Help! I’m being monetized!

Screenshot anime Yuyushiki - touch screen!

Just a hunch, but I think a certain older software company has a hard time adjusting to a new generation of customers. Just saying.

Microsoft is running a smear campaign against Google, accusing them of providing free services just to earn money from spying on you, basically. Which is not too far off, but they go too far when they imply that you pay for this. In one sequence, they use the verb “monetize” correctly, but illustrate it with money flying out of your pocket. This is a way of thinking that should have died during the Bronze Age. I will show you why. Follow me to ancient Mesopotamia, where humankind discovered Trade.

Local barter with people you knew has existed since before the dawn of history. Young Neanderthal males brought with them extra stone axes when they left home looking for a wife. But almost 6000 years ago, someone discovered that you could smelt copper and tin together and get bronze, which was much easier to make into weapons and tools than stone, hard enough to do the same work, and could be recycled over and over. There was just one problem: Tin and copper were only rarely found together. Usually there was stormy seas, high mountains or dreadful deserts between them. What to do?

Someone came up with a genius plan: They brought copper with them from a place where it was plentiful and therefore cheap, and bartered it against tin in a place where tin was common but copper was rare. This way they left every time with more than they started with, and this practice caused them to get rich without actually digging in the mines. I am sure there were envious people at the time reacting much like Microsoft does today: These guys get rich from other people’s work! It just ain’t fair! But the practice continued, because people on both ends of the trade caravan ended up with more bronze than they could have had alone. Everyone was better off.

The caravans did not come and steal your stone axes. If you wanted to make stone axes like your ancestors had done for a hundred thousand years, you were welcome to it. And in the same way today, if you want non-targeted advertising, you are welcome to it. But I would like to point out that since non-targeted advertising is more expensive (you have to reach several times as many people to make the same sales) the extra cost is added to the product. So if Microsoft succeeds in smearing Google out of existence (good luck with that), you will help pay for it. Money will float out of your pockets, so to speak.

Going ass first into the future has always come at a cost. But at least this time nobody will hit you on the head with a bronze ax. So we live in good times. And Google is making them even better, by monetizing us all.

(Another matter is whether their targeting actually works, but that is a story for another day.)


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