and implementation of various technologies.” In June 2009, the government loaned Tesla $465 million to build the model S. In 2014, Uber hired David Plouffe, a senior advisor to President Obama and his former campaign manager to fight regulation.

The U.K.’s Guardian has a very good piece (here) on what this has turned into, and the power that has come with it, calling it “winner takes all capitalism.”

This all makes today’s decision to repeal “net neutrality” very interesting. Is this the event that will ultimately lead to the reigning in the powerful tech giants? For the big platforms like Google, Twitter, Facebook and Uber, will it lead to transparency of their practices and accountability for the actions of its users? If so, the business models change and the Wild West days of the Internet may be coming to an end.

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