TECHNOLOGY COMPANIES exhibit a curious lexical property. Google and Zoom are verbs. So, in Chinese, is Taobao, the name of Alibaba’s vast e-mall. Uber and Didi, its Chinese ride-hailing rival, are synonyms for “cab”. Facebook means, simply, the internet in Vietnam, where people mostly access the web through its social networks. Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Netflix are not literally bywords for, respectively, online shopping, smartphones, office software and video-streaming—but they might as well be.
To tech’s critics, these definitional regularities point to something insidious, encapsulating in a word the dominance that each firm wields over its digital fief—some of it possibly ill-gotten. In December American trustbusters sued Facebook for alleged anticompetitive behaviour, and Chinese ones launched an investigation into Alibaba. The central plank of