DOOMPosted: June 15, 2008
Valerie D’Orazio, of Occasional Superheroine, has written, perhaps, the most pessimistic piece I have yet read about the future of our beloved internets. Her argument is essentially the days of a “free” internet culture are setting and a new “pay-for-service” culture is likely to emerge for its ashes.
I think the day they completely crack down on the illegal downloading and stop making these social media sites and online newspapers/etc. free, the day they make you pay for Internet access the way you do for cable and make it a federal crime to download unauthorized material — people are going to f**king riot. Literally.
And then several days after that, we are going to settle into our daily routines and pay the fees. Sure, a permanent underground of “geek” rebels will be formed, handing out flyers at public meeting places and throwing pies at Bill Gates. Perhaps the Rebellion will be far more real and serious than that.
I think D’Orazio undersells the blacklash that is likely to emerge if or when most internet services switch over to a “pay for use” system. I believe that there are tons of people who “causally” use online services, from MySpace to Facebook to Google, because they are convient and free. When they stop being so most of the causal users will simply stop using the services. I could live a happy life without Facebook or Twitter (as much as I appreciate them). I certainly am not alone in this.
I think hiding various services behind a “pay-wall” would be mistakes for the various cooperate entries and individuals trying to milk a dime or two out of the internet. A better model would be a “micro-payment” system of sorts where users can pay for advanced content and features. The causal user would get the basic features for free while a heavy user of a service would have to pay for advanced features (more upload space, customization options, etc.).
Something along these lines I think is a more sustainable future for the internet, a way that balances the “free” culture of the the internet with the need of various service providers and creators to, you know, make money.
Of course, my theorizing on this could, like much theorizing about the future, be completely full of shit. Events on the ground, as they say, have a way of making fools of us all.