Ghost Sites of the Web

Web 1.0 history, forgotten web celebrities, old web sites, commentary, and news by Steve Baldwin. Published erratically since 1996.

November 20, 2007

What Planet is Jaron Lanier From?

What Planet is Jaron Lanier From?
In yesterday's New York Times, Jaron Lanier argues that "creative types" should be paid for their cyberworks, a 180-degree shift away from his long-standing position that they should simply join the free-content smorgasborg and hope for the best.

Lanier notes that Google and other Silicon Valley companies have built multi-billion dollar empires on the backs of unpaid content creators by using this "free" content to sell advertising (before Google, AOL did the same thing, using thousands of unpaid volunteers whose only compensation was a free AOL account.) "How long must creative people wait for the Web’s new wealth to find a path to their doors?" he asks.

Sorry, but the answer is "forever." The only people who will ever make money from Web content are the aggregators, the plumbers, the middle-men, and the indexers. Words are merely wood chips in the vast virtual pulp-making machine of the Web. Content producers face only one choice: they can create/publish their works for free, or they can shut up and be invisible. If they do the former, they'll be poor but known (at least within their content niche); if they do the latter they'll be poor but unknown. Most opt for the former, because it's far better to be alone in the woods with a can of beans (courtesy of Adsense) than alone with nothing.

Lanier's notion that that "software engineers and Internet evangelists" are going to spontaneously create more wealth-giving networks for the benefit of their "creative friends" won't go far. Nobody gives a rat's ass about writers and artists in Silicon Valley: what commands respect are those who claw themselves to the top by consuming those weaker and lower down on the food chain. This is the only ideology, and the only idealism, in the technology business, and it's time we get honest about the kind of people we actually have become.


July 09, 2007

The Problem With Futurists (Faith Popcorn's Amazing, Search-Invisible Website)

Faith Popcorn's Amazing, Search-Invisible WebsiteThere are many problems with futurists, but none so great as the fact that they simply refuse to live in the present. Case in point: Faith Popcorn's BrainReserve, the Web site of futurist Faith Popcorn, located at the domain This site is the most egregious example of Flash overkill that I've ever seen: all of its content and its navigational structure is embedded within Flash, making it completely invisible to search engines. Much of the text of this site doesn't even exist as text, but as images, which are impossible for search engines to parse.

Popcorn, writing in the site's "What We Do Section (I'd link to this section directly, but linking to any page within this site is impossible, which means that its PageRank will forever be zilch), claims that her firm "collaberates with clients on the process of weaving the future into the everyday texture of their companies and brands."

Well that's all well and good. But the way she's woven the future into her Web site denies the reality that Google and other search engines are the way that most people find content today. The fact that a woman who is taken so seriously for her ability to predict future trends is apparently unable to direct the construction of an accessible Web site says much more about her clients (which tend to be cash-rich old media companies with nary a clue) than it does about Popcorn herself.

My advice to Faith is this: don't preach to us anymore until you've gotten your own house in order in the here and now, not in future never-never land

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