The web is a glorified marketing platform, sure, but do we want it to be?

I certainly don’t — even if engaging in this kind of thing made me a lot of money (it doesn’t, and won’t, because marketing is a race to the bottom and supplying free services as a loss-leader for projected sales of products users will never buy is not a sustainable business strategy), I would not engage in it.

A site that doesn’t provide something useful for its end users doesn’t need to exist and should not exist, even if it makes money for its owner. A feature that is not useful for end users does not need to exist and should not exist, even if it enables the developer to extract capital more efficiently. The fact that most of this money is essentially hypothetical anyway — based on fantastical projected earnings from unsustainable practices (advertising among them) — makes the entire project much more dubious.

If you’re not getting visitors at a rate comparable to Boing Boing, you aren’t making money from advertising (you’re just handing ad money to Google in escrow, which you will never be allowed to extract), so you will never benefit from practices that were standardized based on an ad-based revenue model. You will therefore be not only better-liked by users but actually more financially successful if you pursue an alternative means of extracting capital. (For instance, diving for change in other people’s sofas.)

Written by

Resident hypertext crank. Author of Big and Small Computing: Trajectories for the Future of Software. http://www.lord-enki.net

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