John Battelle has an interesting suggestion on how we should curtail the power of the tech giants: Don’t break up the tech oligarchs; force them to share instead:
The idea is simply this: Require all companies who’ve reached a certain scale to build machine-readable data portability into their platforms. The right to data portability is explicit in the EU’s newly enacted GDPR framework, but so far the impact has been slight: There’s enough wiggle room in the verbiage to hamper technical implementation and scope. Plus, let’s be honest: Europe has never really been a hotbed of open innovation in the first place.
But what if we had a similar statute here? And I don’t mean all of GDPR – that’s certainly a non starter. But that one rule, that one requirement: That every data service at scale had to stand up an API that allowed consumers to access their co-created data, download a copy of it (which I am calling a token), and make that copy available to any service they deemed worthy?
Data portability is something that we don't really give enough thought to. Back in the mid-2000s, the company I was working with installed a blogging/community platform without any thought to getting data out of it. It was chosen purely because it was the only one written in their preferred coding language. Within a couple of years, we had to assemble a team of database experts to scrape all the content out of the systems and importing it into Movable Type.
Every CMS acquisition I was involved with personally thereafter had data portability as a key requirement. If there wasn't an easy and fairly straight-forward way of getting your data out, I didn't do it.
We need to start applying that thinking at a global scale. Too many of the social networks of today are roach motels - your data goes in, but if it comes out at all, it's in a data blog that isn't terribly useful to anyone. Forcing some level of data interoperability is probably a more realistic governmental solution to platform monopolies than the usual break-up approach.
(Interestingly, that post was published on NewCo Shift's WordPress site, which they've moved to from Medium, another platform whose data export is ropey at best.)