Are Websites Dead?

About four years ago, our website design consultants (at my previous job) sent me a survey. One of the questions was “List the websites you visit frequently.” I was quite surprised to realize that there were no websites that I visited frequently. Six months earlier, I had installed, then purchased, a copy of NetNewsWire and I had almost instantaneously switched to reading RSS feeds (or even better, Atom feeds) instead of surfing the web.

Note: NetNewsWire is now free. I don’t even mind paying them back then.

Four years later, I still don’t visit any websites regularly. These days, I even ditch web feeds that aren’t full-content, like The Economist’s Democracy in America. Well, except for Daring Fireball, and that is a big compliment.

This is fine if only I do it, but if lots of people follow suit it is a nasty turn of events for ad-supported websites. Way back in 1996, Infoseek couldn’t make a go of it as a subscription website and invented and patented banner ads. Twelve years later, we are talking billions of ad dollars.

Seriously, the web does not exist without advertising. Google is an advertising company (duh!), just like Infoseek was. 25% of the staff at Infoseek were in ad sales. 70% of Google works on ads. RSS feeds don’t show ads. This cuts off the oxygen supply for the whole web.

I suggested explicit Atom support for ads, but that didn’t get any traction. Now, I see separate “sponsored by” entries in two of my feeds. Hmm, one of them is Daring Fireball.

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