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Reading about adversarial interoperability

I just finished reading a few articles (here’s one and here’s another by Cory Doctorow) on something called “adversarial interoperability.” This is relevant because it is being put forward as the thing that’s needed to solve big tech — as opposed to, say, just trying to break up big tech into small tech, which is what some policy makers think we should do.

Interoperability is, quite simply, the ability for different products and/or services to work together. It’s the USB charger in your hotel room nightstand that empowers you to charge your phone. (Relevant post: Project connected home.) But, of course, there are different types of interoperability, ranging from cooperative to adversarial.

Adversarial interoperability is when two products and/or services work together to the extreme chagrin of one of the companies. Usually that company is blatantly trying to stop it from happening so as to further strengthen their market dominance.

The argument being put forward is that this adversarial relationship is fundamental to tech and fundamental to innovation. It allows new ideas to emerge. And so the real problem at hand is that big tech has gotten so big that it has managed to largely quash this varietal of interoperability. The result is less innovation and the persistence of big tech.

For a proper reading list on this topic, click here.

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