I keep thinking back on an episode of the Cracked Podcast in which Editor-in-Chief Jack O’Brien talks with columnists Cody Johnson and Soren Bowie about the “Internet hive mind.” It’s a fun listen, so I encourage you to check it out while you do your laundry or something. But the tl;dr is that the Internet has changed the way we think. Those changes benefit “the Internet” more than anyone else.
An example they keep returning to throughout the episode is how the notion paying for something on the Internet is ludicrous if not downright offensive to people. But the Internet isn’t content with stealing your stuff. It will take credit for creating it too. Who does this system benefit? Certainly not content creators whose movies, TV shows, music, and software is bootlegged. Not webcomic artists whose work is reposted on content aggregators and image sharing sites without permission or attribution, while the artists’ own sites go un-clicked.1
As Cody Johnson puts it, the attitude seems to be, “‘You put it on the Internet, it’s everyone’s. Why are you making a stink about it?’”2
Content consumers don’t benefit. Sure, they enjoy cable programming for which they pay no more than the cost of a broadband Internet connection split between three other housemates. But the third season of their favorite TV show won’t get made because of low ratings.
Developers of open-source software can’t and won’t spend their free time patching bugs and adding features if they’re not compensated in some way more than just the “Awesome program! Works GREAT!” review you gave them on CNET. The Internet, as an ever-expanding network, requires the instantaneous flow of information. Online transaction mechanisms slow things down and create security vulnerabilities. In the episode, they discuss the human impulses that drive this aspect of the Internet. Interesting stuff, but I thought cataloging all the web-based entities to whom I owe money would make a neat exercise for us today.
I think most people agree with the principle that if you use something, you should pay for it. People should be compensated for their labor. However, I think a lot of people, indeed I find myself indulging in this thinking from time to time, believe that liking something is payment enough. “I’m a big fan of your work! I like it so much, I rip it, re-share it, and remix it without your permission!”
You’ll notice some ad-supported sites on this list, which you’ll surmise means I must be a terrible person. Which is true. I am; ads slow things down and create security vulnerabilities. I also have little patience for business models that rely on people voluntarily refraining from using the latest technology. As the print world implodes, I hope that professionals in the industry start looking at alternatives to intrusive, site functionality-breaking, easily-blockable advertisements, instead of finding ways to make ads even scummier.
So anyway, the list of people I owe money to. Organized by the good/service. I’ll be updating this periodically.
I barely read the news anymore. Do I still owe back payments?
LoadingReadyRun They used to make weekly comedy videos, but never sold their souls to YouTube. Various partnerships with sites like The Escapist and Penny Arcade never went anywhere. Now it seems they mostly stream themselves playing video games.
xkcd (I used to read many more webcomics regularly.)
Topics in Korean History. Now sadly defunct.
DecodeDC I should have donated while Andrea Seabrook was still hosting. =(
Who I have paid to some degree or another, but to whom I owe a hell of a lot more
So who will be coming around to bust your kneecaps (with lead pipes of guilt) until you pay up?