For a while there, the Internet and the World Wide Web showed great promise. They whispered sweet nothings in our ears, promising to be the voice of the marginalized, the new democracy, the great equalizer. decentralized finance news
But it wasn’t to be, for the Internet has a new master. No, it’s not Google. No, it’s not Microsoft. And no, it’s not even good ole’ Uncle Sam. They’re just caretakers. The Internet’s new master is bigger than they’ll ever be, and far, far older.
Meet the master
The Internet’s new master is the same master who holds the leash of all traditional commercial media.
The Internet’s new master is money and power. Not the capacity to earn money or the capacity to increase power (although those are certainly nice fringe-benefits). No, the Internet’s new master is the moneyed, powerful collective. Those who simultaneously mould and reflect ‘mainstream’ opinion, values, and behavior.
I suppose we should have foreseen it, given the Internet’s military birthplace. But then, we were young and optimistic, and boy did we want to believe!
A little melodramatic? Perhaps. But fairly accurate nonetheless. Let me explain…
The early promise of equity
The Internet started out as a network of computers set up for military purposes. To cut a long story short, the World Wide Web started out simply because it could; the Internet was there to host it, and the technology was there to deliver it. Both were heralded as the new face of democracy – at long last, the voiceless had a voice.
Of course, even in those heady days, we all recognized some fundamental practical and technological limitations which really threw a spanner in the works for the ‘New World Orderless’ theory. To begin with, the great majority of the world’s population didn’t even have access to a computer, much less own one with Internet access. In fact, that was still the case even after the new master took the reins (and probably still is).
But we had faith in the Internet’s potential. I even wrote a paper in the mid 90s discussing the Internet’s promise for empowerment, and I quote:
“Being such a decentralized, anonymous form of communication, the Internet offers great opportunities to the world’s oppressed – improved (anonymous if desired) communications capabilities, and better access to more sources of local and international news, to name just a couple. At the same time, the Internet poses great threats to the world’s existing media and political powers, not only because of the re-distribution of information (and, therefore, power) to the populace, but also because of the apparent impracticality (impossibility?) of regulating the information flowing in and out of any country.”
Alas, I did not see the Internet’s true potential for censorship and control… Content.
He who wields content is king
We often hear that “content is king”. The logic of the argument is as follows. For some time now, the lion’s share (some 80%) of Internet traffic to the average website has been coming from the major search engines. What’s more, when people use search engines, they rarely look past the second page of search results. Additionally, research suggests that being number 1 in Google equates to twice as much traffic as being number 2. This means you need to rank in the first two pages of the major search engines – ideally at number 1 – before your voice begins to be heard. The only way to reach the top of the search engines is to have thousands of links back to your website from other websites. There are two ‘reliable’ ways of achieving this goal: