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GEORGE: Saving the Internet from becoming the trinet

Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Chris George
November 21, 2017 - 12:07 PM

 


OPINION


The Internet is vast. The number of websites and users continue to increase year after year. The diversity of content is astonishing. The triumph of the computer network over the telephone, the fax machine, the newspaper, the television station, and even the movie theater is inevitable.

Advertising powers it all, of course. From Google and Facebook mining our every thought for business intelligence to the thousands of companies selling clicks, likes, and e-mail addresses, the drive to move product pays for electricity, bandwidth, and server space.

It wasn't so long ago that content providers (writers, photographers, animators, musicians, filmmakers etc.) struggled to make a dollar, even as their jobs in the old media were being vaporized. Many schemes were tried, but in the end it was advertising that stepped in to pay the bills and help them keep food on the table.

It has been interesting to watch the traditional media struggle to get their content online. As ad blockers have now become de rigueur for most web surfers, online advertising has faced some challenges. Some content providers have sought subscriptions to keep the lights on and the words and images flowing. But most still rely on advertising.

Two stories caught my eye recently. The first was an excellent piece by André Staltz who sees the current iteration of the Internet dying off due to domination by Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Their control over information, social, and ecommerce respectively is positioning them to become the dominant and soon only players in the game.

What Staltz calls the "Trinet" could potentially eliminate the ideas of independence and privacy that the Internet was founded on, along with the millions of small websites that currently host in places that aren't "in the cloud" or on Facebook Pages. The two-tier Internet he foresees is already on its way to becoming a reality.

The advertising industry that currently pays the bills would find itself squeezed by the giants who can deliver the eyeballs. If people aren't visiting the websites where the advertising is hosted, there won't be any revenue. And that would be the end of many fine websites and good content and a loss to us, those seeking both.

But what if independent content producers could support their efforts without advertising?

Enter the hackers, the subjects of the second article. They have found a way to use "spare" processor cycles on people's computers to generate Bitcoin and are currently surreptitiously stealing this capability from unsuspecting users. This can cause computers to bog down and it uses electricity as well, costing people money.

This capability could be re-purposed to legitimate ends. Subscriptions could be sold to people in exchange for the right to use that person's processor for a predetermined amount of time. Or websites could simply require people to surrender a small slice of CPU power while they are perusing the content.

Today sites make money by getting us to click on headlines, tomorrow they could make money informing and entertaining us with solid content instead. Sounds like a win win to me.

It would be good for the user, as most people don't come anywhere near to using all of their processor cycles surfing the web. It is simple to test processor capability and to scale the use of it to match. And it would spur content providers to create engaging media in order to not only get people to visit their site, but to potentially stick around for a while.

Using Bitcoin generation would also solve the micro payment problem. When content providers were searching for revenue alternatives, micro payments were touted as being a possibility. The major issue was that the cost of processing the payments was often higher than the payments themselves. Collecting a couple of cents worth of processor time from each visitor would solve that.

Would advertising free content be enough to forestall the domination of the big three? Probably not. But it could slow it. Much depends on how many people would be willing to pay a premium for full access to the entire Internet, rather than live entirely within the walled garden. And if they do pay up front, would they then be willing to pay again for the content, even if it was zero hassle, low cost Bitcoin mining?

Mining money using people's processor cycles could provide a way for people to pay for content that is very much a one to one transaction. The big three will still dominate in the end, but Bitcoin could be disruptive to their business models tomorrow and give the rest of us the time to get ready for what comes next.

Thank the hackers for pointing the way.

— Chris George believes one measure of a just society is found in how well it balances fiscally conservative economics with social responsibility and environmental soundness in all of its living arrangements.


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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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