Written by Nick Heer.

The Big Tech Antitrust Movement Is Finally Showing Results

The European Council:

The Council and the Parliament today reached a provisional political agreement on the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which aims to make the digital sector fairer and more competitive. Final technical work will make it possible to finalise the text in the coming days.

Alex Kantrowitz, Big Technology:

For years, a chorus of critics has argued Big Tech is too powerful, unaccountable, and anti-competitive. And for years, it’s seemed like they were shouting into a pillow. Antitrust legislation meandered in Congress, the tech giants continued to squeeze their competitors, and they added trillions in market cap in the process.

But now, the Big Tech antitrust movement is actually making real progress. On Thursday, the EU adopted the Digital Markets Act, a landmark piece of legislation aimed at restoring the market competitiveness that the tech giants have hindered. One day earlier, Google said it would allow some Android app developers to take payments directly, avoiding its Play Store’s processing and fees. After a long period of stagnation, these moves are breakthroughs.

There will doubtless be teething problems with these changes and cases that will need to be clarified. But I am also optimistic about how this will play out over time if it is able to accomplish even a subset of its intended goals, and whether the “gatekeeper” companies — as the E.U. refers to them — will apply similar policies worldwide.

There are also well-founded concerns from those who worry about overregulation to those who say it does not go far enough. I am not applying some false “both sides” narrative here — I really think there are good arguments to be made about whether this act will strike the right balance. I still think it is strange that one of the most headline-making qualities of this act is messenger app interoperability, even though that market is thriving.

Oh, and before I forget, from Kantrowitz’s article:

[…] One day earlier, Google said it would allow some Android app developers to take payments directly, avoiding its Play Store’s processing and fees. […]

Spotify is still paying Google a commission on every sale. Neither party has said what that commission is, but Google’s policy in South Korea is to take four percentage points off the standard rate when using third-party billing, and I bet this would be a similar arrangement. This experiment does not “avoid” Play Store fees, but it does reduce them.