No, the internet is NOT free

No, the internet is NOT free

I mean, you have to pay your ISP for access to it, but that’s only half of the story.

Websites

Most of the time, it costs money to put a website on the internet. The person or company that wants to put a website on the internet incurs many charges. For example, all websites need at least a domain name, and hosting. The domain name is how your browser knows which website to go to(i.e. example.com), and hosting is the server where the website lives.

Without the domain name, visitors would need to enter the IP address of the server every time they wanted to access your site. Without hosting, well, there wouldn’t be any way to access the website. While the cost for small websites isn’t exactly huge, it’s also not zero. Bigger websites potentially need millions of dollars a month, or even more in some cases, to keep the website up, and load times within a reasonable amount(which is only a handful of seconds these days).

Users want free services

For some reason, users expect everything on the internet to be free. Of course, for most people, the definition of free is something that costs zero dollars, not necessarily something that has no cost, and this is where problems start occurring.

Both people and companies want to make as much money as possible(for the point of this post). But people aren’t ready to pay for access to websites, and you can’t really blame them. Even I, a blogger, don’t like it when paywalls are thrown up all over the place, which seems to happen rather often on news sites. So, how are companies supposed to make money, and how are bloggers supposed to make a living while existing on a website/service offered for zero dollars?

Ads

Advertisements have existed for a long, long time. The first TV add goes all the way back to July 1st of 1941(QZ). And that’s just the first televised ad, there were others before that. For example, the first radio add aired in 1922(NPR)! Ads have continued to evolve, and are still very much alive in the internet age.

At first, ads seem to be the solution to everyone’s problem. They allow website owners to earn money, while not directly requiring the visitor to pay anything(assuming the visitor doesn’t purchase the service/product in the ad). But, sure enough, there are those websites that abuse the crap out of them. I mean, I’ve been on websites that have ridiculous loading times, and require a lot of CPU power to load due to the sheer number of ads on the page(there is no reason to have more ads than content, nobody likes that).

Ad blockers

Of course, users eventually got tired of ads, and turned to ad blockers. But, they still expect all websites to be free, because why not?

We don’t care about money and will therefore now make all of our services free in the hope that it will be useful to everyone, even if it means losing dozens of millions of dollars a month.

said no company ever. So, how to make money with more and more users using ad blockers?

Privacy is literally worth money

Since companies still want to make money, they thought long and hard on how to do so while not charging the user any money. One method is selling their user’s privacy. This actually goes hand in hand with advertising, because of targeted ads.

Targeted advertisements should theoretically perform better than non-targeted ads since they are directed at a user and their interests. So, companies will often sell user data to advertisers, who then use that information to target ads at visitors. For example, I find that when I search for something on Amazon, such as laptops, many of the ads later in the day tend to be about laptop discounts on Amazon.

This honestly isn’t all that bad, as there actually are a handful of times where ads lead to something cool I never knew about. But, it’s important to remember that whatever you input on one website is likely to get to other websites, or at least other companies.

However, not all companies are out to get your privacy. Some, such as Apple, actually go through great lengths to protect their user’s privacy. Apple even went as far as to decline to the FBI’s request to unlock an iPhone.

The friendliest option: cryptocurrency mining

Yet another option that allows websites to make money without flat out asking for the user to pay is by using JavaScript to utilize visitor’s CPU power for cryptocurrency mining. I know this sounds evil at first, but it’s overall actually better than the alternatives.

A big reason to not hate cryptocurrency mining is privacy. Since all this relies upon is CPU power, there is no need for websites to collect and sell user data. Another reason is that it doesn’t obstruct the visitor’s view of the website. While the entire point of ads is to take up space and hope that a user clicks them, cryptomining is often done in the background, without any popups, and without loading video ads that start playing very loud music upon loading.

The only real downside is that due to the increased CPU load, more power is used, decreasing battery life on mobile devices. However, even this can be easily solved: add some logic to JavaScript to disable mining on mobile devices. Furthermore, many of the mining utilities allow website owners to set a CPU throttle(i..e only use up to 50% of the CPU).

Donations

If a website, likely a blog in this case, receives enough visitors, it may be possible to earn enough money from asking users for donations. But, I doubt this will work well for most sites. I mean, when’s the last time you donated money just because a website asked?

However, if a blog has a big enough user base, and enough of that user base is dedicated enough to donate money, it may be a viable solution.

If you’re a video person

CollegeHumor made a pretty good video on this topic. So, if you’re more of a video person than a reading person, I suggest you watch the following video(this text is definitely not here just to increase the word count of this post 🙂 ).

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