There is a relatively straightforward business model for the internet that has gained great popularity over the past decade.
Dubbed by some as the “pay with your privacy” model, users inadvertently share their data as they browse the web, before this information is shared with advertisers who can then deliver targeted ads to (what should be) likely customers.
It’s the model that has given us tech giants like Google and Facebook and it’s also what has led to the string of online privacy scandals in recent years.
But now a group of internet players around the world are looking to fundamentally change the way the internet makes money.
Nonprofit Mozilla, licensing group Creative Commons and content-monetisation company Coil have pledged $US100m ($145m) for the ‘Grant for the Web’ in a bid to change web monetisation.
The group is looking for ‘built-in monetisation’ for content creators, meaning publishers are able to get paid for their work without relying on ads, paywalls or “the abuse of personal data”, its website says.
“The web’s richness and diversity comes from its individual creators: writers, coders, musicians, podcasters, app makers, journalists,” said Mozilla Foundation executive director Mark Surman.
“But in the current web ecosystem, big platforms and invasive, targeted advertising make the rules and the profit.
“Consumers lose out, too — they unwittingly relinquish reams of personal data when browsing content.”
The group is working towards developing open standards, meaning the ‘centralisation of power’ moves away from exploiting individual’s privacy.
Over the next five years, the $145m will be disbursed across individuals, project and communities looking to promote a privacy-centric web monetisation ecosystem.
Will it work?
While at first glance the $145m pool seems like a sizeable fund, when compared with the multi-billion-dollar annual turnovers of companies like Facebook or Google, it pales into insignificance.
It would therefore be naive to think the ‘Grant for the Web’ can entirely remodel the business model of the internet.
But the group does hope it can deliver some changes.
For example, Mozilla recently released research to suggest we must “rethink” the notion that digital ads can only be effective if they are targeted, while the group is also working to understand the economics of online publishing.
Alternatively, software engineers are currently working on micropayment systems that give an extremely small amount of money to a site each time it is visited.
The group hopes to give users a choice in regards to how they use the internet, something which it believes is not currently available.