What you need to know about the tech giants Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple

I just finished reading Kashmir Hill’s series of articles Life Without the Tech Giants. Here’s what I learned. It’s impossible to get along without them even if we’re boycotting their apps. Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple dominate the internet in ways I never realized.

This should be required reading for everyone who uses the internet. It is an education in the way the internet operates and how dependent it is on these five companies.

This is a story of how, over six weeks, I cut them out of my own life and tried to prevent them from knowing about me or monetizing me in any way—not just by putting my iPhone in a drawer for a week or only buying local, but by really, truly blocking these companies from accessing me and vice versa. I wanted to find out how hard it would be—or if I could even do it—given that these tech giants dominate the internet in so many invisible ways that it’s hard to even know them all.

To keep my devices from talking to the big five’s servers, and vice versa, Dhruv a technologist built a custom virtual private network, or VPN, for me, through which I sent all my internet traffic. He then used the VPN to block my devices from being able to use the IP addresses owned by Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and/or Apple, depending on the week.

Week 1 Kashmir blocks Amazon
I Tried to Block Amazon From My Life. It Was Impossible

After reading this, news broke that Amazon purchased Eero the WiFi router that I personally use. This had made a lot of people unhappy. They don’t want Amazon sniffing all their internet traffic. I think Zack Whittaker’s TechCrunch article What Amazon’s purchase of Eero means for your privacy frames how we should think about this perfectly.

Everyone seems to forget Amazon’s massive cloud business. Most of the internet these days runs on Amazon Web Services, the company’s dedicated cloud unit that made up all of the company’s operating income in 2017. It’s a cash cow and an infrastructure giant, and its retail prowess is just part of the company’s business.

Think you can escape Amazon? Just look at what happened when Gizmodo’s Kashmir Hill tried to cut out Amazon from her life. She found it “impossible.” Why? Everything seems to rely on Amazon these days — from Spotify and Netflix’s back-end, popular consumer and government websites use it, and many other major apps and services rely on Amazon’s cloud. She ended up blocking 23 million IP addresses controlled by Amazon, and still struggled..

Week 2 Kashmir blocks Facebook
I Cut Facebook Out of My Life. Surprisingly, I Missed It

Week 3 Kashmir blocks Google
I Cut Google Out Of My Life. It Screwed Up Everything

Week 4 Kashmir blocks Microsoft
I Cut Microsoft Out of My Life—or So I Thought

Week 5 Kashmir blocks Apple
I Cut Apple Out of My Life. It Was Devastating

Week 6 Kashmir blocks all 5
I Cut the ‘Big Five’ Tech Giants From My Life. It Was Hell

Additional reading by technologist Dhruv Mehrotra the person who built Kashmir’s custom VPN.
Want to Really Block the Tech Giants? Here’s How