Based on a systematic review and evaluation of business reports, documents, statistics, literature and press releases, this paper analyzes the market concentration and the expansion and innovation strategies of the leading internet companies. The findings invalidate any claims that a decentralization of the market and a democratization of the internet is taking place, or that research, development and innovation processes are becoming more open and collaborative. The four examined companies, as the operators of the core infrastructures of the worldwide web, shape the overall products and services offer of the internet, determine access to the web, structure the communication possibilities for users, and are the main drivers of innovation in this field. Not decentralization, democratization and open innovation, but market concentration, control and power struggles are categories to adequately describe the fundamental dynamics of the commercial internet. The power of the internet companies manifests not only as an economic power, which is based on the superior economic resources of the companies—their financial strength, strong research capacity, market dominance. In addition, internet companies are gradually broadening their power over data, namely by interlinking their range of cross-divisional offerings and by systematically matching and evaluating the resulting user traces. Above all, the power of the internet companies is based on their ability to, by means of numerous and coordinated offers, design and shape the framework conditions of essential social contexts, be they consumer worlds, information and communication patterns or social relationship networks. This means that they are not merely intermediaries, such as telephone companies, but are transformed into action-orienting and opinion-forming curators of public discourse. This can be described as an infrastructural and rule-setting power.
Ulrich Dolata, 2017: Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft. Market Concentration – Competition – Innovation Strategies. Stuttgart: SOI discussion paper 2017-01