Today’s Wall Street Journal had an article about Facebook, in which they promise to change the way the serve advertising in order to defeat ad blockers. This quote, from an FB spokesperson was choice:
“Facebook is ad-supported. Ads are a part of the Facebook experience; they’re not a tack on”
I’ll admit, I use an ad block a lot of the time. It’s not that I’m anti ads totally, but I am definitely utter trash, garbage, useless ads that suck of compute and network resources, cause the page to load much more slowly, and often enough, include malware and tracking. The problem is most acute on the mobile devices, where bandwidth, CPU power, and pixels are all in short supply, and yet it’s harder to block ads there. In fact, you really can’t do it without rooting your phone or doing all your browsing through a proxy.
The ad-supported Internet is just The Worst. I know, I know, I’ve had plenty of people explain to me that that ship has sailed, but I can still hate our ad-supported present and future.
- Today’s ads suck, and they seem to be getting worse. Based on trends in the per ad revenue, it appears that most of the world agrees with this. They are less and less valuable.
- Ads create perverse incentives for content creators. Their customer is the advertising client, and the reader is the product. In a pay for service model, you are the customer.
- Ads are an attack vector for malware.
- Ads use resources on your computer. Sure, the pay the content provider, but the cpu cycles on your computer are stolen.
I’m sure I could come up with 50 sucky things about Internet advertising, but I think it’s overdetermined. What is good about it is that it provides a way for content generators to make money, and so far, nothing else has worked.
The sad situation is that people do not want to pay for the Internet. We shell out $50 or more each month for access to the Internet, but nobody wants to pay for the Internet itself. Why not? The corrosive effect of an ad-driven Internet is so ubiquitous that people cannot even see it anymore. Because we don’t “pay” for anything on the Internet, everything loses its value. Journalism? Gone. Music? I have 30k songs (29.5k about which I do not care one whit) on my iThing.
Here is a prescription for a better Internet:
- Paywall every goddam thing
- Create non-profit syndicates that exist to attract member websites and collect subscription revenue on their behalf, distributing it according to clicks, or views, or whatever, at minimal cost.
- Kneecap all the rentier Internet businesses like Google and Facebook. They’re not very innovative and there is no justification for their outsized profits and “revenue requirements.” There is a solid case for economic regulation of Internet businesses with strong network effects. Do it.
I know this post is haphazard and touches on a bunch of unrelated ideas. If there is one idea I’d like to convey is: let’s get over our addiction to free stuff. It ain’t free.