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The ABCs of the Internet Today – Ads, Bots and Crushing Clutter

The business model of the Internet is crushing us.   Rant on. We could start with Twitter, which is deleting millions of bots, trolls, and other fake accounts (often with automated software generating hundreds of tweets per day).  This is raising concerns over the company's growth and true number of monthly users. But it's not raising concern about the business and social value of Twitter. Has anyone looked at the age distribution of Twitter users? Only 8% are 65+, and the biggest block is aged 18-29.  Consider that its share price and profit of $61 million in Q1 2018 are tied to growth in "legitimate human users -- the only ones capable of responding to the advertising that is the main source of revenue for the company." Translate: capable of responding because they are human 18-29 year-olds, not necessarily because they have money to spend. And then there are:

Websites – as the quantity of human-edited text declines, the user experience is crushing us.  The Wall Street Journal is not a junk website, but because I used Chrome on a big display screen to search for closet built-in shelving, the first-displayed ad for one of those companies ate up the upper one-third of the WSJ screen real estate.  I did not search for BMWs – nor do I own one, but the NY Times website offers BMW videos to warn me that there are only a few weeks left of summer.  Of course, your results will, as goes the web, vary greatly and also with each visit. Look for a topic presented in a Google Alert, for example, Telehealth. First click 'No' on whether to subscribe to a site for home health agencies, then study the ring of event ads for upcoming conferences. Or look at car rentals – where a website popup called 'Advertiser Disclosure' admits that it prioritizes rental agencies that compensate it. What was I searching for?  I forget.

Facebook – personal data exposure has been crushing us. In the first quarter, Facebook disabled 583 million accounts in Q1 of 2018 (versus Twitter’s 70 million).  The company claims that it has 2.9 billion active users, though that is a global number, and the active daily number is 'closer' to 1.15 billion.  Okay, and is that number net of the disabled 583 million accounts? Apparently 68% of US adults are on Facebook, and that is unchanged from 2016. Per the NY Times (this time the ad is about Quicken Loans – maybe to buy that previously-displayed BMW?), a Facebook 'bug' inadvertently changed the privacy setting of 14 million users.  Oh well. And scroll through the long and well-tracked history of Facebook so-called 'privacy missteps.'  Were they really missteps?

Ah, Google, let’s (not) be evil – it could be crushing other companies.  Did you know that the company dropped its "Don't Be Evil" phrase from its code of conduct in May?  Is that happening in light of the efforts in the EU to rout out its asserted outrageous anti-competitive behavior? We, the users, of course, don’t complain as much as the algorithmically down-ranked companies that are driven to distraction -- like Yelp – or they have stopped complaining because they are out of business. And though the EU is leveling a big fine and India a smaller fine – the US has been asleep at the switch. Perhaps now there will be a bit of awakening (reported in the UK, of course).   Meanwhile and no doubt, the distribution of companies in the search space is striking – though naturally the $100 billion revenue Alphabet/Google denies that it has a monopoly on search.  And whatever happened to Yahoo?  Meanwhile, Google has decided to fight 'fake news' on YouTube with 'real news from authoritative sources.'  Whew, that's a relief.  Rant off.


Always appreciate your acerbic wit as you opine on a variety of issues usually looked at in a silo, that once laid out side by side shows that the inmates are truly running the asylum.....and making a helluva profit on it.


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