to the people of the Internet

Greetings, denizen of the Web. I don't know how old you are but I have an inkling of your experiences here. There's a good chance that you use ad-blocking software, and that you're aware that you're enjoying the Net's great bounty without paying for it by looking at ads. And you looking at ads is what keeps things going, don't you know, and all the adblocking is ruining the Internet because websites can't make money.


When I used to watch television I muted commercials and went to make a cup of tea. Was that equally immoral? Was I bleeding television dry by averting my eyes? I suppose I must have been... which must be why television is now dead. No more television programmes are made. Oh, well.

Of course the above is nonsense: television adapted. Programmes are now made with more vigour than ever before, people still happily pay for them, but it turns out they'd rather pay with their money than their time - time spent bored senseless.

When it comes to web ads, advertisers know that of the millions of people who see them only a fraction will click an ad, and an even more precious minority will actually end up making a purchase. Advertising is bad business, and it turns out that having all of the people pay a nominal amount of money to watch stuff is at least as viable and not circumventable by adblockers.

On-demand services rise. People, so it turns out, are more than willing to hand over the monthly lucre to enjoy their television in HD and when they like. Problem solved. Television dies a slow death, while the core of it, the things we actually tuned in for, lives on. Television news, commercials, and all the other nonsense? Dead or dying, and a good thing, too.

The Internet, I feel, is likewise ready to move on. Massive websites churn out endless streams of "content" - an uninspired, dull word that should serve to point us in the direction of something interesting or entertaining - instead, the trail ends at "content". Constant stimulation drives us only to find ever more content, more, constant, unending. It feels hollow. The soul is drained steadily as we read listicles and find new sources of outrage and look for shows on YouTube... and be constantly ashamed that we're doing it without looking at ads, because ads keep the content generators alive, so please, think of the content!

The Web has now for some time been ruled by that venerated though execrable idea of a 'marketplace of ideas'. We assume that this marketplace will provide a platform for good ideas and creative output - but the truth is that whoever gets attention, gets ad clicks, gets money. Fascist and feline are equals in the eye of the market, so long as they get the same number of clicks - and is that what we are supposed to want? A massive, worldwide network where value is measured in eyeballs and mouseclicks rather than creativity or morality or any kind of benefit to the human condition?

I pondered that particular question for a long time - after all, it's not as if there's nothing on the Internet that I value. But finally, I couldn't help thinking that the Net may not be so different from those quaint and antiquated formats, television and radio. They receded into the past while nothing of value was lost... so, I thought: why not the Net?

If the Internet is a marketplace of ideas, I think it is time to overturn the tables and the benches.

The Internet has built itself into our lives by massive content-serving websites that beg us to look at their irritating ads to keep them going, and shame us for not doing so. If that Internet cannot persist when we use it the way we want, I say let it burn. Let all who have been reduced to gibbering aggregators and content-gatherers and blatherers and clickbaiters die in a glorious sea of flames and let's see what remains after we sweep the ashes.

I don't know what will happen when the Internet as it is now is collapses, and something rises from what remains. I don't know what it will look like, but I know it will fulfill needs, and until it gets ruined by whatever comes after advertising, it will be good.

You needn't be the one to light the fire, dear reader (though I'd be the last one to stop you). But you can do your part by using ad blocking software. Ads suck, and you don't want to see them. If it hastens the demise of something that rewards only attention and punishes true, unfettered creativity, good on you, you're part of the solution.

Your friend,