Big Tech, also known as the Tech Giants, refers to the most dominant companies in the information technology industry, notably the five largest American tech companies: Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Meta (Facebook), and Microsoft. These companies are referred to as the Big Five.
The Big Five are dominant players in their respective areas of technology: artificial intelligence, cloud computing, consumer electronics, e-commerce, home automation, online advertising, self-driving cars, social networking, software, and streaming media. They are among the most valuable public companies, having had a maximum market capitalization from around 1 to above 3 trillion U.S. dollars. In August 2020, the Big Five accounted for nearly a quarter of the S&P 500. In December 2021 and November 2022 respectively, Meta and Amazon fell below their trillion dollar valuations, while in March 2023, Apple and Microsoft alone accounted for 13 percent of the S&P 500. The Big Tech companies are considered among the most prestigious employers in the world.
The Big Five are powerful corporations in structural and relational terms. As such, they have been criticized for creating a new economic order called surveillance capitalism. They serve billions of users, and are able to influence user behavior and control large amounts of user data. Concerns over monopolistic practices have led to antitrust investigations from the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission in the United States, and the European Commission. Commentators have questioned the impact of these companies on privacy, market power, freedom of speech, censorship, national security, and law enforcement. In 2019, John Naughton wrote in The Guardian that "it's almost impossible to function without the big five tech giants."
The concept of Big Tech is analogous to the consolidation of market dominance by a few companies in other market sectors such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and J.P. Morgan in investment banking, the Big Three consulting firms, Big Oil, and Big Media. Globally, Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, and Xiaomi ("BATX") are the Chinese equivalent of the Big Five, and are sometimes included in the definition of Big Tech. Big Tech can also refer to smaller tech companies with high valuations, or non-tech companies with high-tech practices such as the automaker Tesla. Dominant companies like IBM and Microsoft were the 20th century equivalent to Big Tech.
The extensive use of Big Tech centralises the control of information in the modern world and moves away from the decentralised model prevalent on the Internet from around 1995 to 2015.
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