I've been talking about decentralisation for quite some time now. My belief that smaller networks of interconnected sites would be far more welcome - and far harder for corporate entities and governments to control - in this age of massive corporate behemoths such as Facebook. I'm currently putting my money where my mouth is and after being introduced to a couple of wonderful people by a mutual friend things are rolling. I'm not going to go into great detail here right now. Needless to say the success of these networks will greatly influence where I go next.
The main issue with the idea is, as with many ideas, that of monetisation. Now, with professionally linked networks it's slightly less of a problem. People will pay for a service that actively helps them in their profession. Don't believe me? Check out the cost of Linked IN premium sometime. I'm thinking further down the line and how the small webmaster with his one uber cool niche site that gets just a little too much traffic to be a pocket friendly project. How can we change our attitudes to support what the net truly needs?
Charging for access to sites is almost seen as a dirty thing these days. The net flourishes on a monetisation model based on getting as much traffic as you can and hoping your ad-provider of choice will cough up enough cash at the end of the month to prevent your host switching off your server. This is okay, it's not an evil model, but it only supports those with high traffic expectations. If you're aiming lower it's not that you'll simply get less from this form of advertising, you'll pretty much get nothing.
The side effect of this model has been our ever growing sense of entitlement. We expect it all for free and not only that people complain about ads on sites too. Granted there are some sites which do serve malicious ads but how many of them do the majority of people cruise by in any given day? On LiveLeak I've seen people bragging that they use adblock, they're quite pleased that not only do they get their entertainment and whatever else for free they can help make sure the site earns no money. It's a strange and bitter attitude that I find quite awful and I'd find it equally awful if I weren't involved in a site which depended on advertising to survive.
So, what would YOU pay? I mentioned earlier I wasn't referring to professional sites here and not to sites which surely can thrive on high traffic advertising models. Would you pay a pound a month? Imagine, if a site only had 100 members and they all paid a pound the webmaster slaving away to provide you with whatever that site provides could do so safe in the knowledge it won't financially hurt him or her to entertain or inform you. One pound isn't much is it?
But what if you really like 20 small sites? That's £20 a month. Granted you probably spend more than that on coffee or satellite TV but you don't want to go without those. And you then have to keep track of them all. Funny thing is though, if you look at your average person's internet habits they tend to surf the same few sites each day rather than go exploring to any great degree.
Of course, we then have to consider site discovery and destroying any will for people to go on a grand expedition Online if they hit a paywall every five minutes. How would we foster an overwhelming approach of trust and contribution as opposed to the current atmosphere of 'GIVE IT ME NOW AND DON'T YOU DARE WANT SUPPORT OR SOME KIND OF FINANCIAL COMPENSATION FOR YOUR EFFORTS!". Tricky, but worthy of investigation I think given the dire thought that Facebook now has over 1.2 Billion members. How many of those now just sit on there all day instead of visiting other sites, simply posting short inane comments and sucking up advertising? We need to expand our horizons and support one another on a grass roots level, and we need to do it soon.