Paris: The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the transition to digital life, increasing the control of the lives of billions of customers by technology giants.
Governments and users are belatedly coming to terms with the power held by the likes of Apple and Amazon, particularly in focus this year thanks to their role in everything from setting up video meetings to doing our shopping for us.
Most of the planet has spent at least part of 2020 in lockdown, and as Western consumers clicked through Google and Facebook, hundreds of millions of Chinese users turned to Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent or Xiaomi.
These “superstars” of online capitalism “have given the impression, in this world where so many things that seemed solid are now fragile, that they are above it all and even invincible,” said Paris-based economist Joelle Toledano.
Although the government has spent trillions of dollars to prevent massive bankruptcies and massive unemployment, the shares of these companies have risen since January: Facebook’s stock is up 35%, Amazon’s shares are up 67%, and Apple’s. It is up 68%.
Founded in 2011 by a California engineer, Zoom saw its stock price rise 600% in 2020, while Airbnb’s stock price doubled on the day of the IPO.
At the same time, Chinese apps that have long been limited to the local market are exploding in global app stores: especially TikTok, SHEIN for clothing stores, and Likee, another video-sharing platform.