Chuckellania for October 16th, 2021

Published on Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Thought experiment: what if ad-based business models weren't a thing?

What would happen if we could magically ban all ad-based business models? (In a world where 1st Amendment protections no longer apply to commercial speech):

  • Internet ads
  • TV/Radio commercials
  • Billboards
  • Commercialization of your personal data

How would the world change?

A case can be made that it would worsen availability of information and news for the poor.

On the other hand, it might entice more people to try models with micropayments or subscriptions.

I also personally don't buy the idea that people wouldn't be able to afford software. They can afford hardware. It's just that we've normalized the idea that news (and software) is "free", where "free" really means "you pay with your data or something else intangible".

Both software and news (with their increasingly abusive ad models) seem to have gone through a race to the bottom in the past 20 years, and it hasn't been healthy for producers nor consumers.

I have mixed feelings about billionaires doing their own little space race, but this news intro (in German) frames it quite well.

This (the transporter) still only works as a special effect. But some other ideas pioneered by Star Trek that once seemed like distant fiction have since become reality: the mobile communicator as a predecessor of the cellphone, say. Today, another example can be added: Captain Kirk has now actually made it to the space, the final frontier.

How do you hold a Nintendo 64 controller?

Uli muses about extending Unix's "everything is a file" to the UI more: what if a chatroom in Slack were a file you could move between folders just like any other?

Arguably, BeOS representing your e-mail mailboxes as folders is a similar idea.

Much like OpenDoc, Microsoft Binder, and other technologies of the time (mid- 90s), I worry that these ideas are interesting academic exercises but hard to explain to the user (who, Uli says, prefer not to deal with files), and that the actual benefit is dubious.

iOS, in its inception, took a hard right turn on all that, as sort of the anti- OpenDoc: instead of focusing on documents and letting a mixture of apps, called "components", deal with them, it focuses on the apps, and documents mostly fade into the distance. Over time, this has mellowed, best evidenced by the existence of the Files app.

See also the success of shoebox apps like iTunes, iPhoto, Delicious Library in the early 2000s: I know a lot of geeks still to this day hate how iTunes forced songs into a proprietary database, but regular users seemed to actually like not having to deal with files, and having a program that has just the right focus on organizing music. (See also the FileMaker discussion a few days back.)

Rumor has it next week's MacBook Pro might feature a notch, and it looks like Safari TP expects a macOS build with a screen safe area frame.

So, could be.