The Internet & Capitalism:

How the Internet Became Profitable

Capitalism is when businesses prioritize profit and potential for profit over all other factors involved in an endeavor. It is a profit first - everything else second mentality.

The internet is a virtual space that connects everyone with access to it. As of late, it has become prioritized as a tool for making money.

The 'old web' we affectionately refer to is a web that didn't put profit first - because no one had figured out how to yet. When the internet first came into popular use, the biggest businesses hadn't yet found a significant way to capitalize on it.

The term gentrification is often used to describe a low income area being changed by improving housing, attracting new businesses and typically displacing current inhabitants in the process.

Let's take a look at some of the most basic differences that have changed which can be traced

The 'old web' had handcrafted websites, made by people, for people. This was made possible by the accessibility and availability of free static site hosting, such as Geocities, Tripod and Angelfire.

Nowadays, Geocities is defunct, Tripod has removed their free tier and Angelfire has disabled free account sign-ups.

Web apps became profitable over static sites

"Static sites" have over time become old-fashioned in lieu of dynamic sites known as Web Apps, which usually require some type of programming knowledge to build from scratch. Even if you build a site from scratch, without your own physical server you'll need to pay for a server hosting plan, usually charged on a yearly basis.

If you can't build from scratch, then you have an option to use a popular CMS like Wordpress - but then you must foot the server/hosting costs, and purchase a domain. Hosting costs are monthly but are traditionally only available when purchased for a year at a time. Further, many Wordpress plugins that offer improved functionality are paid or have a monthly or yearly subscription. Having a web app makes it possible to make your website into anything from a social media network to an online storefront.

Many affordable dynamic site hosts 'divide' a virtual server between many users in order to host as many people - and make as much money - as possible. This results in poor performance and overall site slowness. From the host's perspective, it is vastly more profitable to create this kind of server, rather than offering an option for static site hosting.

Needing to put so much money toward a simple server and/or hosting platform increases the need for a profitable website, because the website takes money to keep up. When you stop paying for a hosting plan, your website vanishes into the ether.

The popularity (and pressure) of web apps leads to the misconception that it's the only kind of website worth making. Static site host Neocities proved this wrong, though, with over 378k websites on their platform.

Advertising revenue

Websites that make a profit but don't offer any paid services usually depend on advertising revenue. Facebook made $650 million in 2009 ad revenue. In 2020, they made $84 billion which is a 130x more.

Spending time on any popular social media network is like a trip to a customized-version of Times Square or Vegas. Flashy, targeted ads are inescapable, interspersed between posts in hopes of a click.

Without getting into too much detail, ad revenue over the years morphed from a billboard-like display that was the same to all, to a targeted experience. Sites do this by gathering data on who is visiting their site and then using that information to sell specialized advertising slots.

Because of these changes, social media prioritizes collecting data they can sell to advertisers - everything comes second, which includes everything from site design to overall flow of use. All of these elements are designed for advertising first and people second.

The rise of for-profit websites

You might have seen the claim that anyone can create a website and profit off of it - although, that's like saying "anyone can start their own business, it's easy!" Yes, anyone can, but doing so requires certain resources that one may not have access to and it is certainly not easy. That doesn't stop many 'gurus' from offering paid courses on how to start your own profitable website, and flaunting how easy and simple it is for anyone to do.

In fact, it takes no actual experience or expertise to call oneself a 'guru' on the internet, regardless of what kind of information they are distributing.

As a result of the popularity of such a claim, the market has become saturated with hopeful developers looking to fill the latest niche with their website.

Capitalism has a way of ruining things. Why create a website that generates no profit when you could create one which generates profit? We are tricked into thinking that taking part in things which don't turn a profit is a waste of time. But is that really true?

Done with Capitalist internet? Forge a new one...

Before the internet gave in to the for-profit craze it was just another fun and creative activity, like creating a website just because you want to and focusing it however you like.

How you can participate
  • Learn & teach others how to surf the web.
  • Stop or reduce activity on modern social media (especially Twitter, Facebook and Instagram).
    • Convince your friends to do the same!
  • Speak out on social media about the harms of using those platforms & promote alternatives.
  • Speak out about why the structure of social media & SEO is ruining the internet.
  • Create your own space on the web.
    • Convince your friends to do the same!
  • Socialize with & collaborate with other webmasters & artists.
  • Write your own manifesto.

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