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The Almighty Buck

Web Profits in the Gutter 397

The New York Times has an article about the web's one true growth industry: spam, fraud and porn. Societal meltdown or flourishing ecosystem? The talking heads debate.
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Web Profits in the Gutter

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  • Waa waa (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Perianwyr Stormcrow ( 157913 ) on Sunday August 25, 2002 @10:30PM (#4138980) Homepage
    "My bullshit web company didn't succeed because it was bullshit, and the only new or good thing about it was its .com address! God, come from heaven and save me!"

    How about retooling your business plan to provide services and products that people want. Saying that the only successful businesses that use the web are web-only companies (such as porn) is like saying that the only successful businesses that use the highway are truck stops, motels, and Cracker Barrels.

    Spam becomes less successful daily. The first successful spam was the Green Card Lawyer spam and it's all gone downhill radically from there.

    As far as fraud goes, show me a commercial space that's free of fraud and I'll show you one that's pretty profitless, constrained, and empty of innovation in general.
    • Re:Waa waa (Score:2, Insightful)

      by teslatug ( 543527 )
      Why do they even have to profit directly from the internet?? I always find myself looking up info on products that I end up buying in a brick-and-mortar store. I don't have a high regard toward companies that don't have a presence on the internet and I am unlikely to buy a product from them.
    • Re:Waa waa (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The thing you gotta realize is that regular consumer businesses aren't too useful on the web. If I want to buy a new TV, I go down to Best Buy or something and buy one. I can trust it'll make it to my house and be in one peice. I also know that if I pay, I don't leave there without my item.

      Even a lot of business to business online sites aren't too wonderful. Sure if they actually provided something useful online (such as never having to talk to a real person.. much nicer just to get online, say what you want and be done with it than trying to tell some $6/hr customer service rep exactly what it is you want)...

      Web services are a joke.. unless you're talking about internal web services. Where I work we have tons of web services that are for our internal work, and they're great. But rarely do I ever find anything that's used outside of the company that does me any good.

      My point? E-commerce is a fantasy, and maybe someday it can really become useful. But right now it's a novelty item, and as such only novelty shops (such as porn shops) can really make any money.
      • Re:Waa waa (Score:2, Insightful)

        by aronc ( 258501 )
        My point? E-commerce is a fantasy, and maybe someday it can really become useful. But right now it's a novelty item, and as such only novelty shops (such as porn shops) can really make any money.

        No, not completely. It is an amazing resource for more nitch items. Things you can't just "go down to best buy" and get. Between myself and my wife we've spent thousands of dollars over the past few years ording stuff online tha simply is not available with any degree of convience locally. Comic books/graphic novels and wiccain/new age supplies for example. It's more than an hour round trip for me to go to even a small store that carries any resonable amount of those. Even if I do that I'll pay more to boot. This is part of the reason Ebay has been such a hit. You can find those weirdo out-there items that you just can't find in meatspace without investing a large chunk of your time in the search.
      • You can make up a bunch of stickers that have nothing more than the web address for your band or your blog or whatever written in an interesting way, plaster them everywhere at sight level, and you'll get a few hits from it. A web address is best used as a link from a tiny part of the real world (a business card, a t-shirt, a sticker on the wall of the bathroom at a dance club) to whatever else you'd like to tell someone. Pretty much every weird sticker or poster you see put on anything that will stand still has a web address on it. Near where I live, a cellphone company put up lots of billboards that just had their web address on it. The fact that I heard about this from other people says that it was a useful marketing tactic, this time. Not sure if it sold anything, but it did get the word around.
      • Re:Waa waa (Score:3, Insightful)

        by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 )

        The thing you gotta realize is that regular consumer businesses aren't too useful on the web. If I want to buy a new TV, I go down to Best Buy or something and buy one. I can trust it'll make it to my house and be in one peice. I also know that if I pay, I don't leave there without my item.

        Best Buy's site provides an excellent compliment to their existing brick-and-morter stores. One can hit the site and see what they carry. You're then able to poke around other review sites and find out a bit more about the various possible models of whatever you're considering. If its something you decide to buy, purchase it online and go pick it up at the store.

        CompUSA's site is simluar. One feature that's kind of nice is the ability to check that a particular store has an item in stock. You can find out in advance if driving down to a local store would be a waste of time (or maybe if driving out to another location might be worth the effort).

        Of course, this entirely ignores the fact that many consumer industries already have a flourishing mail-order industry behind them. CompUSA and Best Buy compete in an industry that had a strong mail-order industry well before the popularization of the web and e-commerce - namely computers and electronics. Computer Shopper used to be chock full of mail-order ads (it looks like the web hasn't been Computer Shopper's friend... at least, not in its print form). Now sites like PriceWatch have become the (dare I say it) online portal to a flourishing business that was made for e-commerce.

        Sure. It doesn't mean conventional trips to a brick-and-mortor store is going away anytime soon. But to say e-commerce is a fantasy that can't compete with physically purchasing and walking out of a store with an item ignores decades of mail-order success.

        Eventually, the famliarity of web-based purchases may open opportunities for industries that do not have an existing mail-order track record. But that will take time. It will take a much longer for the general public to buy in to the idea of ordering a pizza from their home computer.
      • In general, I agree with you, however, one company I've worked for ( [])is doing pretty well on the internet as an E-Commerce only operation, because its hard to find the stuff that they sell offline. There are other operations like Ebay and Paypal that have really succeeded too, so I think we just find ourselves getting back to the "good businesses plans work" instead of "all internet businesses suck".

    • "My bullshit web company didn't succeed because it was bullshit, and the only new or good thing about it was its .com address! God, come from heaven and save me!"

      "Waa, Waa, my bullshit farm didn't succeed because it is unnecessary. Give me cash for sticking with this losing business, because I don't want to move to the city and learn new skills! Government come from heaven and save me!"
    • How about retooling your business plan to provide services and products that people want. Saying that the only successful businesses that use the web are web-only companies (such as porn) is like saying that the only successful businesses that use the highway are truck stops, motels, and Cracker Barrels.

      Well, can you name a single business that is a web-only business that has been successful that is *NOT* porn or Ebay?

      Those two things fit the 'model' well, so they are successful. Mail order shops did their thing b4 the web, but the web lets them do more, b/c the model fits.

  • society meltdown - no matter where you go, there is someone out there that will do what you least expect for money, and that means absolutely anything.

    flourishing ecosystem - having said that, this brings us to the new breed of low lives that will do anything for money, maybe an old ecology of ppl using new methods - no matter how much other ppl have to suffer for them to consider themselves 'successful'.

    Unfortunately the internet is now where they breed and this is a complete abuse of the technology that was there for totally opposite reasons.

  • I'm sure the new york times makes a healthy profit selling people's information that they collect from mandatory registration to advertising firms.
    • You don't have to give NYT your personal information to read their stories. I'm not talking about the random NYT registration generator either. Just go to [] and you get all the stories with none of the annoyance. The technology [] section contains several other interesting stories besides this one.

    • then proove it (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Rev.LoveJoy ( 136856 ) on Monday August 26, 2002 @12:57AM (#4139400) Homepage Journal
      You know, I registered at NYT about 18 months ago using an aliased address (similar to I have yet to get one spam at this address though it continues to be valid.

      Furthermore, I do not even get NYT type spam at this address ("sign up for our premium content" and so forth).

      Rather than idle accusations, does anyone have any proof of this accusation I hear so many peddling?

      -- RLJ

      • Re:then proove it (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Reziac ( 43301 )
        I've had my NYT registration for over 5 years now, and have seen no evidence that they've had anything to do with spam or evildoing of any sort. And the *only* email I've ever got from the NYT was when a human answered my complaint about the site having lost my login, and told me what page to go to and how to fix it there.

        I don't know why people whine about the NYT reg'n and cookie in particular.. after all, how the hell do they think Slashdot remembers who they are?? (I just looked, my Slashdot cookie is about a mile long. My NYT cookie is nothing but a login ID string. Paranoid conspiracy theorists are invited to explain that. :)

        I actually USE my Netscape cookies.txt, to the point that I copy it to every machine I use. I see no reason why I should have to log into sites like slashdot or, and reset my preferences all the time, when the cookie can do it for me.

  • Nothing changes... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chill ( 34294 ) on Sunday August 25, 2002 @10:33PM (#4138999) Journal
    Porn helped drive the printing and video industries. Gutenberg's second book, after the Bible, was erotic stories.

    Spam? Hell, if the U.S. Post Office stopped all "third class" mail (spam), they'd be broke and out of business tomorrow. I've always looked at online spam as an opportunity -- ISPs should do more research into filtering spam and offer it as a premium service.

    Fraud online is just like fraud offline. Snake-oil salesman that traveled from town to town during the 1800s comes to mind. Cavaet Emptor -- nothing new here. And with all due respect, anyone who believes some Nigerian ex-thugs that stole billions picked YOU to launder it (and apparantly all your friends, since they all got the same e-mail) DESERVES what they get.

    Try as you might, you just can't legislate away greed, sloth and stupidity.
    • Gutenberg's second book, after the Bible, was erotic stories.

      Do you have historical evidence to back that up?

      It sounds like an UL, similar to the fabricated tale about 'The Vatican has a huge library of porn,' which is a fabricated UL started by Kinsey (who DID have a huge library of porn).
      • by rjkimble ( 97437 ) on Sunday August 25, 2002 @11:36PM (#4139173) Homepage Journal
        According to this [] and this [], Gutenberg's second book was the Psalter, a collection of the Psalms of the Old Testament, printed by themselves. So I think you're correct to question the assertion that Gutenberg's second book was a collection of erotica. Besides, it just doesn't make sense when you consider the time and place.
        • by chill ( 34294 )
          My mistake. The "erotic stories" is unsubstantiated and rumored. Gutenberg was under heavy financial pressure and did print calendars and other popular items. Erotic stories were one of the rumored "popular" items.

          As far as making sense considering the place and time? How do you figure?

          The Bible was certainly controversial and dangerous. Remember, the Catholic church not only had an army, they used it. Private study of the Bible was HERESY punishable by excommunication and death -- porn was a minor offense. The Archbishop of Nassau had troops invade Maniz (sp?) looking for "Gutenberg" Bibles.

      • I think it was the Gutenberg was printing calendars (with naughty and nice versions) before he made the first book. Then he couldn't make bibles fast enough.

        I think I learned this in a history class, but it could just as easily something I saw on Buffy.

    • I've always looked at online spam as an opportunity

      Welcome to my foes list.
    • Porn helped drive the printing and video industries. Gutenberg's second book, after the Bible, was erotic stories.

      So he moved from hardcore to softcore, huh?

    • This isn't at all insightful. The US Post Office sets rates for each class of mail to be self-sustaining - they cover all costs associated with themselves. Bulk mail doesn't subsidize first class mail or magazines.

      Plus others have debunked your Gutenberg assertion.
    • Gutenberg's second book, after the Bible, was erotic stories.
      Where in the world did you get that from? Gutenberg's second book, published in 1457, was a Psalter. Links here [], here [], and here []. Next time, do your homework.
    • Porn helped drive the printing and video industries. Gutenberg's second book, after the Bible, was erotic stories.

      Yeah, and then there was his third book, DOS for Dummies.

    • if the U.S. Post Office stopped all "third class" mail (spam), they'd be broke and out of business tomorrow.

      I don't follow. The USPS doesn't know how to raise and lower it's rates? They don't know how to expand their services into other areas, like newspaper delivery, etc? They couldn't change their routes, and possibly make deliveries less often?

      Hell, what would a postal service that doesn't deliver junk mail look like? Maybe just a little bit like FedEx, UPS, DHL?

      In reality though, if they canceled 3rd-class mail, it would just result in junk being sent via 1st or 2nd class. A few cents more expensive, but likely cheap enough for most.
  • by red5 ( 51324 ) <> on Sunday August 25, 2002 @10:34PM (#4139007) Homepage Journal
    P0rn and penis enlargement is " the web's one true growth industry"

    Again sorry about the pun. I couldn't help myself.
  • by lingqi ( 577227 ) on Sunday August 25, 2002 @10:36PM (#4139014) Journal
    I really, really did not expect that many people out there to be buying the penis enlargment pills. I mean... think about it for a moment here:
    It is really indicative of either
    a) a lot of people are erm... sub-par intelligence-wise. or
    b) porn / magazine / whatever has gotten a lot of men in a same gridlock as mannaquins has on women: except while you have the "our store sells clothes to 'real women' and we use 'natual models'", you won't ever find a "real-sized penis men's club"... when's the last time you really saw "size small" condoms on sale?
    c) or both.

    it is really worth worrying to a certain degree. as for the part that basically says "sex sells," well no kidding...
  • by OzRoy ( 602691 ) on Sunday August 25, 2002 @10:36PM (#4139016)
    "When the Arizona attorney general's office recently shut down a Scottsdale company, CP Direct, it offered a glimpse into the spoils of the Internet's dark side. The company sold pills via the Web that promised to increase penis length, bust size and body height."

    I guess my pills aren't coming then :(

    Now I will have to send away for that tiger penis balm that is guaranteed to make me hung like a stallion and sexually attractive to women.
  • Changing Times (Score:5, Insightful)

    by T-Kir ( 597145 ) on Sunday August 25, 2002 @10:40PM (#4139029) Homepage

    I remember when the first talk of web-based shops were on the cards. They were saying it was the 'High Street' stores that would lose profits and business... and some chose to do the 'ostrich effect', while others went for the full madness effect (i.e. anyone remember EggHead stores - DUH!).

    But it is those stores that have an existing infrastructure who then expand into using the web to generate extra revenue are the ones who will thrive. Just because web shopping came along doesn't mean people will all of a sudden stop going to the mall.

    A lot of the porn industry has thrived because of the anonimity, as well as the breaking down of borders... hence laws governing porn.

    "We will lose the Internet if we don't save it." and "civil society" has broken down online... probably not, it's just that people know that they can currently get away with doing stuff, and the net still being in its relavtive infancy, people know that they'll be able to do whatever they want until push comes to shove and the governments themselves catch up with technology.

    • Re:Changing Times (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Pig Hogger ( 10379 )
      I remember when the first talk of web-based shops were on the cards. They were saying it was the 'High Street' stores that would lose profits and business...
      Remember the story about the shopping mall who prohibited stores from posting URLs???
    • "We will lose the Internet if we don't save it." and "civil society" has broken down online... probably not it's just that people know that they can currently get away with doing stuff, and the net still being in its relavtive infancy, people know that they'll be able to do whatever they want until push comes to shove and the governments themselves catch up with technology.

      And what if "governments themselves catching up with technology" amounts to taking that technology out of the hands of the citzenry and reserving it for themselves?

      The rhetoric now emerging and being bandied about by the talking heads of hollywood isn't new. It was a precursor to prohibition back in the early 20th century, it was a precursor to the War on Drugs in the late 20th century, which continues to this day (now financing terrorism where previously it merely financed crime lords and thugs), in short, it has been a precursor to every act of government which has taken freedom from the people in the name of 'civil society', 'common decency,' and other such tripe. Indeed, whenever anyone hears the words 'common decency' they should look around and determine where the next attack on their civil liberties is going to come from, since what is commonly decent recreation to one person is commonly indecent to another, and any effort to put such terms into legislation by definition means someone's notion of commonly decent is about to trample someone elses.

      The government cannot take the internet away from the people outright and publicly admit that they are doing so to prop up the profit margins of dinasaur entities such as the MPAA and the RIAA, nor can they admit that they'd like us all to shut up and get back on the couch, where they can conviniently spoonfeed us what they'd like us to think without the annoying backtalk.

      Does this mean they don't plan to take the internet away from us (or do so effectively by reducing it to just another home shopping network)? Hardly.

      What it does mean is that they need to manipulate the popular perception of the internet, until they can build up sufficient support, particularly in the easy-to-manipulate and already-well-organized religious right, until such a point where they can point to some kind of popular demand to take away the internet as we know it "for our own moral good."

      That is what this rhetoric is all about. It is a precursor, and an opening salvo, in the effort to institute digital prohibition in America. It frankly amazes me that no one on slashdot, where we've seen all the pieces of this puzzle presented to us time and time again vis-a-vis the lobbying of Hollywood, Microsoft, and the Recording industry to restrict our digital rights, can see this coming.

      It is all about information, and the government would like to control that information. Dealing with entrenched media oligarchies, while imperfect, facilitates this. The Internet on the other hand will never be ameanable to this sort of thing, unless is it changed radically, or eliminated altogether.

      Indeed, the government's lust to do so grows with their beligerence in foreign military theaters. But to be fair it isn't only the government that lusts after such control: most large businesses do likewise (how better to quiet criticism of a new product or a profitable business model that may not be so optimal, like say, Monsanto dumping toxic chemicals into the groundwater of a small southern US town).

      Couple that with the desire of four very strong entities (the RIAA, the MPAA, Microsoft, and, lest we forget, the baby bells who fear VoIP more than anything) to cripple and control the internet or, failing that, do away with it altogether, and you have a very strong group with the will, and the power, to take away our digital freedom.

      The only problem is how to make such a power grab into our personal lives palitable to the majority of Americans. How fortuitious for them that the educational level of America has declined so much over the last four decades, and that by playing the morality card they'll have a large portion of the population on board with nary a thought about the underlying issues, or very real consiquences, of such a move.

      Indeed, policymakers already know this works. It allowed them to gut the most potent civil protections of the constitution in their persuit of their War on Drugs, and to continue doing so even after failure upon failure. Should it be of any surprise to any of us to see them doing it again as they try to put the digital genie back in the bottle and deny us our digital freedoms?
  • by doomdog ( 541990 ) on Sunday August 25, 2002 @10:47PM (#4139055)
    Why is anyone surprised by this? After all, practically none of the dot coms had a viable business model -- it was all "get customers now and make it up later (on volume!). The only thing that made it possible in the first place was the billions upon billions of dollars that venture captial threw into the pot...

    As the article mentioned, the things that are working well on the web are the same things that work well (from a financial standpoint) in real life: selling pr0n and ripping people off. Only with the web, you can reach a MUCH wider audience (such as under-age boys [sub-18] with the pr0n -- all without fear of prosecution). After all, no one in their right mind would stand outside a middle school trying to sell copies of porno magazines -- he'd be arrested (and most likely hung) in quick fashion.

    But with the web (and spam), these sleazeballs are allowed to advertise to a group that was previously off-limits. The rest is basic economics: increase the size of your target audience, increase your sales...

    The same thing goes for ripping people off: you're able to reach a wider audience. Slap together a slick web page, and you give yourself an air of legitimacy -- all the better to draw in the stupid and gullible.

    The internet is not making people more stupid, and isn't contributing to the demise of society... It is merely bringing the existing stupidity and lack of culture to the forefront of society, instead of letting it hide in dark corners... It is making depravity more visible, that's all.
    • uh, how many kids do you know with a credit card that isn't monitored by their parents?

      I would imagine most kids would go for free porn
    • Why is anyone surprised by this? After all, practically none of the dot coms had a viable business model

      Not really. Like this .com [] lives on the interests gain from its capital raised during .com boom; it doesn't generate much revenue but will still live forever. Even more, this .com [] acquired massive amount of capital in the same way and they even have spare money to invest [].

      They are running a very successful business model in a sense.

      (Just in case you ponder, these are black jokes on real cases)
      • Mind if I speculate that there are far fewer Chinese speaking people online and far fewer sites that cater to them, especially proportionately? Perhaps that non-English speaking people might tend to ignore the internet at large and there are plenty of opportunities to simply duplicate the function of English sites without much native-language competition.
        • Mind if I speculate that there are far fewer Chinese speaking people online and far fewer sites that cater to them, especially proportionately? Perhaps that non-English speaking people might tend to ignore the internet at large and there are plenty of opportunities to simply duplicate the function of English sites without much native-language competition.

          Are you sure? [] Check the fact before you post please.

          According to the figures China is the third largest Internet user in the world, after the United States and Japan.

          And it doesn't even count the Chinese not living in mainland China, e.g. Hong Kong Taiwan, U.S., U.K., South East Asia, etc.

          Welcome to reality!
    • Why is anyone surprised by this? After all, practically none of the dot coms had a viable business model -- it was all "get customers now and make it up later (on volume!). The only thing that made it possible in the first place was the billions upon billions of dollars that venture captial threw into the pot...

      Now. To a degree, every business model in the history of the universe is based on this principle. You spend some money on establishment, you sell at a massive loss to your first customer, and your second and third, but you have a break even point.

      The problem with the dot coms was not that they used VC to fund the establishment phase, or that they couldn't make money out of a small number of cutomers. The problem was that they set their break even point too high - because they did the old "Okay, so if we get 0.1% of web surfers to buy a book once a year thats more books than are sold in Europe!!! WOOWOWOWOWOOWOWOWWOOOOOOHHHHH we can't fail!!! Bitchin'"

      But, actually, the flaw wasn't in aiming for 0.1% of the web. The flaw was in underestimating the difficulty of doing this.

      Remember - if, back a while, you heard Bill Gates claiming he would have 50% of all business systems expenditure going to his company you'd think he was mad. Same for Dell, Same for Starbucks, same for Aunt Jemima.

      The web is irrelevent here - most businesses fail. The dot coms were just highly visible as they failed.
    • .. it should not be okay to do in an online store either.

      My particular pet peeve is online stores that require particular browsers and settings, or they don't work. B&M stores, and traditional mail-order retailers, know it's good business practice to never piss off more than a max of 5% of potential customers. Yet online stores think nothing of artificially limiting their customer base by 30% to 80%, due to designing for whatever browser the webmaster uses, or whatever glitz the webmaster is in love with this week.

  • Funny (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GigsVT ( 208848 ) on Sunday August 25, 2002 @10:49PM (#4139064) Journal
    Funny because I heard on NPR a couple days ago that "e-commerce was having a great year". I guess it all depends on who you ask, and if the person you ask had a bullshit business model to start with.
    • Not only that, but lets imagine a scenario. Imagine that the NYT was having a bad "e-commerce" year. So lets imagine that.

      Lets say they are about to have to report how things are going for their online unit.

      What better way to blame someone else.

      "Its not us [boss/shareholders]! Its the Internet! No one is making money!"

      Maybe its true, maybe not. But we gotta remember to check our sources.
  • News Flash! NYT says competitors can't survive!

    This is a no brainer. Don't expect telcoms, music publishers, TV people, commercial software vendors, governments and any other large, entrenched and threatened industry to say that the web is good for anything but kiddie porn, bomb making and whatever horror is up for the day. I'm tired of hearing all the BS from the so called reputable news sources.

    Advertising is in a slump because no one expects anyone to have any money soon. The NYT itself is in the same shitcan everyone else is in. Sorry, that's the way the cycle turns.

    The problem for those interests is that people will get what they want without the helping hand of those who would control them. People want telcom services they don't have to pay by the minute for. They want news they can pull for themselves rather than the stream of push current media provides. They want feedback on that news, pure objective informed voices on the spot. They want to make their songs availble to others without the intervention of one of five big publishers. They will build what it takes to get those things and those that publish nonsense about it will simply fail. Their are more powerful motives than profit.

  • In a settlement with the company, the government got $30 million for consumer refunds.

    Like everything else, if the government can get a cut, they will finally get its hands dirty... I am normally against the government to make a profit off crime, but its nice to seem the get off thier ass.
  • When I browse at work, I can't go look at any pr0n. But I get as many annoying ads and popups on legit sites as I did on pr0n sites before I started using galeon. :-) As for Spam, I get nearly as much from legit companies (Sony, Orbitz, Priceline, Alaska Air...) as I do from the snakeoil salesmen.

    A bigger question, though, is why do we have to "save the Internet?" Many legitimate industries started out with less-than-honorable beginnings. And places can transform their images from sin to family.

    Look at Vegas.
    • I don't think I've ever been spammed by Orbitz, but thier popup ads suck ass. What's up with "click on the bunny" with the assorted annoying sound effects? Either they think that I'm a moron, or the only way they have left to attract business is to ANNOY you into remembering them. If it's the latter, they've succeeded. Now I'm reminded never to use their annoying fucking service.
  • ... to write an articulate article, with lots of sweeping claims from important-sounding people, which doesn't really offer much to substantiate its claims.

    In some ways, I wish the "cyberspace" notion had never been introduced, because it furthers bad analogies like these, comparing the net to a geographical neighborhood, which has apparently become a red-light district.

    The reality, of course, is that the internet is a communication medium, not a neighborhood, and the apparently-proliferating number of sleazy businesses making use of it proves very little. Sure, you can make money selling fake penis-enlargement pills at a $57 markup, so long as you can find suckers (although I do admit being a bit surprised that there are so many of them).

    Brewster Kahle is right on point, even if his thoughts are buried in the article:
    Brewster Kahle, who has created a large Internet archive he calls the Wayback Machine, which contains several times the amount of information in the Library of Congress, said that the number of questionable sites is beside the point so long as search engines do their job.

    "We don't worry about how many pages that I don't care about are in the Internet archive," he said. "What you do care about is, `Does it have the pages that I want?' "
    Now if only the NY Times would stop running articles about the supposed decline of electronic "civil society," and start commentataing on the actual decline of actual civil society []. Or, heaven forbid, the sleazy nature of elected officials and their corporate benefactors [].
    • If you look for porn, you will find so much porn that you will not be able to look at a fraction of it.

      However, the same thing goes for heraldry and blazons, Loglan, go, Irish music sessions, AK-47 variants, Super Mario Bros. 3, or gender studies- to name the contents of some of my most recent bookmarks. They came off of Google searches that spit out thousands of pages each.
  • The Web is a great medium for buying and selling stuff. Catalogs and order processing work just fine. It's just a lousy medium for advertising stuff.

    This is because it's a "pull" medium; you look at what you want to look at. Advertising depends on shoving stuff in people's faces, and they hate that. Everything that looks like a "push" medium on the Web has flopped. Even spam is a dud; most spammers are very tiny operators; they're annoying, but, as businesses, less successful than the typical local retailer. The publicly held spam-type companies, 24/7 Media and DoubleClick, are in the tank.

    The winners in this are the big online retailers, most of whom were big offline catalog retailers. L.L. Bean, and Barnes and Noble, for example. Their customers are mostly repeat ones, their advertising is in traditional media, and they have a brick-and-mortar presence.

    It's sad that Sears failed as a catalog operator just before the Web took off; their broad catalog would have worked on line.

  • I've been saying for a long time and will continue to do so, you can not easily make money off of something which promotes the free and unrestricted flow of information. The internet allows for data to move easily from point to point and removes many of the barriers that allow for making money. To make money off the net is chalenging and very few will ever be succesful.
  • Blockquoth the article...

    People now talk about wasting too much of their time sifting through e-mail invitations to view photographs of nymphets or
    unspeakable acts with farm animals
    (emphasis mine)

    Are we sure they're talking about e-mail? Don't they mean /.? (If you don't get it, think Goatse. :)

  • I don't know. The sites that actually offer up good old fashioned product seem to be doing pretty good. It's the smoke and mirror sites that went under. People who thought they would make money just by showing up....Well they are where they should be -- gone and/or going. I have done ALL of my Christmas shopping online for the last 3 years (granted I tried to go to the sites that offered reduced or free shipping). I purchase most of my music online -- in the past I have also used the internet to decide what music deserved purchasing -- but the RIAA thought I was not buying enough...but thats another story. I buy most of my books online (even though I have not quite figured out how to suck a mocha through my modem just yet). I bargain hunt at ebay (I bet they have not passed out many pink slips). All the special software we use at work, and my wife uses at home is researched, reviewed, and purchased online....

    I could go on forever and ever -- the bottom line being: People are spending money online -- they are just spending it on products.
  • by GroundBounce ( 20126 ) on Monday August 26, 2002 @12:11AM (#4139280)
    Three years ago, the internet (the web in particular) was hyped into being the biggest change to society since the printing press.

    Obviously most of the hype has not materialized. Although it does make some money for some people, the web has basically returned to what it was in the first place: a massive and highly efficient facilitator of information exchange. Much of this is business to business and is behind the scenes, but some of it, such as email, eclectic news sites, file sharing, and software distribution are in public view. Probably 90% of the non-computer-geeks that I know use the web for little more than email, reading news, and occasional shopping. And much of the shopping is from retailers that also have a brick-and-morter establishment.

    Probably the biggest single effect of the internet is that more non-mainstream information reaches more people than ever before. This primarily non-economic use has been the major revolution brought about by the web. Although porn and spam are more prevalent than they used to be, they were always there, even before the big web hype bubble.
    • Ironically, for me, it has drastically changed the way information reaches me!

      Want to know something? Google it, and 10 minutes later, you are "in the know".

      Tell me how that's not a radical change!?

      • True enough. I probably wasn't clear enough about it, but my main point was that most of the radical change has been things like basic information exchange, as opposed to the buying and selling of products (which occurs, but not to the degree people had hoped it would). Yes, there is some profit in information exchange (Google sells their search technology for example), but a large percentage of this information exchange is available at no extra charge to end users once they pay for their internet connection. Same thing goes for IRC - it's also primarily non-economic information exchange.
  • by dmoynihan ( 468668 ) on Monday August 26, 2002 @12:12AM (#4139281) Homepage
    Other initiatives to dilute the bad by raising the concentration of the good have also begun. Project Gutenberg, an arduous effort conducted largely by volunteers, has put more than 400 books online

    Try 5,750! []

    Not that the author wasn't doing their homework or anything.

  • OK, I doubt any /.ers would fall for these but they are worth knowing about as they are getting very popular right now. The way they work is simple but very elegant and even has a Dr. of Physics is well & truly sucked in to one of them.

    It's basically a "new age" take on the old evangelists' preacher routine, "send me money and you will be saved".

    If anyone wants to make a bit of money here's the magic formula: Setup a web site that reveals the "end of the world" such as PlanetX, Earth Changes, Comet collisions, alien invasion or all of the above. Link this in with bits of information from "psychics" like Edgar Cacye, Nostrodamus, and even the bible structured it in a way to provide proof of what you say (if you look hard enough you can find apparent evidence for anything). It is also advisable to have your own private channeled aliens as well. The idea is to make people as paranoid as possible.

    Then sell a "savior kit" including detailed information gained from your aliens, maybe a map, of where is safe during the Earth Changes, how to signal UFOs to be rescued or other variations.

    If using the channeled alien approach, your little ETs must state that every other bit of info around is from negative entities that wish to mislead. Also have your ETs state that anyone who tries to warn your suckers is being controlled by dark forces / is possessed / not in their soul plan to survive / has no soul.

    Furthermore, state something like "If you have found this web site, you must have been spiritually guided to it, it must be your destiny to survive the earth changes", that's a killer and works almost every time as all people want to believe they are special. Never ever claim to sell anything; your web site must appear as an information source not a sales pitch for your hacked up book, introduce the book / tapes later on when you know people are hooked.

    If people send you emails that disagree with your web site, always snidely reply something like "Ask for a refund at the door", if they really show you for what you are, use your channeled ETs to attack them. While waiting to spring the book / tapes / savior kit on people do drop in the fact that the web site costs money to maintain etc and ask for no pressure donations. Same ploy with the book, state that you needed to get it independently published and hence that is why it is expensive.

    The only tricky side of this is of course you have to claim to care about people and that is why you are bringing this information out in public but the flip side is, you have to charge money for the actual information that you claim will help people. Not very spiritual, in fact totally materialistic and shows your motive is to make money from the gullible but the way to avoid this is to make people as paranoid as possible then they will not notice. If a few people do in fact notice that you have a big web site that you already pay for and you could publish the information for free without additional cost & killing a load of trees for the book, state that you have to make a living somehow in this horrible materialistic world, that you don't like it but you have to eat and Porches are expensive to run. This usually works even though you also claim their are massive spiritual rewards for helping people, use the "spiritual rewards" ploy to get others to forward your emails around to attract new customers.

    This scam sounds very bizarre to anyone that hasn't come across it but its in full swing right now as there is certainly a lot of money to be made from the gullible new age crowd, I have met a lot of people that believe in this stuff and they have spent a fortune on it. Certainly a great money spinner for out of work techies, you need to learn the lingo and beliefs of the new age gang but that is entertainment in its self.

  • I find it very intersting that Newton N. Minow, the man who famously called television a "vast wasteland" is advocating the Internet as a hope for the future of books:
    There's so much good stuff that is trapped in libraries that should be digitized and made available," Mr. Minow said. "It's just yearning to get free."
    Well whack me with a 2x4. First of all, you have to be a lifelong government bureaucrat (or a special humanist named Eldred) to think you can free the stuff trapped in libraries in this age of DMCA, deep-linking suits, etc, etc. And I'll even blow right by the "Information wants to be free" reference. But I'm still blown away that the man who called television a wasteland is quoted in the NY Times in an article on the Internet as a wasteland as saying that the problem is we need fewer restrictions on information... I know you *won't* think about it, but I still recommend trying it.
  • ...if only we had some sort of drm to promote online movies and high speed internet access so we could truly have a multimedia experience. We need the government involved in this to change things and make it a requirment so the web can truly be free.

  • Why are spam and porn more profitable? Because they're destroying everything else. The increase of Internet scams, porn, spam, popup advertising, viral marketing, anti-privacy policies and other trash that comes with the Internet's popularity are actually what causes this problem. The con games some dotcom millionares pulled have soured others on investing in legitimate web companies. Millions of dollars of advertising sold to companies with overinflated traffic numbers destroyed the Internet advertising market. Corporate bean counters that suffocated fast sites with good content (replacing original news with Yet-Another-Reuters-Report) reduced the legitimacy of online news sites. Greedy and immoral/unethical people with their fake companies have ruined things for the good little businesses trying to survive. As always, the worst people have ruined things for the best people and society as a whole must suffer for it.

  • by Inexile2002 ( 540368 ) on Monday August 26, 2002 @01:37AM (#4139507) Homepage Journal
    That means that 500,000 people ordered penis enlargement pills!!! Five hundred thousand!!!.

    If there are five hundred thousand people out there stupid enough to read their spam, then visit the web site and actually send the money... it shouldn't surprise people that the internet is full of garbage content. Oh wait, the surprised people are probably the same people who sent their $60.

    The internet can't make stupid people less stupid, and frankly it can't make smart people smarter. All it can do is let smart people get at information they want faster, and stupid people get to the charlatans faster. Anyone who is really surprised by any of this, please send me $40 and I'll send you my left over penis enlargement pills.
  • Thank Heaven (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PingXao ( 153057 ) on Monday August 26, 2002 @03:16AM (#4139706)

    Even huge companies like AOL Time Warner appear to be struggling to figure out -- still -- how to come up with online content and services that mainstream consumers will be willing to pay for.

    I've been on the 'net since the days of Mosaic and before that, WAIS and Gopher. You know what I just realized? I've NEVER paid cash money for "online content". Maybe someday I will, but not yet. I don't use the internet as a "consumer". I use it for information, mostly, and maybe 10% of the time for entertainment. The non-pr0n kind. Big media wanted the internet to become another vehicle to the masses like television. It's not working and I say Thank Heaven. It doesn't surprise me at all that AOL has hit the wall. They have never really provided their customers with "the Internet". They basically provided their advertisers with their subscribers' eyeballs. AOL in trouble. What a beautiful thing.

    Clueless congressional representatives, obeying their masters in Holywood, have taken up the cry that the reason highspeed broadband internet access hasn't really taken off is that there is no "online content" that will entice consumers into the arena. Then they use that excuse to say that Holywood won't provide this content until they can be "protected" from IP theft (which is a bogus concept, but that's another story). The bright spot in there is that the big communications giants have strung a ton of fiber around the U.S. and there's a glut of it. I have a cable modem and my satisfaction with speed on the internet as a whole is above 90%. Thank heaven (again) they built out this high-speed infrastructure before going into a tailspin.
  • I think the internet has become quite an interesting beast today.. it certainly looks a lot different to the internet I used for the first time in 1996.

    The best thing for me about the internet as it is today, is that it has matured a little. It has given the chance for the big companies with a great product (Google for example), and companies with great business models and online stores the chance to get going and become popular. I was really surprised on a recent visit to Yahoo auctions to discover they had shut up shop and advised former Yahoo auctioneers to visit eBay.

    Of course the downside to the internet.. now that the technology has matured it has made higher power technology available to people who only want to abuse it. Carding, hacking, and DoSing all seem to be pretty rife today. And not to mention the spam.. thankfully I only get a small amount to my few different email addresses, but I would much rather get none - I *hate* spam!

    My other hate about the internet are huge corporations who feel they can get in and police the internet according to their own standards. Companies like Disney who have forged 'relationships' with government members, who barely have any grasp on the technology they want to censor.

    I dunno.. I think the net needs some kind of revival. I think I am ready for the next big thing.
  • by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Monday August 26, 2002 @04:22AM (#4139784) Homepage

    These 3 succeed because they serve their customers. The others are basically doing a terrible job at understanding what the customer wants and providing it at a reasonable price, under reasonable terms.

    • Porn
      This is quite obvious. The customer wants it. Someone has it. And the price seems to work out. And the terms are usually pretty good, too (e.g. we're in a different country than your law enforcement, so they can take a hike).
    • Spam
      First, understand that the customer is not the one getting the mail. The customer is the one paying the spammer to send mass mail. The price is way cheaper than snail mail spam, so the spammers are succeeding and meeting what their customers want.
    • Fraud
      The customer in this case is the fraud perpetrator themselves. The victim is not the customer. So in a sense this works, too, when the perpetrator gets away with the booty.

    Perhaps internet gambling should be included here, too. It's not as big as porn, but from what I hear, it's nearly as successful. Vice does tend to be a good business model. I'm sure once they have the technology to download matter replication (if there is some kind of digital rights management for it), there will be plenty of places to get marijuana and drugs online. They'd do it if they could, because this is a massive market. Also, knives, guns, bombs, and maybe even nuclear material might be sold this way. You can bet the government would have a fit if the technology allowed this to go on without them being able to trace it all.

    • You missed an important reason why porn and fraud have done so well on the internet: anonimity. In the case of porn, it is anonymity form the buyer's point of view. You don't have to go to a video store and admit to a bitter store clerk that you need your porn fix, you just get it deliverd to your home from a faceless company. In the case of fraud, the scammers feel like (and generally are right) that it's easier not to get caught since it's more anonymous and law enforcement is still scrabbling to keep up.
      • That's kind of what I meant, though not so much in terms of the store clerk than the law enforcement. But you're right, that is certainly one aspect of it that influences how readily people might buy. That and, someone might recognize them in the store (especially in a smaller community) or their car in the parking lot. I wouldn't worry about that as much at my grocery store, whereas delivery of food by a truck meant having to be home whenever the trick might arrive.

  • The internet is a case of CB vs HAM vs Cell.

    CB and Single Side Band(aka dial-up and DSL) is a relative low quality, extremely cheap, but usable media. However since it's so cheap everyone can join in.

    Ever listen to channel 14 on a CB around 8:00pm? You'll hear stuff that would make some of these porn producers blush :). There's little regulation and controls and everyone knows it. If you don't know it, you'll find out soon.

    HAM and Shortwave Radio This a licenced media on a seperate frequency. This is probly where Internet 2 will be going. Internet 1 has reached it limit. Internet 1 will soon be written off as reaching it's point of limited return. In other words we're very close to the point that it costs more to get more out of Internet 1 then it is to move to Internet 2.

    To get on the 'real' pipe you will have get licenced. If you violate the regulations your licence and IP will be pulled and you'll be dead in the water. Thats where you get the real control on copyright material control.

    Cell Phone Finally came a useable Peer2Peer media, cell phone. Cell phone is a simplified communication system; flip and talk. It's a cheap, resonably good quality, well maintained communication media.

    Cell now allows you to filter calls based on the name(phone number) of the caller via a universal ID system.

    Internet 1 will always have it's dark underside. It will not get better. They, goverment and corperate enities, will let it get worse to force you to new mediums.

    Internet 2 will be a closely controlled network but the need for regulations will keep many people off.

    A middle ground will be a moderately regulated and controlled peer to peer medium. This new medium will grow for the rest of the world.
  • by tomdarch ( 225937 ) on Monday August 26, 2002 @10:53AM (#4141014)
    Is it really useful to group spam and fraud along with porn? Fraud and spam are inherently harmful. Porn may be de facto harmful in its production, but there is an important distinction. Now, if only the porn distributors would stop spamming everyone!
  • The advertising model COULD have been made to work. Perhaps it would never work quite as well as some had hoped for, but I do believe it can work better than some are now claiming.

    One of the ways it failed is due to an expectation that wasn't realistic. Unlike other forms of advertising, such as radio spots, TV commercials, and blocks or pages in a newspaper or magazine, the web/internet came with technology that could gauge a response when people clicked on the ads. The reason this fails is because too many people just don't click on the ads. Now I have clicked on a few, even here on Slashdot, but that was only when it was a combination of something I was really intersted in, and I happened to be bored at the time. When I'm not bored, I have goals, such as reading the interesting article. I still see the ads, but I move on.

    The brightest green laser pointer [] around is now at ThinkGeek [].

    The correct way to do advertising on the web, and the way it will work, is to expect them to work the same way they work in other media ... make impressions. Banner ads, and even the hated big box ads can have that effect. And small text ads can have that effect, too. But what the ads writers/creators have to do is make the ads impressionable. The ones that say "Click here for the best home mortgages" don't do any good to create a brand impression. Instead it should give the mortgage company name along with words that say what is being offered, e.g. lower rates, loans to those with poor credit, no down payment loans, or whatever. Don't depend on people to click through today, but make sure they know your name so they will seek you out when they are in the need for your product or service.

    integrate. collaborate. accelerate. SourceForge 3.1 [], from VA Software [].

    Because advertising and marketing executives were so interested in this new technology to allow them to track click throughs, they forgot about what makes advertising work in the first place, which is a combination of simple information and brand recognition. Making them obtrusive may have some negative impact, but when advertising is done on the old tradition impression basis (which is still going to work because the audience is still the same species that it has worked on before), even small text blocks used to separate sections or stories can have as good an impression as that big annoying box, and work out as a better compromise between an advertiser seeking more returns for a smaller investment, and a publisher seeking larger revenues while retaining and growing an audience to deliver to that advertiser.

    Smart mass putty []. Bounce, stretch, contort, relieve stress. At ThinkGeek [].

APL hackers do it in the quad.