This is a response to a recent article: "How do we fix the Internet?"
I think there’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what made the internet great to begin with. The author starts with the central conceit, which powers the rest of his arguments:
Nothing is free. People need to be willing to pay for what they consume.
There’s a concept I like to refer to called “not even wrong.” It’s when someone has so completely mis-identified the root cause of the problem, that their argument actually makes no sense. They’re wrong, but they probably don’t even understand why they’re wrong.
The very thing that made the internet great was the free-ness of it.
The internet was democratizing. It equalized all of us. No matter how rich, how poor, what country you were in, your politics, the politics of your leaders, business pressures, economic woes, civil and social instability – the internet was there, outside of their touch, and we could spread information. No longer did you need to live near a university library, you could read it online. Someone in the middle of the Gobi desert can look up information on how to treat a snake bite. A young kid can get fascinated with telephone tones and just tell people about it. That’s what made the internet great.
And now, the author is claiming that this democratization is bad.
No, the problem is the same thing it’s always been: corporate greed. There was a lot of money to be made on the internet, and make it we have. How many billionaires has the internet created? Hundreds? How many mega-millionaires? How many regular millionaires? How many folks have been displaced from tech hubs with the sky-high salaries of software developers?
The problem is the same thing it’s always been: corporate greed.
Nearly everything we do online now is part of some advertising campaign, or helping people analyze advertising, or helping people monitor their advertising, or helping people plan their marketing spend, etc.
There’s a vanishingly small number of developers who are paid to do things that don’t directly correlate to a revenue stream .
And yet, GitHub is littered with hundreds upon thousands of man-hours of code. People want to create. They want to share. Even if they don't make money, there's an artistic aspect to this where financial concerns come second.
The only thing that the author’s presumed solution would provide is the walled-garden experience of old ISPs. Few of the devs out there remember the days of AOL, or Compuserv, or Prodigy. They don’t remember how hard it was to get “the real internet” and not curated advertising-masking-as-content. AOL made a business out of selling keywords – “search aol keyword holiday sale” the ads would say.
The trouble is, the cat is out of the bag.
The revenue streams, now that they exist, will be protected at all costs.
That’s what’s ruining the internet now: everybody trying to protect their revenue streams.