No Ronaldo? No Messi? No problem: Nine names to know for the rest of the World Cup.

June 30 at 8:58 PM

Kylian Mbappe of France celebrates after scoring his team’s third goal against Argentina on Saturday. He had two in the win. (Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

The two international stars everyone loves, or hates, have been booted from the World Cup. Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal side and Lionel Messi’s Argentina squad lost in the round of 16 on Saturday after barely clawing their way into the knockout round to begin with.

It took Messi’s first and only goal of the tournament to get Argentina through Group D and Ronaldo’s hat trick against Spain to earn a draw, a point that was crucial to helping Portugal move on from Group B.

But even though both teams have been undone, fear not. There are plenty of international stars left in the field. Here are nine you should know so you can stay on top of things no matter what match you’re watching.

Kylian Mbappe, forward, France

Mbappe, 19, has been a star prospect for a long time, but he announced himself Saturday against Argentina with a glittering two-goal performance. His speed is genuinely uncommon, and his ball control while moving at such a pace makes him nearly impossible to defend. And when he has the time and space to put some extra oomph into a shot, it’s probably going to find the back of the net.

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The teenager gets it done (again) to extend the lead for Les Bleus, 4-2.

Harry Kane, striker, England

Every World Cup cycle, England always seems to have “the guy.” It was David Beckham, then Wayne Rooney. Now it’s Kane, a pure scorer who also wears the captain’s armband. He scored both of England’s goals in a 2-1 win against Tunisia, then followed it up with a hat trick against Panama.

Romelu Lukaku, striker, Belgium

If you’re not a soccer fan, imagine Lukaku as a LeBron James-type figure. He’s bigger, faster and stronger than almost everyone else on the pitch. He can score from pretty much anywhere. Pairing him with Eden Hazard, Belgium might have the most lethal set of attackers in the tournament.


You know what they say about lightning ⚡️⚡️
Lukaku is FEELING IT and puts in firm control of the match.

Edinson Cavani, striker, Uruguay

Cavani is another one of those players who announced himself with a huge Saturday. He scored both of La Celeste’s goals against Portugal to knock Ronaldo out of the field. Uruguay loves to put the ball on Cavani’s foot, not only because he’s a dangerous scorer, but because he is an elite passer who has strong chemistry with fellow striker Luis Suarez. In short, when he has the ball, anything can happen.

But Cavani’s status for Uruguay’s quarterfinal match against France is uncertain. He came off with an injury soon after scoring this goal against Portugal.

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Cavani one-times a curler into the back of the net to re-take the lead for Uruguay.

Luka Modric, midfielder, Croatia

Modric’s world-class play on the ball is what made Croatia so dominant in group play and helped his club team, Real Madrid, to consecutive UEFA Champions League titles. Here’s another basketball comparison if you don’t know much about Modric: Chris Paul. Croatia uses him as a point man to help get things organized and then funnel the ball forward. Without Modric at his best, Croatia struggles to control the tempo. But at his utmost, teammate Ivan Rakitic said it’s like Modric is from a “different planet.”

Chucky Lozano, forward, Mexico

El Tri has found its next young star in Lozano, 22, a do-it-all forward who fits right in as part of the lineup’s mix of youth and veterans. He’s just as strong of a passer as he is a scorer. With his Dutch club last season, he completed 2.7 crosses per 90 minutes, second best in the league. He also had 17 goals in club play and 56 percent of his shots were on goal, second best among the league’s top 10 scorers.

Christian Eriksen, midfielder, Denmark

Eriksen is a goal-scoring machine just waiting for the right moment. In the group stage, he scored one goal and had one assist. But in World Cup qualifiers, he had 11 goals in 12 games with three assists. If he gets hot, look out. Denmark will need every bit of his scoring touch to fend off Croatia on Sunday.

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The pass: 👌
The goal: 😍
The knee slide: …

Denis Cheryshev, forward, Russia

Cheryshev is key to any Russian plan to get past Spain on Sunday. Spain’s tactics are possession-oriented. It loves to dominate control of the ball and patiently wait for seams to open. But that’s harder to do when playing from behind, and Cheryshev represents Russia’s best chance of getting on the board early. He’s a physical attacker and a dynamic finisher around the net. For proof, look no further than his three goals in three games in the group stage.

Granit Xhaka, midfielder, Switzerland

The big name for Switzerland is Xherdan Shaqiri, but don’t forget about Xhaka, the feisty midfielder whose scoring elevates the Swiss from a European also-ran to a world heavyweight. Switzerland will use Xhaka to funnel the ball forward to attackers, but then it expects him to get in on the play and look for his own shots. This laser beam from just outside the 18-yard box against Serbia was key to helping Switzerland advance to the round of 16.

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Read more on the World Cup:

Exit Lionel Messi, enter Kylian Mbappe as France powers ahead in World Cup

World Cup knockout bracket, results and schedule

Sweden is the World Cup underdog to hitch your bandwagon to

Ranking the eliminated World Cup teams by sympathy factor

A huge stretch of the Arctic Ocean is rapidly turning into the Atlantic. That’s not a good sign

The northern Barents Sea shifts over to an Atlantic climate and becomes sea-ice free. (Sigrid Lind)

Scientists studying one of the fastest-warming regions of the global ocean say changes in this region are so sudden and vast that in effect, it will soon be another limb of the Atlantic Ocean, rather than a characteristically icy Arctic sea.

The northern Barents Sea, to the north of Scandinavia and east of the remote archipelago of Svalbard, has warmed extremely rapidly — by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit just since the year 2000 — standing out even in the fastest-warming part of the globe, the Arctic.

“We call it the Arctic warming hot spot,” said Sigrid Lind, a researcher at the Institute of Marine Research in Tromso, Norway.

Now Lind and her colleagues have shown, based on temperature and salinity measurements taken on summer research cruises, that this warming is being accompanied by a stark change of character, as the Atlantic is in effect taking over the region and converting it into a very different entity.

Their results were published this week in Nature Climate Change by Lind and two colleagues at Norway’s Institute of Marine Research and University of Bergen. They underscore that the divide between the Atlantic and the Arctic isn’t just a geographical one — it’s physical in nature.

While the Southern Barents is milder, the northern Barents has — until recently — had all the characteristics of an Arctic sea. It featured floating sea ice that, when it melted, helped to provide an icy, freshwater cap atop the ocean. This kept internal heat from escaping to the atmosphere, and also kept the ocean “stratified” — cold, fresher waters in the upper part of the ocean and warmer, Atlantic-originating waters down below.

This situation, which occurs in much of the Arctic, was reinforced by the fact that freshwater is less dense than salt water, preserving stratification.

But that’s changing. Less sea ice is floating down through the northern Barents Sea from higher Arctic latitudes, the research shows.

Indeed, the lack of sea ice in the northern Barents Sea has been a regular feature of charts lately; at this very moment, an enormous stretch of ocean in this area that has traditionally been ice covered is currently open.

Sea-ice concentrations, as of June 24, 2018, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

As the ice recedes, the ocean surface in turn receives less fresh water from its melting.

As that happens, the deeper Atlantic waters mix higher and higher toward the surface, not only warming the seas but also making them more salty. The result, the study says, has been a “dramatic shift in the water column structure in recent years.” Arctic surface waters, with a temperature below freezing, are “now almost entirely gone.”

“This region is shifting to the Atlantic climate, and it’s going fast,” Lind said.

The precipitating event for these changes, the new study finds, is that floating ice is no longer being supplied as regularly to the Barents Sea region from higher Arctic climes.

Arctic sea ice breaks up and becomes more mobile in the warmer months of the year, but less has been flowing into the Barents Sea and melting, and that in turn has begun to break the hold of stratification on the ocean, as the Barents no longer contains enough freshwater to sustain it.

“Unless the freshwater input should recover, the entire region could soon have a warm and well-mixed water column structure and be part of the Atlantic domain, a historically rare moment where we would witness a large body of water being completely transformed from Arctic to Atlantic type,” the study concludes.

The change could lead to an expansion of the very productive Barents Sea cod fishery northward — but at the same time, that would come at the expense of an Arctic marine ecosystem that would probably have to retreat toward the pole.

It could also have major weather consequences, some scientists believe. Indeed, those may already be occurring.

Jennifer Francis, an Arctic expert at Rutgers University, said ice loss over the Barents Sea and the nearby Kara Sea can disrupt the atmospheric jet stream, in turn leading to extreme weather over Eurasia, especially in winter.

Here’s how it works, according to Francis: The warmer atmosphere above the ice free ocean can strengthen a region of atmospheric high pressure that tends to form around the Ural Mountains, to the south of these bodies of water. That then leads to an elongation of the polar jet stream, which dips farther southward as it gets past the high pressure region and forms a low pressure area.

The result of this elongated jet, Francis wrote, is “persistent cold spells over East Asia and a disrupted stratospheric polar vortex, which effectively prolongs the original influence of the ice loss into late winter. We saw this happen in spades this past winter.”

There could be more of this in the future, because researchers say changes in the northern Barents Sea may have already gone too far to reverse.

“What we show is the sea ice will probably move out of the Barents Sea completely and not come back,” Lind said.

President Trump Struck the First Blow on Trade. The World Is Starting to Hit Back



The world is starting to hit back on Trump tariffs
The world is starting to hit back on Trump tariffs
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(WASHINGTON) — The United States attacked first, imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum from around the globe and threatening to hit tens of billions of dollars in Chinese products.

Now, the world is punching back.

The European Union is set Friday to slap tariffs on $3.4 billion in American products, from whiskey and motorcycles to peanuts and cranberries. India and Turkey have already targeted U.S. products, ranging from rice to autos to sunscreen.

And the highest-stakes fight still looms: In two weeks, the United States is to start taxing $34 billion in Chinese goods. Beijing has vowed to immediately retaliate with its own tariffs on U.S. soybeans and other farm products in a direct shot at President Donald Trump’s supporters in America’s heartland.

The tit-for-tat conflict between the United States and China — the world’s two largest economies — is poised to escalate from there. The rhetoric is already intensifying.

“We oppose the act of extreme pressure and blackmail by swinging the big stick of trade protectionism,” a spokesman for China’s Commerce Ministry said Thursday. “The U.S. is abusing the tariff methods and starting trade wars all around the world.”

Cecilia Malmstrom, the EU’s trade commissioner, acknowledged that the EU had targeted some iconic American imports for tariffs, like Harley-Davidson motorcycles and bourbon, to “make noise” and put pressure on U.S. leaders.

John Murphy, a senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, estimates that $75 billion in U.S. products will be subject to new foreign tariffs by the end of the first week of July.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” said Mary Lovely, a Syracuse University economist who studies international trade — at least not since countries tried to wall themselves off from foreign competition during the Great Depression.

Those personally in the line of fire are among the most concerned.

“It will be a disaster,” said Nagesh Balusu, manager of the Salt Whisky Bar and Dining Room in London who expects the European Union’s tariffs to add more than $7 to the price of a bottle of Jack Daniels, which is imported from Tennessee. “It’s going to hit customers, that’s for sure. How they’ll take it, we’ll have to wait and see.”

As painful as the brewing trade war could prove, many have seen it coming.

Trump ran for the presidency on a vow to topple seven decades of American policy that had favored ever-freer trade among nations. He charged that a succession of poorly negotiated accords — including the North American Free Trade Agreement and the pact that admitted China into the World Trade Organization — put American manufacturers at an unfair disadvantage and destroyed millions of U.S. factory jobs.

He pledged to impose tariffs on imports from countries that Trump said had exploited the United States. Late last month, Trump proceeded to infuriate U.S. allies — from the EU to Canada and Mexico by imposing tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum. The president justified the move by saying imported metals threatened America’s national security — a dubious justification that countries have used rarely because it can be so easily abused.

And he is threatening to impose another national security-based tariff on imports of cars, trucks and auto parts.

Trump has also started a trade fight with China over Beijing’s sharp-elbowed efforts to overtake U.S. technological dominance. China’s tactics range from forcing American companies to hand over technology in exchange for access to the Chinese market to outright cyber-theft.

The White House last week announced plans to slap 25 percent tariffs on 1,100 Chinese goods, worth $50 billion in imports. Trump would start July 6 by taxing $34 billion worth of products and later add tariffs on an additional $16 billion in goods.

The Chinese have said they will respond in kind. Trump said he would then retaliate against any counterpunch from Beijing by targeting an additional $200 billion in Chinese products, and then yet another $200 billion if China refused to back down. All told, the $450 billion in potential tariffs would cover nearly 90 percent of goods China sends to the United States.

The tariffs and threats have begun to take a toll. Steel and aluminum prices, for example, have shot up and supplies have become scarce.

“Steel pricing is usually relatively stable,” said Al Rheinnecker, CEO of American Piping Products in Chesterfield, Missouri, which distributes steel pipe to numerous industries. But “since April, you can quote something on Monday, and if the customer doesn’t buy it right away, you may have to raise the price on Thursday.”

So far, Rheinnecker has managed to pass along the higher costs to his customers. He’s not sure how long that will last.

The Commerce Department is allowing companies to request exemptions from the steel and aluminum tariffs — if they can show that the metals they need aren’t available from Americans producers. The department expected 4,500 requests. But it’s been overwhelmed by more than 20,000. This week, it said it has processed just 98 requests so far, approving 42 and denying 56.

The rising tensions and the chaos surrounding the steel and aluminum tariffs are starting to generate pushback on Capitol Hill. Senators this week grilled Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

“As you consider these tariffs, know that you are taxing American families, you are putting American jobs at risk, and you are destroying markets — both foreign and domestic — for American businesses of all types, sorts and sizes,” said Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

Economists and trade analysts worry that there may be no way out of an all-out trade war between the United States and its most vital trading partners.

“The president has been so belligerent that it becomes almost impossible for democratically elected leaders — or even a non-democratic leader like (Chinese president) Xi Jinping — to appear to kowtow and give in,” said Philip Levy, senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and a former White House trade adviser. “The president has made it very hard for other countries to give him what he wants.”


Opinion: Time to scrap the G7

The messy quarrel over the G7 communique serves nobody. So why not scrap these summits altogether? After all, the four-decade-old event is an anachronistic format anyway, says Felix Steiner.

2018 G7 summit in Canada (Reuters/L. Millis)

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron should take matters into their own hands and scrap G7 summits. And who could object to that? These annual gatherings, bringing together leaders of the world’s biggest economies, are a Franco-German invention. Germany’s former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing established the summit in the 1970s – so why would their elected successors not be entitled to disband the club?

Posing for the press

Doing away with the huge summit would not be a great loss for humanity. After all, what was originally conceived in 1975 as a gathering for casual and confidential talks on economic matters has transformed into an annual mega event. Today, summits are held in out of the way locations for fear of protesters, while the 1,000 journalists in attendance interpret leaders’ every gesture and facial expression live on the air.

Well aware of this media coverage, leaders pose for the press, doing what they can to impress voters at home. This year’s summit made it abundantly clear just how differently national audiences view what goes on at the summit.

Vaguely worded outcomes

Then there is the tradition of protracted negations over the exact phrasing of the final communique, leading to excessively vague wording–of a document that has no relevance for world affairs, whether or not all the leaders sign it. With the little allotted time, is it even possible to meaningfully debate and agree on how to tackle plastic waste contaminating the oceans, or how to promote women entrepreneurs in the developing world? Two important issues, without doubt. But is the G7 summit the right venue to address them? Maybe the United Nations would be more appropriate?

In 2007, leaders gathered at Heiligendamm to discuss climate change, even though for years the UN has held an annual climate change conference. With all the talk about the climate, everyone was taken by surprise when just eight weeks later the global financial crisis struck – economists would call that ignoring the bottom line.

Despite the label, the summit today does not actually bring together the world’s greatest economies. Instead of Italy and Canada, India and China should be attending the summits. That is why, following the onset of the financial crisis, the G20 was established to allow for economic consultations that include the world’s rapidly growing newly industrialized nations. That would have been the right moment for the G7 to disband. But rather than facing reality, members just kept believing in their own importance. And so, the group was simply redefined as a community bound by shared values. Which is just as ludicrous as calling NATO a community bound by shared values, given that the alliance never objected to Greek and Turkish dictators.

Multilateralism not in the cards anytime soon

Watch video00:21

Merkel: Trump’s G7 tweets ‘sobering and depressing’

NATO, just like the G7, is nothing more than a community bound by some – but not all – values. And the US, which is the most powerful member in both clubs, has now opted to alter its trade interests – with backing from American voters. Surveys show US President Donald Trump’s supporters appreciate his uncompromising stance. Meaning that a return to multilateralism is not in the cards any time soon, no matter how hopeful Europeans may be.

With agreements on economic matters now out of the question, the G7 has lost its main reason for existing. All other topics were little more than embellishments, after all. This does not mean trans-Atlantic ties have been severed. A multitude of other summits still exists. But Chancellor Merkel is certainly right that now more than ever, the EU must speak with one voice. It is an appeal Merkel herself will need to heed, as she knows just how much tensions her government’s course is creating within the bloc.


Donald Trump’s Call for Russia to Rejoin G-7 Jolts Start of Summit

Tensions among members, already high after public trade disputes, loom large in geopolitical talks

Clockwise from background center, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sits with President of France Emmanuel Macron, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Council Donald Tusk, British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and U.S. President Donald Trump as they take part in the Group of Seven industrialized nations summit in Canada, on June 8, 2018.
Clockwise from background center, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sits with President of France Emmanuel Macron, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Council Donald Tusk, British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and U.S. President Donald Trump as they take part in the Group of Seven industrialized nations summit in Canada, on June 8, 2018. PHOTO: SEAN KILPATRICK/ASSOCIATED PRESS

President Donald Trump’s suggestion to have Russia rejoin the Group of Seven industrialized nations and his recent imposition of metals tariffs on U.S. allies rattled the start of the G-7 summit, exposing fissures among the group’s members.

The summit is emerging as a test of whether the exclusive group of major industrialized economies can overcome growing tensions to focus on more common-ground issues such as bringing stability to the Korean Peninsula and the Middle East—including the complex question of the Iran nuclear accord.

An afternoon session on the economy and trade was predictable and inconclusive, and saw Mr. Trump pitted against the six other countries, according to a person familiar with the deliberations. There was strong disagreement among the leaders but no significant clash, the person said.

Mr. Trump’s surprising comment ahead of the summit for Russia to be allowed back into the G-7, four years after it was expelled over its annexation of Crimea, added to the uncertainty.

“Why are we having a meeting without Russia?” the president asked as he left the White House for the summit Friday. “We have a world to run…We should have Russia at the negotiating table.”

The comment added another wrinkle to a two-day gathering already rife with tension over U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum produced by its closest Western allies—and triggered sharply different responses from other G-7 members.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters Friday inviting Russia back is a nonstarter: “There are no grounds whatsoever for bringing Russia with its current behavior back into the G-7.” ​

Hot Button IssueTrade plays an increasingly important role in the global economy. And concerns about recent U.S. tariffs willlikely take center stage at the G-7 meeting.Trade as a share of GDP for G-7 countriesSource: World Bank

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said in an interview with Sky News the G-7 needed to be wary of Russian re-entry.

“Before discussions could begin on any of this, we would have to ensure Russia is amending its ways and taking a different route,” said Mrs. May.

Yet Italy’s new prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, backed Mr. Trump’s suggestion on Friday. “I agree with President Trump: Russia should re-enter the G-8. It’s in everyone’s interests,” he said on Twitter.

Moscow appeared indifferent in its initial response to Mr. Trump’s comment.

“We are concentrating on other formats” apart from the G-7, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to Russian state news agencies’ reports.

European Council President Donald Tusk said Friday that it was evident that Mr. Trump and the leaders of other G-7 countries continue to disagree on trade, climate change and the Iran nuclear deal.

“The rules-based international order is being challenged, quite surprisingly, not by the usual suspects, but by its main architect and guarantor, the U.S.,” he said during a briefing in the Quebec resort town of La Malbaie, where the G-7 summit is being held.

A Japanese official said Japan is in sync with the Europeans on trade and is trying to persuade the U.S. to rethink its tariffs, which the Trump administration imposed on national-security grounds.

G-7 leaders posed for the customary family photo during the summit Friday.
G-7 leaders posed for the customary family photo during the summit Friday. PHOTO: /AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Mr. Tusk said a priority is persuading the U.S. to strengthen the current format of the G-7 as a guarantor of the world order.

John Kirton, head of the University of Toronto’s G-7 research group, said it is for the best that Mr. Trump is at the table talking to America’s longstanding allies.

“It’s much better to talk to him face to face and ask him, ‘What’s on your mind? What do you want? Isn’t there a deal to be done?’” he said.

Related Video

How Will Allies Respond to Trump’s Tariffs?

Will President Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum for the EU and others cause U.S. allies to retaliate? The Wall Street Journal’s Gerald F. Seib explains. Photo: Getty

Tensions escalated between Mr. Trump and President Emmanuel Macron of France, who until now has been Mr. Trump’s closest ally in the European Union, on Thursday.

Mr. Macron said at a news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa on Thursday that the U.S.’s steel and aluminum tariffs against the European Union and Canada are pushing the six remaining nations of the G-7 to become a force of their own.

“Maybe Mr. Trump doesn’t mind that he’s being isolated,” Mr. Macron said, “but these six countries have shared values that represent an economic market of true international strength.”

Uneven RecoveryWhile most advanced economies have rebounded from the global economic crisis, some still lag.Change since 2007 in inflation-adjusted GDP among G-7 countriesSource: International Monetary FundNote: Germany’s 2016 data and all 2017 and 2018 data are estimates.

Mr. Trump fired back with a message on Twitter that said, “Please tell Prime Minister Trudeau and President Macron that they are charging the U.S. massive tariffs and create nonmonetary barriers. The EU trade surplus with the U.S. is $151 Billion, and Canada keeps our farmers and others out. Look forward to seeing them tomorrow.”

Eswar Prasad, senior professor of trade policy and economics at Cornell University, said Mr. Trump’s actions and words leading up to and at the G-7 meetings “punctuate his dismissive view of multilateralism.”

“It is remarkable to see the U.S. so isolated amidst a gathering of longstanding allies that have traditionally shared similar economic and political systems and a common set of values,” he said.

Statements from some leaders ahead of the G-7 gathering warned that blunt talk with Mr. Trump would be likely and that the seven countries might fail to agree to a summit-ending communiqué, which would buck tradition.

“We will see where we land,” Ms. Freeland said about plans to issue an agreed-upon communiqué.

A European official said officials are exploring a final statement that would list the countries’ different views, but a failure to agree on a common document is still possible.

Mr. Trump leaves Saturday around mid-morning, before the G-7 tackle issues surrounding climate change, and the protection of coastal communities. The other G-7 leaders will hold press conferences late Saturday afternoon.

This week, Germany showed signs of trying to dial down tensions. Germany is one of the world’s largest exporters, and its economy is highly dependent on trade.

On Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to increase Germany’s defense budget in a partial concession to the U.S., which has long objected to Germany’s relatively low military spending.

Mr. Trump had raised the pressure on Berlin in recent weeks by linking the issue to his attempt to rewrite the terms of the U.S.-Europe trade relationship.

Write to Kim Mackrael at, Paul Vieira at and Rebecca Ballhaus at


Tech’s Titans Tiptoe Toward Monopoly

Amazon, Facebook and Google may be repeating the history of steel, utility, rail and telegraph empires past—while Apple appears vulnerable

Today’s titans of industry. Photo illustration of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Alphabet’s Larry Page, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Apple’s Tim Cook. ILLUSTRATION BY SEAN MCCABE; BEZOS: ZUMA PRESS; PAGE, ZUCKERBERG, COOK: BLOOMBERG NEWS; SUITS: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

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  • Imagine a not-too-distant future in which trustbusters force Facebook FB 1.15%to sell off Instagram and WhatsApp. Imagine a time when Amazon’s cloud and delivery services are so dominant the company is broken up like AT&T . Imagine Google’s search or YouTube becoming regulated monopolies, like electricity and water.

    Facebook Inc., Google parent Alphabet Inc. GOOGL 3.18% and Inc.AMZN 0.73% are enjoying profit marginsmarket dominance and clout that, according to economists and historians, suggest they’re developing into a new category of monopolists. They may not yet be ripe for such extreme regulatory action, but as they consolidate control of their markets, negative consequences for innovation and competition are becoming evident.

    For example, some who study the past compare Amazon and Facebook to Standard Oil, for their similar quests to vanquish competitors and even their own suppliers through vertical integration.

    Google, Facebook and Amazon also bear resemblance to another monopolist of yore, the telegraph heavyweight Western Union , says Richard du Boff, emeritus professor of economic history at Bryn Mawr.

    “What [Western Union] was always engaged in was clearing the field, getting rid of anybody who was in their way, either by takeover or other means. The main motive, as I see it, was market domination.”

    Microsoft chairman Bill Gates was called to Congress in 1998 to discuss whether his company had a monopoly on the software business.
    Microsoft chairman Bill Gates was called to Congress in 1998 to discuss whether his company had a monopoly on the software business. PHOTO: JESSICA PERSSON/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

    Experts aren’t, however, lumping in Apple Inc. AAPL 1.80% with the new monopolists. Like Microsoft Corp. and Intel Corp. before it, Apple is considered more vulnerable to competitive disruption, despite the fact that it tops the tech world in revenue, profit and market capitalization.

    One way today’s monopolists are different from the robber barons of old is that they’re not exactly ​behaving like, for example, Andrew Carnegie, who turned armed guards on striking workers. And regulators don’t particularly care if a company is a monopoly unless it harms the public or hampers innovation. But on those counts, many argue we’re close. Take the way both Google and Facebook dominate the harvesting of user data, or Facebook’s ethically dubious decision to release vast quantities of personal information to developers.

    Facebook and Google

    The reason your electricity comes from a regulated monopoly is that building a grid is expensive, but pushing more electrons to new customers is not. One condition for judging monopolies is how difficult it is for upstarts to challenge them.

    Together, Google and Facebook take in 73% of U.S. digital advertising. It may not be something you think about often, but that success rests largely on the fact that both have spent so much money building data centers and filling them with hardware and software designed by an elite, in-demand set of engineers. In this way they resemble the telegraph giants, with investments in physical infrastructure so large no upstart could match them.

    They also benefit from something historically unprecedented: the ability to get users to subsidize them with enormous quantities of free labor. Their systems are fueled by personal information, but instead of them hunting for it, people willingly provide it.

    In addition, social media is a land grab, and Facebook is its most successful grabber, says Glen Weyl, a senior research scholar at Yale and a principal researcher at Microsoft Research, the company’s R&D lab. In basic function, it’s hardly changed in a decade, yet it’s made enough money to buy (Instagram, WhatsApp) or copy ( Twitter and Snapchat) its biggest competitors.

    There is preliminary evidence that the size of the digital advertising pie could grow faster than Google’s and Facebook’s share of it. Research company eMarketer projected in March that their combined share of the ad market will fall for the first time ever.

    “We face fierce competition as new technologies change the way people connect,” says a spokeswoman for Facebook. “Facebook is just one part of an ecosystem that includes dozens of messaging products, photo and video sharing apps, and many other services. Popularity does not equal dominance, and size is not a guarantee of future success.”


    Amazon, in its sprawl and ambition, illustrates what monopolies look like in their early days, says Kim Wang, an assistant professor of strategy and international business at Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School. Amazon seems determined to translate its dominance in cloud computing and online retail into dominance in physical retail, delivery of goods, voice-based computing and a half dozen other industries.

    Amazon already accounts for 44% of U.S. e-commerce sales, and is showing rapid growth in categories where it previously foundered, like luxury goods and food. It’s convinced former competitors to get on board as partners, is vertically integrating everything from ordering to delivery—and could someday add manufacturing to the mix.

    If Amazon’s rapid growth continues across all these lines of business, it’s hard to imagine it not eventually becoming a target for breakup.

    Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s chief of worldwide consumer business, has said that in all the businesses it is in, Amazon has “incredible competition.”

    “In world-wide retail, we’re less than 1%,” he recently told the Journal. “I don’t think any one of these areas is a football game where there’s only one winner.”


    While Apple may be hoovering up the lion’s share of the mobile industry’s profits, the company is hardly a monopoly by measure of overall market share, say experts.

    A “network effect” is when a product becomes more useful as more and more people use it—be it a fax machine or Facebook. For Apple, the size of its customer base attracts developers who in turn make the iPhone and iPad more valuable.

    Apple iPhone X samples are displayed during a product launch event in Cupertino, Calif., last year.
    Apple iPhone X samples are displayed during a product launch event in Cupertino, Calif., last year. PHOTO: STEPHEN LAM/REUTERS

    Microsoft once had a platform with similar dominance, and it was thought that the network effects of its large customer base and attractiveness to developers would help it stay dominant, says Catherine Tucker, a professor of management and marketing at MIT Sloan School of Management.

    But we’ve got network effects all wrong, argues Dr. Tucker, and we failed to realize that they’re just as likely to empower upstarts to disrupt incumbents like Microsoft. Network effects helped smartphones like the iPhone quickly gain popularity, which marginalized Microsoft’s Office and Windows platforms.

    Even Apple’s own iTunes takeover of the music industry proved to be a passing trend, as Spotify and other streaming services moved in.

    Early Days

    Not everyone agrees that Facebook, Google or Amazon, as powerful as they are now, will need to be reined in.

    “Today’s Amazon is tomorrow’s Macy’s , ” says Dr. Wang. “Very few companies will be able to position themselves for the new, next technology every time.” The technology that gives firms an edge eventually comes within reach of their competitors, she says.

    In every monopoly-dominated industry in history, whether it was oil, railroads, steel or utilities, even the most avaricious competitors took decades to consolidate their hold on markets. Even at today’s faster pace, it’s probably still early days for tech giants.

    “Companies go one of two ways—some are in areas where declining returns to scale set in and they get tamed by market processes,” says Dr. Weyl. “And other companies get tamed by getting turned into a public utility. And until they are, they reap extortionate profits.”

    Write to Christopher Mims at


    China’s failing satellite is just one example of a massive space debris problem

     March 29 at 11:36 AM 
    Chinese satellite will soon come crashing down into Earth

    The Tiangong-1 satellite is expected to reenter Earth’s atmosphere uncontrolled around April 1. This is what it would look like. 

    BERLIN — If you want to catch a last glimpse of Chinese satellite Tiangong-1, you better hurry. Circling the Earth at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour every 90 minutes, the 19,000-pound satellite will probably have vanished by the end of this weekend, to reappear as a fireball for up to a minute or more somewhere over the skies of southern Europe — or perhaps somewhere else.

    While nobody can be certain where exactly the disintegrating satellite may literally fall from the sky — with pieces weighing up to 220 pounds expected to hit Earth’s surface — the satellite’s fate has long been sealed. Even if you miss this one, scientists say there’s plenty more to come in the junk-strewn skies of our planet’s near orbit.

    The first warning signs for the Chinese station came in 2016 when it failed to respond to commands by its operators. Tiangong-1, which translates as “heavenly palace,” would eventually, according to my colleagues, turn “into a man-made” meteor.

    In its latest estimate, the European Space Agency (ESA) predicts the satellite pieces will probably hit Earth “from midday on 31 March to the early afternoon of 1 April (in UTC time).” UTC is ahead of Eastern Time by four hours. The estimate will continue to be updated by ESA over the next days.

    While the threat of the debris hitting a human is extremely small, the drama that could unfold over Europe’s skies this weekend may be only be a first glimpse into a problem that will worsen over the next decades, according to some bleak predictions.

    The European Space Agency estimates that there are now more than 170 million pieces of space debris in circulation, though only 29,000 of those are larger than about four inches. While the smaller space debris objects may not pose a threat to Earth because they would disintegrate before reaching the surface, “any of these objects can cause harm to an operational spacecraft. For example, a collision with a (four-inch) object would entail a catastrophic fragmentation of a typical satellite,” according to the European Space Agency. Smaller pieces could still destroy spacecraft systems or penetrate shields, possibly making bigger satellites such as Tiangong-1 unresponsive and turning them into massive pieces of debris themselves.

    Since the first satellites were launched in the mid-20th century, Earth’s orbit has long been treated by nations as a waste site nobody felt responsible for. Spent rockets or old satellites now mingle with other pieces of trash left behind by human space programs. All of those pieces zoom around faster than speeding bullets.

    Watch man-made objects journey from the outer solar system back to Earth

    Journey from our solar system to Earth and explore the man-made objects along the way.

    And while the international community is gradually becoming more aware of the challenges this poses, much of the damage is already done.

    Speaking at a conference in 2011, Gen. William Shelton, a commander with the U.S. Air Force Space Command, predicted much of the orbit around Earth “may be a pretty tough neighborhood … in the not too distant future,” according to the astronomy news website The U.S. military and NASA are both in charge of perhaps the most elaborate scheme to track objects bigger than four inches to predict their flight paths and move active equipment out of the way.

    The problem, Shelton indicated at the time, is that there’s already enough debris in space to cause an exponential rise in the number of circulating pieces. The more pieces there are, the higher the likelihood that they will eventually collide, creating even more smaller objects that can still be dangerous to other satellites or space labs.

    On Earth, ecosystems can sometimes fix themselves to some extent, even if it takes decades or hundreds of years. But in space, the problem of debris will only get worse.

    One proposed solution would be to persuade nations to limit their debris and to prevent a repeat of past mistakes. China, for example, is estimated to have produced up to 25 percent of today’s objects in circulation during an antisatellite test in 2007 in the low Earth orbit.

    On these NASA graphics, you can see why the international community was outraged when China added to that zone’s debris density. Congestion isn’t spread evenly around Earth: While there are some scattered pieces farther away, there is a concentration of objects within the so-called geosynchronous region, at about 22,235 miles altitude.

    This computer graphic provides a view of the object population in the geosynchronous region. (NASA)

    But the highest density of objects can be found in low Earth orbit — within 1,240 miles of our planet — which is the area China targeted in its test. That’s also where most satellites can be found.

    This computer graphic shows objects in low Earth orbit being tracked. (NASA)

    China has continued its military missile tests since 2007, although it has refrained from destroying another satellite in orbit. Observers still fear that other nations may launch their own antisatellite programs, provoking a sort of arms race in space.

    With more than 50 nations now operating their own space programs, initiatives to limit the release of space debris have hardly become any easier. Some technological advances have had a limited impact — for instance by making spent rocket boosters fall back to Earth quicker than in the past. (Following that rationale, one could argue that this weekend’s satellite crash may in fact help to decongest the orbit.) Meanwhile, other nations, such as Britain and Switzerland, have experimented with schemes to clean up the mess by collecting the debris in circulation. But the proposed programs are costly and inefficient, legal challenges aside.

    “There are no salvage laws in space. Even if we had the political will to [salvage junk], which I don’t think we do, we couldn’t bring down the big pieces because we don’t own them,” Joan Johnson-Freese, a Naval War College professor, told The Washington Post in 2014.

    That’s why some academics are arguing that the lower orbit might soon be lost altogether. Instead, they believe, scientists should develop smaller satellites that can circulate closer to Earth — and in a safe distance from a part of the orbit that may eventually become a satellite kill zone.

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