I started reading Why I’m Saying Goodbye to Apple, Google and Microsoft by Dan Gillmor on Medium because it was the suggested reading at the bottom of another, great article you should check out: The Last of the Typewriter Men. I started reading Gillmor’s article not because I just click on whatever recommended reading I encounter, but because I was genuinely curious about Gillmor’s point of view, what brought him to that decision, and which tools he ended up choosing as an alternative.
More important, I’ve moved to these alternative platforms because I’ve changed my mind about the politics of technology. I now believe it’s essential to embed my instincts and values, to a greater and greater extent, in the technology I use.
Those values start with a basic notion: We are losing control over the tools that once promised equal opportunity in speech and innovation—and this has to stop.
Control is moving back to the center, where powerful companies and governments are creating choke points. They are using those choke points to destroy our privacy, limit our freedom of expression, and lock down culture and commerce. Too often, we give them our permission—trading liberty for convenience—but a lot of this is being done without our knowledge, much less permission.
And I’m totally with him on this.
Later on, about why he changed his mind about supporting Apple:
In Steve Jobs’s eras as CEO, Apple reflected his character and qualities. That was thrilling in most ways, because he demanded something close to perfection. But then the underdog revolutionized mobile computing and became the winner — one day we all realized it was one of the planet’s most powerful, profitable and valuable companies. Apple became the kind of company I prefer not to support: control-freakish to a fault with customers, software developers and the press; and, I came to believe, even dangerous to the future of open networks and user-controlled technology.
He later uses again the word ‘control-freakery’ about Apple as a reason why, when it came to choose a phone, he preferred an Android device (with Cyanogenmod) over an iPhone. And then, talking about Google, among other things, he writes this (emphasis mine):
But Google’s power and influence worry me, too, even though I still trust it more than many other tech companies.
I just don’t understand this position. (And while it seems I’m taking these words out of context, it’s actually the context that makes Gillmor’s stance even more puzzling to me, because he does recognise Google’s flaws and bad behaviour: “the company has made surveillance utterly integral to the use of its software”).
One of Apple’s traits may be this ‘control-freakery’ Gillmor mentions, but the fact is that Apple did not become ‘control-freakish’ after the huge success of the iPhone — the ‘control-freakery’ started with Jobs, for whom Gillmor shows appreciation. And yes, perhaps Apple’s excessive control has created the ‘walled garden’ effect when it comes to applications and App Stores, but the bright side of it is that it has led to a generally superior quality in third-party app offerings and in the virtual lack of malware. Apple may have made the occasional faux pas when it comes to app rejections, but I believe that what’s behind this obsessive control for the user experience is largely Apple’s care for its customers; the intention has always been to provide the best tools and the best experience. It hasn’t always worked, granted, but I’ve never ascribed Apple’s behaviour in this regard to malice, nor have I suspected a different agenda or ulterior motives.
I don’t know how Gillmor can still trust Google more than many other tech companies — Apple included, I guess — when Google can practically track everything we do online, and Apple has demonstrated it truly cares about customer privacy (Apple can’t decrypt messages you exchange with iMessage, nor FaceTime sessions, for instance) and that it’s clearly not interested in data mining. This for me is enough to trust Apple more than Google and other big tech companies.