opinion

Commentary

Dropping The Digital F-bomb

What if the internet wasn't really free, but instead the costs were just difficult to perceive? 

Recently Mozilla came out with their latest Mission Statement. One of the anchor arguments to their cause is the "free" internet. They're not alone. Google loves the “F” word, just like Facebook and countless others.

But look closely and you'll see nothing free in the production, promotion, and distribution of these products. In fact, you'll see huge piles of cash being injected into all the gears of what makes the internet run. You'll also see big, flamboyant campuses with luxury perks and benefits. None of these are free.

So what's the real truth? To steal from a great recent example, this truth is also "inconvenient." We like, no, we love our lies that we tell ourselves. Great things should be free. Important things should be cheap. Except of course, for whatever amazing thing that happens to employ us. Our efforts are valuable and should be treasured with great wealth. Others should give their efforts away for our convenience and our “philosophy of free.”

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So which one is it? Everything should be cheap or free except for what I have? Those things should be rewarded with unlimited wealth. On a long enough time line, the philosophy of free comes for everyone.

We fight to block out this dilemma. Ads annoy us so we turn on an ad blocker. Music and movies are easy and anonymous to steal so we don't mind grabbing those torrents off the shelf. We bargain shop every product and experience down to the lowest possible cost. All of this for our ultimate benefit at the cost of others.

What if the Internet isn't free, but a huge network of (sometimes highly) paid people, companies, and infrastructure that costs trillions to operate? What if the people that made software, content, and ran fiber lines all over the world supported their families and communities with that money? What if that person is you?

"The Internet is free" is the greatest lie of our time. Hustled by brilliant grifters that prey upon our most selfish and primal urges.

The internet is run by cash and attention. If you aren't paying with one, you are most certainly expected to pay with the other. The industry tried to trick you into thinking you somehow bits and silicon made that universal truth different for the internet. Unfortunately, that just isn't true.

It's not all gloom and doom. The internet is a wonderful, growing experience full of information, ideas, products, shortcuts, and a lot of bullshit. It's been an expensive, painful ride to get here and will most certainly continue to be so. But it's adapting and improving all the time.

So we were all wrong about the internet. It's expensive, it's dangerous, and it might be the best thing humanity has ever created. If we don't starve it of what it needs. Our cash, and for most people signing onto a free site, your most precious and desired resource ...your attention.

No matter what, the one thing we all have to accept as truth: The internet is anything but free.

1 comment about "Dropping The Digital F-bomb".
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  1. Steve Schildwachter from BrightStar Care, March 18, 2015 at 11:13 a.m.

    Really like this, Will, but am left wondering: How does this change our attitudes or behavior?

    For example, does it take the wind out of the sails of Net Neutrality? Maybe...check out this article on Netflix's flip-flopping role on Net Neut: http://www.wsj.com/articles/holman-jenkins-netflix-is-the-culprit-1426633943

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