Everything goes away at some point. Yes, that includes the current internet business titans. I wanted to spend this post hypothesizing what this end might look like, for each of the different companies. Nothing here is meant to be taken too seriously; it’s more so fun speculation and predictions than anything else.
The first I think would go is Facebook. I mentioned this a long, long time ago but I just don’t think that Facebook has anything that can sustain itself for the long-run game. There are have been many social networks in the past, and there will continue to be many into the future; the problem with social networks and media is that it really isn’t about making a good product, it just has to do with wherever people happen to go. As for their other businesses, these mostly seem like “for the good of the order” unprofitable ventures (satellites) or spaces with too many competitors who have a way better understanding of what they’re doing (Oculus). I don’t expect Facebook’s fall to be fast (I don’t expect any of GAFA’s falls to be fast) but I can imagine them being picked apart by competitors slowly over time.
The next I think would go is Amazon, though for a totally different reason. There’s no question that Amazon is a complete behemoth at this point, dipping their hands into many different pockets and cost-cutting up the wazoo. In fact, much of their patterns seem to match that of the Carnegie Steels and Rockefeller Oils of old. You… probably know where I’m going with this. Yes, the death of Amazon won’t be from competition; it will instead be from antitrust. Amazon is already heavily disliked and distrusted as it is; really all it takes is for a Congress majority to break up Amazon (already looking quite well, speaking that they’ve drawn the ire of both Democrats and Republicans, albeit for different reasons). Once that happens, the pieces will pick each other apart, and Amazon will be replaced by the next big name in commerce.
Now, Google is a special one. I really think that the troubles that Google is going through right now — high profile resignations, destruction of company culture, near-constant government scrutiny — could be enough to kill it fairly soon, in fact perhaps sooner than Facebook. At the same time, however, I think that if Google can survive past this set of hurdles, they’re pretty set for the long run. Google has a lot of deep cuts in a few select industries, and while Congress could still definitely get them, they don’t nearly play it as obvious as Amazon does. I also think their lifespan can improve if they focus solely on software, which has traditionally been their strong suit.
And, yes, this leads to my pick for lasting the longest; the company that, ironically, is the oldest of the four. Apple really does have a solid and simple measure of industry stranglehold, and that is “make products that people think look nice”. Their products are good enough to not be cut down by competition (besides, if any of GAFA knows a thing about competition, it’s these guys) and their company structure doesn’t stretch itself widely enough to really be picked on by the government (notice how Apple has received the least scrutiny in terms of the recent GAFA regulation hearings). The only way I can see Apple currently failing is the same way all old companies eventually fail; a couple of bad hiring/management decisions added up over a set of years that leads to the company forgetting what made it so great in the first place and causing it to crash and burn. To be fair, this already happened once to Apple; but to their luck, Steve Jobs was still alive when it happened. Now Jobs is gone, and most of the key people from the past are either out or on their way out. If Apple wants to keep up for the next few generations, they’ll have to make some good calls on who they want leading the company into the future.