Cabaero: What is happening at big tech firms?

The richest person in the world, Elon Musk, and his US$44-billion buyout of the microblogging platform Twitter highlighted the changes that are happening in his and the other big technology companies.

Not only Twitter but also Meta (Facebook’s parent company), Microsoft, Netflix, and other tech companies have resorted to laying off their employees, some even before Musk’s controversial cost-saving measure. After buying Twitter, Musk and his team laid off roughly 3,700 personnel. He laid them off on a Friday; on Saturday, he reportedly started asking some of them to come back. He also started a verification drama on the use of different colored checkmarks.

On the part of the other tech giant, Google, changes are the end of third-party cookies in 2024 and the entry of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) next year to replace the universal analytics most digital products use. Third-party cookies are used for ad targeting (when ads “follow” you) and their removal means publishers and marketers have to develop their own customer data and content for contextual ads that do not violate privacy. The GA4, on the other hand, requires publishers to learn new technology and apply it to their digital assets.

On Twitter, Musk also announced plans to introduce subscription to the site and a fee of US$7.99 monthly for its famed blue (actually, white on blue background) checkmark next to someone’s username. Not everyone welcomed it. Twitter then unveiled a new gray label for high-profile accounts to include public figures and media companies, only to scrap it almost immediately, news reports said.

Free speech advocates are worried these developments could make Twitter vulnerable to misinformation and political pressure. This is a valid concern based on user accounts getting suspended and Musk tweeting his 115 million followers to vote Republican in the United States midterm elections.

Then, there’s Facebook parent Meta. Mark Zuckerberg told employees Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022, that some 11,000 people, or 13 percent of the workforce, will be laid off due to ”faltering revenue and broader tech industry woes.” Meta’s big investment in metaverse, a shared virtual world, is expected to increase 2023 expenses to US$100 billion, a situation that made investors wary.

Job cuts or a hiring freeze were also reported in Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, the ride-hailing service Lyft, real estate marketplace Zillow, crowdfunding platform GoFundMe and Shopify.

Reasons for the cost-cutting are their fears of a recession or economic slowdown that would impact bottom-line and to correct the hiring binge they resorted to during pandemic lockdowns when people stayed online.

With all these happening, what can internet users do to protect themselves and continue on the platforms?

Internet users, content producers and marketers have to watch closely the dizzying pace of change in the industry and its impact on them. They should strengthen their own technology infrastructure, capabilities and knowledge so they do not rely too much on big tech for almost everything that they do.