In today’s Advertising Age, Patrick Moorhead, senior VP, group management director, mobile platforms for Draftfcb Chicago, makes an apt and important point about how the corporation-dominated internet works:
We live in a kind of digital feudal economy these days. We live on land we don’t own, and we provide the masters of the realm (Facebook, Google, etc.) with unlimited free access to our data and behavior, which they monetize for billions of dollars. We get to keep our little plots of digital land for free and are otherwise pretty much at the whim of the feudal masters.
Of course, the masters are actually corporate capitalists, and the corporate capitalists at Facebook and Google are, as their founders now admit, 100 percent in the advertising business, meaning their product is both harvesting data and delivering eyeballs, eardrums, and mindshares to other corporate capitalists, who use those products to plan and execute marketing campaigns.
Nonetheless, the analogy to feudalism is apt. Surrendering corvée to exploiting overlords is the price of admission to almost all internet activities in the United States, including the basic search engine services mediated by Google.
Of course, there is no technical reason why the internet could not include first-class, not-for-profit, data-secure search engines and other services. It’s just that the overclass won’t permit such possibilities to be discussed, let alone implemented.