This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. You can register here to receive it weekdays.
The global Internet is becoming a little less American than the US, and this can be both dramatic and disturbing.
I’m a bit obsessed with regional e-commerce stars like Coupang in Korea and Jumia in parts of Africa, and how they managed to go beyond Amazon Amazon (by far).
Their success is proof of what could be a different evolution from online services as a coherent – and largely US-dominated – bloc. And it shows that we may now be at the height of the golden age for region-specific or country-specific digital professionals.
At a time when many elected citizens and officials worry about the power of most American and Chinese tech giants in shaping what people believe and remodeling the economy, really Well, there are more alternatives to Big Tech’s dominance. But there’s also something magical about shared internet services globally.
Let’s start with a brief Internet history: In the first quarter century of the modern Internet, American companies – and more recently Chinese companies – have largely become the dominant global powers. . Facebook and China’s Instagram and WhatsApp, Netflix, Uber, Didi Chuxing and TikTok apps have gained traction in many countries.
The global digital giants don’t seem to lose, but they are increasingly challenged by power players in specific regions or countries. There are e-commerce companies in the region such as MercadoLibre in Latin America and Tokopedia in Indonesia. Twitter has great influence in India, but Twitter like Koo is gaining ground. American tech powers must envy Grab and Gojek of Southeast Asia, which offer scooter rides, haircuts or home loans without ever leaving the app.
There are many reasons for the rise of local digital stars.
First, countries are posing more barriers to foreign internet services. Last year, India blocked a slew of Chinese apps, including TikTok during a deadlock at the border, and that helped spawn a wave of digital services made in India. The Russian government has tried to encourage people to use homegrown internet services as a way to prevent dissent from spreading at times of crisis, as my colleague Anton Troianovski has write.
But the blossoming of local internet services has not always been the result of protectionism and nationalism. In some cases, homegrown companies are thriving or beating global tech superpowers because they’re really good at what they do.
It might be great to have alternatives to tech giants, but I worry about what we lose if we don’t even have common cultural moments on YouTube or love. sympathy with Amazon. You may think I’m silly, but I do believe there are elements of the global Internet that bring us a little closer. (And sometimes, ripping up the world. It’s all complicated.)
Partly because YouTube and Spotify are popular in Bogotá, Bangalore and Boise, a divided world that shares a love of reggaeton and K-pop music. As much of the world uses sites like Facebook and Twitter, pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong help incite regional protest movements in Thailand and Myanmar.
I am very happy that Coupang can thrive by serving Korean online shopping needs. Indonesians deserve local conglomerates that know what they need more than some distant tech giant. I also hope that we can manage to retain the good streams of shared internet life.
What if we knew the cost of convenience?
In Before Times, a few times a month, I opened the Grubhub app and ordered too much food from a nearby burger store. One day, I looked at the restaurant’s menu and realized that my burgers and fries were a few dollars more expensive in the app.
If you have ever used a food or grocery service like Grubhub, Instacart or DoorDash, you may have had at times realized that the price is higher than the price at the restaurant or store. Or you may have been wondering what that “service charge” is.
(Read my colleague Erin Griffith’s New articles about Instacart’s popularity during pandemic and corporate expansion plans.)
That’s because in the rush to develop as quickly as possible, these apps almost disguise how much their convenient services actually cost us. What if – great hints come – we know the real cost of delivering a burger or groceries to your door?
That’s not how it works. Last year, my colleague Brian X. Chen found out that the same dish ordered from four different delivery apps costs 7% to 91% more than what he would pay for a meal. eat directly from the restaurant.
The higher cost comes from a combination of price increases for menu items, chaos of service or other charges, and even discrepancies in sales tax. The “tipping” of the courier also sometimes goes into the pockets of companies.
As a result, it is almost impossible to know how much these services actually cost or to decide for ourselves if we are paying a fair price for convenience or not.
I assume that my burger venue around the corner marks the price of incoming orders with the app to offset the commission paid by the restaurant. Fair enough. Some people are choosing to use Instacart or restaurant delivery apps to avoid the risk of coronavirus infection. I got it. It’s not fair to know the real cost.
I still get burgers carried away from that place around the corner. But now I call it on the phone – on the phone! – and know that more money is in my pocket and in the restaurant.
Before we go …
Like voters in the revolving states before an election: My colleagues Michael Corkery and Karen Weise reported on Amazon’s attempt to unite its warehouse staff in Alabama and how they were surrounded by arguments from supporters on both sides. Even the timing of the traffic lights is a point of controversy.
No, tech companies can’t fix everything: NBC News and Bloomberg wrote about Microsoft’s struggle to help run government vaccine sites in New Jersey, Iowa, and Washington, DC “It’s too difficult even for a tech giant like Microsoft to incorporate the patchwork of existing digital infrastructure across 99 counties, ”wrote NBC News.
Last good day on the Internet: It was February 26, 2015, when people were glued to a minute by minute story about llamas in Arizona and a “dress” debate. My colleague, Charlie Warzel, reminisces about something he wrote on the first anniversary of that big day.
This giant dog and this little dog are best friends, and I love it.
We want to hear from you. Let us know what you think about this newsletter and what you want us to explore. You can contact us at [email protected]
If you have not received this newsletter in your inbox, Please register here.