The problem is, making a decent user interface is hard. It takes a lot of work by teams of real people. It isn't just a failing of the individual programmers behind the ancient tools, because expecting one person to have all the different skills is unfair. The private companies were able to take over all these areas because they invested the effort and money into making a tool that was easy to use. And in most cases, I can't say I blame them.

Before friendly tools like Dropbox came long, people didn't just share files with FTP; they just didn't do it at all. Most people didn't use IRC before Slack. These companies didn't just steal customers from the free alternative, they brought new customers in who would never have been in the market. The improved user interfaces made it possible for lots of people to do things they couldn't before. And that's a good thing.

I do understand the worry at letting private companies lock us into proprietary walled gardens - especially Facebook, which seems determined to take over the world. I do wish these markets could be opened up. But you can't blame the companies for making something better and succeeding.

There are examples of companies adding a better user interface to old tools. Google Mail, for example, was revolutionary when it was new. A smooth, easy-to-use web email system with more capacity than you could ever need! And email is still going strong, despite all the alternatives that have popped up, and remains interoperable between all the different providers. It is possible to work with open standards rather than against them.