The Looming Collapse Of The Ad-based Internet
In this week’s issue, we’re doing things a little bit differently. We’ve been talking a lot about the future, how it might look and how it might be built. In a new article for OneZero, I explore those questions in relation to the future of the web.
The initial idea for the article came from reading Tim Hwang’s Subprime Attention Crisis: Advertising and the Time Bomb at the Heart of the Internet. He describes how through a combination of financialization and a lack of transparency, digital ad markets have become inflated, creating an ad bubble that could have huge consequences for the future of the internet if it were to burst.
That naturally got me thinking about what the internet could look like in such a situation, and in the article I explore three potential futures: one where monopolization gets worse, another where the tech giants are broken up to make way for a lot more competition, and a final one that involves more public ownership and worker control.
Whether or not this ad bubble bursts in the near future, I hope the piece can help people to imagine alternate ways the internet could be constructed to get different outcomes. I think it’s obvious which future I’m rooting for.
From the perspective of an internet user who is desperately trying to ignore, avoid or block this constant deluge of ads — ads that have to get increasingly intrusive in order to force us to pay attention to them — the power of the online advertising industry might appear unstoppable. Yet the digital ad market is a lot more vulnerable than it seems.
Advertising has played an integral role in shaping the internet as we experience it today, as it provided an easy and obvious way for services and websites to generate revenue. Web developers, website editors and online business owners simply had to pop a few ad boxes onto their sites, and they were making money.
But behind those ads is a vast infrastructure designed to track, target and serve them, all paired with increasingly complex markets whose lack of transparency makes them ripe for speculation. A growing number of experts and analysts believe that these inherent flaws are creating a financial bubble that, when it bursts, could fundamentally reshape the internet as we know it.
The big question is: What kind of web would emerge on the other side?
Read the full article on OneZero.
Perspectives from around the world
Eric Wickham, co-host of Big Shiny Takes, argues there should be a Posmedia Sunshine List since it receives public subsidies.
Sara Mojtehedzadeh, a reporter at the Toronto Star, covers the launch of RaidFairTO, a new group trying to get Toronto to regulate ride-hailing companies.
Abdul Malik, an Edmonton-based writer and filmmaker, argues that Remembrance Day is too often actually about forgetting the real history of Canadian war and militarism.
Grace Blakeley, a staff writer at Tribune, explains how centrists have declared war on the left in the United and the United Kingdom.
On Tech Won’t Save Us, I spoke to fellow Canadian(-American) Daniel Joseph about how video games have been shaped by capitalism and where the industry is going next as the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X are released.