The long-anticipated antitrust battle against Facebook has begun. Separate lawsuits, from the feds and the states, read at times like a business thriller. For example, the states’ lawsuit quotes an email from CEO Mark Zuckerberg to Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom warning of the competitive threat Instagram faced if it turned down Facebook. “At some point soon, you’ll need to figure out how you actually want to work with us.”
That sounds a little like the message John D. Rockefeller allegedly sent to American oil refiners to pressure them to sell as he created Standard Oil in the 1870s. As recounted by biographer Ron Chernow in the book “Titan,” Rockefeller would say: “There is no chance for anyone outside. But we are going to give everybody a chance to come in.” Standard Oil, of course, was broken up in the landmark antitrust case in the early 1900s. Today’s lawsuits suggest authorities hope for a similar outcome with Facebook.