The Commercial Interweb

Business World

There is a blight on the Internet. It is a disease that threatens our sanity and our productivity.

In the mid-1990s the world wide web (that which most people call the Internet), became a public phenomenon. Anyone with an Internet connection, could in theory, publish their own content (web pages). The early web was replete with flashing text, garish colours and flickering grainy text (on the old CRT computer monitors).

Despite the aesthetic disorders of many personal websites, the early web was an exciting and vibrant storehouse of information. With the web, came the widespread use of hyperlinks. These enabled information to be explored by association or context, similarly to how the human mind seems to operate. 'Surfing' the net gradually became a popular past-time for computer geeks and 'normal' folk alike.

Fast forward to the coming decades, and a different picture begins to emerge. The web has been heavily commercialised. Naturally perhaps, businesses that used to be restricted to 'bricks and mortar' physical offices have taken advantage of the reach of the global Internet, putting their businesses online.

A good example of this of course, is the traditional media industry. Newspapers, television and magazines have all been forced to make their publications and broadcasts available online. High-speed broadband has enabled even high-bandwidth applications like television to be delivered electronically.

Today, we still have our share of poorly designed personal webpages and derelict blogs with no content. Though even this has been mitigated somewhat by the availability of professionally designed templates, and by the move from do-it-yourself websites to managed, chronologically structured blogs.

The latest unfortunate addition, however, is advertising. Advertising is everywhere. Few of the traditional big name media companies have not erected 'paywalls' to protect their content. Those that haven't, have plastered their content with ads. When I say plastered, I mean half the time you struggle to find the content on the page, for all the advertising.

Adding to the misery, major content providers and blogs alike have added popup messages asking you to subscribe to an email newsletter. Usually, you are part-way through reading a sentence when this popup appears in the middle of the screen and in the middle of whatever it was you were reading. Seldom does the popup appear near the end, or when you have actually had a chance to take in the content.

It might just be me, but I'm afraid I fail to see the point of this pushy self promotion. I seldom have had a chance to read the content when it appears. So I have no idea whether I want to subscribe or not. Half the time I just close the entire window and go do something else. Am I that unusual?

The modern commercial interweb is like an inner-city streetscape at 4am, in the heart of the shopping or financial precinct. It is a disaster for anyone interested in quality content or serious research.

Experts and amateurs alike need to start teaching those who are new to this publishing platform. We need people to put the information first and think about accessibility. If you have to have ads to pay for your hosting, at least try to do it tastefully and in a way that doesn't provoke an epidemic of headaches and nausea in your audience.

I am not advocating a dry, boring web with no personality. You can go too far. The world around us is not black and white, but a litany of shades and hues. I am suggesting, however, that we tone it down a little and place greater emphasis on content and usability. In the end, it will make for happier users and a more pleasurable and productive Internet experience.

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