In January, New York Times technology columnist Farhad Manjoo described Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft as the “Frightful Five.” Manjoo pointed out that these five companies dominate virtually every sphere of the tech economy. If a startup seriously threatens their position, they have the money to leapfrog the competitor’s technology, or just buy it. The Frightful Five tech giants are the most powerful digital companies in an increasingly digital world.
But that doesn’t mean that the world will bend to the wants of tech’s five major players. As a pair of Times stories highlighted this week, Manjoo’s Frightful Five are meeting headwinds domestically and abroad.
Overseas, these American companies are having to deal with nations that don’t share America’s loose corporate ideals. Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook have all been investigated by European antitrust regulators, for example. The U.S. not only has relatively lax corporate restrictions, but it has little reason to step in and hinder homegrown companies from becoming some of the most powerful entities on the planet. But Europe is hesitant to let American companies overwhelm homegrown compeitors, and, as Manjoo writes, “The European efforts are just a taste of a coming global freak-out over the power of the American tech industry.”
The freak-out is happening at home, too, but it’s the tech industry doing the worrying this time. The unnerving subject is Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee who has shown little awe toward the greater tech industry.
Trump’s liquid policy suggestions thus far clash with tech ideals, namely open immigration and free trade. Furthermore, Trump has attacked some of tech’s most famous executives and, as with his attacks on many other populations, has suffered little recourse.
As entrepreneur and Republican Garrett Johnson told the Times, “There is some surprise among tech executives — or perhaps just naïveté — that the tech mainstream is now a target.”
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