Over the weekend, I was thinking about how much the web has changed since I first started using it 20 or so years ago. Putting aside the tremendous improvement in speed (you haven’t lived until you’ve tried to load pages at 28.8kps), almost everything about the web is better. Graphics back then were minimal, video was non-existent. One thing that is the same, however, is that it is open. I think that it was that openness that let the web, accessed via a web browser, become the norm as opposed to the walled gardens such as AOL that were perhaps even more prevalent at the time.
Why am I mentioning this today? I think we are approaching a “back to the future” moment. You see it in what Google and Facebook and others are doing with their versions of a private internet, which I interpret to be a new walled garden. Ostensibly, this is to help users see the web much more quickly. After all, one of the main reasons people use ad blockers is because publishers overload their sites with beacons, graphics, autoplay videos, and the like. The big guys are asking that pages be cached on their servers, in theory to provide greater speed and less incentive to block the ads. Maybe it even allows them to substitute ads that they sell in case you can’t fully move your inventory.
The problem with this is the potential for a return to the walled garden. If you don’t think that could happen, have a look at what happened to Facebook in India. the company was forbidden to fully launch its internet.org initiative, which was meant to provide free internet access to million who don’t have it. The problem is that it wasn’t access to the full, open internet at all; only to a series of sites which Facebook permitted. That, my friends, is exactly what a walled garden looks like.As marketers and publishers, we desperately need a good solution to ad blocking.
As marketers and publishers, we desperately need a good solution to ad blocking. From my perspective, a return to the era of walled gardens isn’t it. How about in yours?