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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
There's a reason it's hard to gauge the impact of antitrust investigations: Their effect is often felt in the form of acquisitions that aren't made.
Driving the news: Facebook ditched negotiations that were underway late last year to acquire Houseparty, a video-based social network, the New York Times' Mike Isaac reported Monday. Facebook feared giving more ammunition to antitrust regulators who have paid it growing attention because of its dominant market position.
Why it matters: Acquisitions are the lifeblood of the tech economy, and reducing the flow of such deals could slow the whole sector down.
The big picture: Tech history shows that this is one of the most significant ways the threat of antitrust regulation can reshape the industry — and that effect kicks in the moment investigations begin, regardless of whether they move forward to a settlement or a suit.
Flashback: Microsoft, the last major technology company to face substantial antitrust challenge by the government, was sued by the Department of Justice and 20 states in mid-1998 for monopolistic practices in the browser market.
Between the lines: This tale is ancient history for most of us now. But it was a central formative experience for the founders of both Google and Facebook.
Most likely, Houseparty isn't that company. But it could be practically anyone with a great enough new idea.
Yes, but: Antitrust fears haven't yet stopped all big-tech acquisitions in their tracks. In June, Google acquired data analytics firm Looker for $2.6 billion.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Some acquisitions (see above) are all about growth and competition. Others — like the deal announced yesterday in which WordPress parent company Automattic is acquiring Tumblr from Verizon Media — are all about decline and consolidation.
Background: Tumblr was once the trendiest of social networks. A last holdout of the nonconformist spirit of the early web and the blogging movement in the age of Facebook, it proudly hosted renegade content, including porn, that more mainstream networks shunned.
Where it stands: Automattic is the last major company to actively develop, promote and maintain a blogging platform and software.
What they're saying: From Tumblr's announcement: "Automattic shares our vision to build passionate communities around shared interests and to democratize publishing so that anyone with a story can tell it, especially when they come from under-heard voices and marginalized communities."
Our thought bubble: Tumblr's new owner is probably more likely to be a better steward of its community than, say, a porn site or a telecommunications giant.
A new piece from Wired's Nitasha Tiku retells the trials of Google's last three years in the form of an epic saga tracing the decline of an open corporate culture of "don't be evil" into partisan trench warfare, including:
Why it matters: These individual stories have all been told before, but Tiku's narrative adds new detail and puts them in a larger context: the transformation of a company that was once able to process conflict internally into one in which both employees and management take their fights outside.
"The company would find itself in the same position over and over again: a nearly $800 billion planetary force seemingly powerless against groups of employees — on the left and the right alike — who could hold the company hostage to its own public image...."
"Over the past three years, the structures that once allowed executives and internal activists to hash out tensions had badly eroded. In their place was a new machinery that the company’s activists on the left had built up, one that skillfully leveraged media attention and drew on traditional organizing tactics. Dissent was no longer a family affair. "
"And on the right, meanwhile, the pipeline of leaks running through Google’s walls was still going as strong as ever. "— Nitasha Tiku in Wired
A young person in Japan wanted to know why the "save" button in his spreadsheet program used a strange square icon that, to him, resembled a vending machine. Like an increasing multitude, he had never seen a floppy disk.