Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big Tech's newly bolstered dominance doesn't make these companies invulnerable.

The big picture: Three elements form the ground on which the tech giants built their success — cheap hardware, connectable software and the freedom to innovate. Each of these foundations already faced threats that the virus crisis has now amplified.

Cheap hardware: The tech economy relies on a simple dynamic of efficient manufacturing and process improvement that drives down the prices of expensive breakthrough products until they become cheap and universal.

  • The petering out of Moore's Law — the miniaturization dividend that drove tech for decades — has already slowed this dynamic, while new approaches like quantum computing remain impractical at scale.
  • The other driving force behind cheap hardware — globalization and specifically the transformation of China into the world's tech-manufacturing engine — is now threatened by political tensions over trade and security concerns, as well as by supply-chain disruptions caused by the pandemic.

Connectable software: Our digital civilization is built on software-all-the-way-down stacks of interdependent code. These layers upon layers of programs and libraries talk to each other using application programming interfaces (APIs) — sets of commands that let diverse companies, organizations, and individuals build services that work together.

Freedom to innovate: There's widespread consensus in Silicon Valley that the industry has thrived because it's been left relatively unregulated.

  • Most digital successes have been built by introducing new models that "disrupt" incumbents — whether it was personal computers replacing mainframes, smartphones replacing landlines, online services replacing traditional businesses, or streaming media replacing broadcast and cable.
  • These models have been so successful and popular, and during this crisis they've become so essential, that they've inspired a new argument for regulation.
  • In this view, propounded by a rising chorus of academics, pundits, and politicians, we are now too dependent on Big Tech services to leave them to the market. Instead, we should treat them like public utilities, with public oversight and community responsibilities

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Deadly storm Zeta pummels parts of Alabama and Florida

A satellite image of Hurricane Zeta. Photo: National Hurricane Center/NOAA

Former Hurricane Zeta has killed at least one person after a downed power line electrocuted a 55-year-old in Louisiana as the storm's powerful winds and heavy rainfall moved into Alabama overnight.

What's happening: After "battering southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi," Zeta weakened to a tropical storm over central Alabama early on Thursday, per the National Hurricane Center.

Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases

Catholics go through containment protocols including body-temperature measurement and hands-sanitisation before entering the Saint Christopher Parish Church, Taipei City, Taiwan, in July. Photo: Ceng Shou Yi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Taiwan on Thursday marked no locally transmitted coronavirus cases for 200 days, as the island of 23 million people's total number of infections reported stands at 550 and the COVID-19 death toll at seven.

Why it matters: Nowhere else in the world has reached such a milestone. While COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S. and Europe, Taiwan's last locally transmitted case was on April 12. Experts credit tightly regulated travel, early border closure, "rigorous contact tracing, technology-enforced quarantine and universal mask wearing," along with the island state's previous experience with the SARS virus, per Bloomberg.

Go deeper: As Taiwan's profile rises, so does risk of conflict with China

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Politics: Biden ahead in Wisconsin, Michigan as cases surge in the Midwest.
  2. Health: Fauci says U.S. may not return to normal until 2022 — Trump's testing czar: Surge "is real" and not just caused by more tests Some coronavirus survivors have "autoantibodies."
  3. Business: Consumer confidence sinking Testing is a windfall.
  4. World: Europe faces "stronger and deadlier" wave France imposes lockdown Germany to close bars and restaurants for a month.
  5. Sports: Boston Marathon delayed MLB to investigate Dodgers player who joined celebration after positive COVID test.