Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Essential Tech Companies

Farhad Manjoo:

What’s the order in which you would drop Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook from your life, if forced to — from first to last.

For me, it would be Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple. The first two would be relatively easy. The last two would be hard.

Update (2017-05-06): See also: Aristotle Pagaltzis.

Update (2017-05-12): See also: John Gruber.

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"For me, it would be Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple. The first two would be relatively easy. The last two would be hard."

Pretty much.

For me, I've never used Facebook, and the only Google service I ever use is Gmail through my own mail client. So I could replace that pretty easily. (I also use Google search, maps, and translate, but only while not logged in to any account and without cookies available at home, and only very minimally on mobile using a different browser. So hopefully, their only real profile on me comes from email scanning.)

The last two are indeed hard. Giving up Amazon would be really, really difficult for me, because I don't see any alternative. There's just no physical fulfillment alternative, really. And while I could certainly give up Amazon services for alternatives, I find it hard to see why I'd want to. As to Apple, it's more complicated. I use zero Apple services, and buy older Apple non-mobile hardware. But it'd be difficult for me to switch over to alternative OS's for my gear.

@Chucky You don’t use Google Maps or Apple Maps?

"You don’t use Google Maps or Apple Maps?"

Yeah. I do use Google Maps minimally, but living in an urban setting, I don't seem to find it as indispensable on a regular basis as many folks. And for my limited mapping purposes, I think I could get by with MapQuest.

My only real point on Google was that I'm never logged into a Google account via a web browser. My only Google Account activity is Gmail thru mail clients. So, other than mail, I'm already free from Google Account activity. (Which isn't really the point of Farhad's question, or this blog post.)

Hi Michael,

Goodness, what a wonderful question!

Here's the order:
Facebook: I never signed up. Dodged a bullet there. I checked with a fake account sometime before 2007, and found out it wasn't for me. Fortunately my family members were all either too old or way too young to get stuck to it. My old friends seem to only make each other mad on it.

Google: I found alternatives a few years ago. The now defunct site: search query tools were part of what kept me. Gmail never refreshed as quickly on iOS as I thought it should, either.

Amazon is incredibly useful to me, but I've been examining alternatives for a while, due to their poor defenses against counterfeits. For example, I buy batteries from B&H photo, since Amazon's search results are populated with cheap and defective copies OR with the real thing at a substantial markup over local retail. (I.e. Target.) Likewise with shady and misleading product descriptions "replacement blender blade is compatible with model numbers x, y, z, x1, y1, z1, etc." Basically, if I think I'm getting a "good deal" I probably need to assume that one of those two words, "good" or "deal" does not actually apply.
But nothing beats it for "need a really good birthday present with two days lead time". None of their services is absolutely essential, but the whole package is really handy.

Apple: I probably could stop using apple hardware, but I'd replace it with...what? I'm already fine with dumbphones, mirrorless digital cameras, mp3 players, paper sketchbooks, index cards, paper pocket calendars, mapquest printouts, and so on, because I turned into an old man or a hipster without realizing it, but lugging a laptop around just to check email seems tedious. I find some of Apple's software to be maddeningly opaque: exactly what is being synced to iCloud, and how exactly do I backup the pdf's I've accumulated in iBooks, for instance. I wouldn't miss that.

If I had to sum up my problems with the big four: good ideas, useful tools, but if you use them long enough niggling implementation details* lead to workarounds that then need to be me. In the best case I have to devote some amount of time to updating my mental model for how their services work. Ugh.

*e.g. privacy controls, surveillance, counterfeits, iTunes...

Very interesting that you guys rely so heavily on Amazon. Here in Switzerland, it is practically unusable for anything but books/DVDs.

My order would be facebook (never signed up, not a social media person), Amazon (probably due to said geographic limitations), Google (I use search, maps and webfonts a lot, but could easily replace it), Apple.

As a grumpy Mac Pro (cheese grater) user, I am obviously not too fond of my Mac choices and contemplate building a Hackintosh if the fall iMac release turns out disappointing. But macOS is so awesome I would hate switching to anything else. I have no qualms with the iPhone and don't really care much about tablets.

Adrian Bengtson

Here in Sweden we don't have Amazon at all. Sometimes I wish we really had it, other times I think we may be better off without it. It seems like Amazon is such a giant in the US that other actors don't have any chance of succeeding.

We do shop online, of course. After all, Sweden ranks very high when it comes to fast, affordable internet connections to almost every household and were are almost a cashless society as well. So the in the absent of Amazon we have a very diverse range of online shopping with a lot of competition.

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