Facebook is owned by Google

They are known as the terrible five. What sounds like a gang of western crooks is actually a group of more or less law abiding, more or less tax-paying companies. They are called Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft. Pretty much everyone uses one of their products, and together they have a few trillion dollars in market power. This can make you feel scared.

For reasons like these, tech journalist Kashmir Hill decided in the past few weeks to go without their services for a month. This should be made possible by an individualized virtual private network that blocks all IP addresses owned by the corporations. In the end, there were more than 23 million on Amazon alone. Over the course of a week, Hills devices and programs attempted to access the company's servers more than 300,000 times.

Digital abstinence used to be easier

Such abstinence experiments are certainly not new. A few years ago there was a whole series of books whose authors had lived without the Internet for weeks or months and wrote about them (and then were invited to talk shows). Back then, however, the network was not, as it is today, an overlapping fourth dimension, but rather a sphere that ran parallel to real life, and the asceticism was accordingly unspectacular. A little missed networking, a little loss of comfort, but less social pressure and self-made stress.

So what's the point of Hill's experiment? Is it just a matter of making visible the power structures and dependencies that most users have so far only felt? There are enough reasons for a boycott: the corporations' hunger for data, their windy business, the corrosion of the political public that they have at least contributed to. Hill's question is a different one. Namely not whether a life without a network is even possible, but whether it can be used meaningfully without the big five.

Actually, it shouldn't be too difficult to continue to live as before despite the blockade. Alternative search engines, shopping portals, e-mail service providers, even navigation software and social networks are plentiful. It is more difficult to find a smartphone that does not run with software from Apple or Google. Sometimes the alternatives are just as commercial and data-hungry as the offers of the monopolists, sometimes operated by idealists who dream of a different, better network. What these offers have in common is that hardly anyone uses them.

Failure out of convenience

It's not just the main portals that need to be avoided. But rather the invisible strands with which the tech companies have long been intertwined with the substance of the Internet. Even those who read this text online will be tracked by Facebook using social buttons, even if they are not currently logged in.

Same goes for Google. At Amazon, on the other hand, it is not the 24-hour delivery service that is lacking most; the servers and computing power of the subsidiary AWS are missing, which virtually ensure that a large number of websites and services are even online. The list of customers reads like a who's who of the leading indices and market leaders. If you do without Amazon, so the lesson, you do not only do without the Internet, but also with the world. For working First World residents, such a boycott takes on such proportions that any form of analogous asceticism such as half-baked therapeutic fasting works against.

At the end of the test phase, Hill admitted her failure for the time being. Not only because from a technical point of view, trying it is next to impossible. But also and above all because it is too comfortable to forego all the advantages that life under the thumb of the terrible five grants it.