Nothing (of any quality or value) is truly free on the internet.
Somehow, the content developers, the content publishers, the website designers, and everyone else involved in creating sites and services and offering them to us; all these people need to be paid, and all the costs of the associated hardware, data connections, etc, need to be covered too.
So how is it that we can browse around most of the internet without ever needing to reach for our pocketbook? Simple. Some websites are provided as a ‘loss leader’ way of selling you something. Other websites have advertising on them – The Travel Insider is no exception, as you’ll see on any of our pages.
Depending on the site and its business model, there might be other forms of revenue generation as well. However it is done, make no mistake – money is the lifeblood of the internet; the only point of subtlety is that it is unusual for sites to directly charge visitors to read their content – the commercial factors are usually obscured behind the scenes and not seen or sensed by ordinary web visitors.
The good news is that usually the advertising on web pages is moderately unobtrusive, and sometimes even relevant and interesting. Unlike television or radio, where you’re stuck waiting for the ads to finish prior to the content resuming, web page ads never obliterate the content and cost you time.
Well, there is one notable exception – ‘pre-roll ads’ that are becoming both more common and also, regrettably, lengthier, on video clips. Don’t you hate having to ‘pay’ 30 seconds of your time in return for watching a 3 minute video clip that you don’t even know for sure if it will be of interest to you until after you’ve made the 30 second ‘payment’? You’ll never get your time back if the video clip turns out to be uninteresting.
Fortunately, viewing mandatory 30 second video clips is not required to visit most of the internet, and it requires no great feat of skill for us to avert our eyes from the ads, if we so wish, and simply concentrate on the main content of the article.
Okay. So, with that as background, how is it that the new ‘Safari’ web browser to be built into all iPads and iPhones as part of iOS 5 will threaten the entire internet?
Simple. It includes an advertising filter. On Apple’s site this is disingenuously referred to as ‘view web articles free of clutter’. Sounds great, doesn’t it. We all hate ‘clutter’, don’t we – ever since we were little children, we’ve been taught that clutter is a bad thing and should be eliminated wherever we find it.
But that ‘clutter’ is paying the freight for our free web surfing. If pages can’t have clutter on them, the content providers will no longer make money, so they’ll either have to charge you money to visit, discontinue their service, or come up with some new (and undoubtedly more intrusive) way of parading advertising in front of you. Maybe you’ll find that every internet page will now have an associated and mandatory 30 second ad before it can be viewed – that would truly destroy the concept of web surfing and clicking across the internet freely, wouldn’t it.
Clutter is not bad. It pays for the internet, at little or no cost/compromise to us as internet users. Apple knows that, but feels free to break the protocol of how the internet is funded, just because it can.
Shame on Apple.
UPDATE : See a continued discussion of this threat over on our sister site, The Tech Letters.