Does Facebook have an operational nuclear weapon yet? What do the analysts think Google's leadership change will mean to its foreign policy? Is Twitter a destabilizing influence on world peace?
Sure these questions are satirical (sort of) and over the top. But when it comes to navigating the intricate, byzantine landscape of digital power in today's business, communications and media world, is there any better model than geopolitics? Next Tuesday at ad:tech San Francisco, I'll be leading a discussion called "The New Power Brokers: Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter & Beyond" featuring Molly Wood (CBS Interactive), Scott Symonds (AKQA) and Shawn Carolan (Menlo Ventures). The first thing I'll ask them to do is help us understand today's "Power Brokers" by comparing them to countries. If nothing else, it's a fascinating parlor game. But it just might end up being a great tool for really making sense of a nonsensical world.
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- Does each of the dominant digital companies not have a culture that's just as nationalistic -- and sometimes xenophobic -- as those of today's global powers?
- We've seen a rush to acquire mobile, group discounting and other capabilities at soaring valuations: what better way to understand this than in the context of an arms race?
- Beyond the companies they buy outright, each of the major players are extending economic influence through their technology (Adsense, Facebook Connect). It's like the Cold War being fought by the cast of "The Big Bang Theory."
I'm hoping that a great many of you will be part of this discussion at ad:tech (Tuesday, April 12, Noon - 1:00pm, Room: 3020, Moscone West). But even if you can't be there, use the space below to weigh in: If your favorite Power Broker company were a country, which one would it be and why? Which companies are the dominant global players and which are the rogue states? And which 'countries' are seeing their influence decline while others' are growing?