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This is for everyone who thinks the web is broken and wants a new web.

commentarytechnologytype-text
August 2, 2019

The web is dysfunctional. Free + funded-by-ads distorts incentives, news, politics, & business. It rewards hate with attention. Content is not paid for by the people who consume it. It wasn't intentionally designed this way, but it evolved into its current incarnation because organisms evolve.

The web isn’t just a bunch of sites and apps, it's an ecosystem that is defined more by what’s on it (“the content”) & the business model for that content than the sites. Since the business model directly impacts what everyone sees, it is also more than just how to make money.

That business model, which “free” services utilize, is the root problem of the web. Value is assigned by advertisers (often not even directly) and there is no monetary cost to consume. The model does not reward quality, it rewards addictiveness & shock, and is not sustainable.

Because accessing most networks is free, there are no barriers for hate, threats, abuse, & misinformation. Worse, since viral posts increase the profit for networks, sensational content that people would not pay for gets amplified & often legitimized, as algorithms drive audiences.

And you don't like networks capturing personal information? Too bad, that helps them target ads to make them more effective & profitable (if you're reading this thread, there's a good chance it's not because you follow us).

To compound the problem of the networks' “free” model, they distribute professional content (i.e., stuff people are paid to create) for free, with the only compensation being a share of minuscule ad revenue. Cheap ad revenue is good for networks because it >> than the cost of distribution, but it's bad for publishers because it's << the cost of production.

The free model was adopted because there was no way to charge very small amounts of money – you could not quickly and efficiently charge one cent, let alone less than that, for a digital product on the web. But ads were a good way to get fractions of a cent in exchange for a micro-service.

The reach of the internet & advances in computers & software continued over the next two decades, enabling the web to evolve so that profits from ads are maximized, with the costs (and damage) of ad gaming externalized onto other segments of society.

It's not a stretch to suggest that the free/ad model is a major contributor to the dysfunction of the web, nor that maybe the dependence on that model should be reduced.

If people must pay for content, even small amounts, the hate, threats, abuse, and misinformation won't generate much revenue. And those who create and publish content have the power to change the web, but they have to insist on/try a new business model.

It's easy to dismiss a new model that challenges the existing system, but the incumbent system is dysfunctional, and dysfunctional systems don't fix themselves, so a new model, maybe even a counterintuitive (where consumers will pay) one, is needed.

If you want a better web, complaining & hoping & waiting for it to show up isn't going to work. If you create the content, you're the web. You have power. How you sell the content shapes the web, & maybe relying on ad clicks from 3rd parties with unaligned incentives isn't the best way because it has undesirable side effects.

If you complain about the web's problems, but continue to support the web as it is constructed, you're just whining. Whining about the impact of Facebook while still generating profits for Facebook reinforces their commitment to the status quo, or worse, more of the same.

Web giants don't care about complaints, they care about profits. They don't care about their impact on individual lives or the nation, they care about profits. They'll let you complain all day long, until your actions reduce their profits.

And don't expect the government to fix this. They don't understand it well enough, and they would just let lobbyists for special interests (not the interests of the nation) write the legislation. Which would not fix anything.

We're moved beyond complaining about the dysfunctional and distorting web. We've built a payment system that enables a new business model for the web, and two new networks that use this model to empower creators and publishers.

The business model changes the dynamic between creators and consumers. It's just a tool, though, that allows those who comprise the web to change it. Now it's time for others to do more than complain. Here is what we've been working on to change the web:

Because we knew publishers and creators were afraid to change their business model, we built Postd, a network that lets them try offering videos, podcasts, music & even articles w/o ads, but where customers pay for them

Subscriptions are great, but some bundles are just too big/expensive for many people, so we also created Notd, where inexpensive subscriptions can be offered for smaller collections than typical websites.

We hope you'll at least check out how this new web can work, and let us know what you think, either here or directly at Transact, Postd, or Notd.