I am a Libertarian, a capitalist, a free thinking idealist, and have a lingering fear that I suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect.
While on a personal level I do not consider myself an expert at computers, compared to most internet users I might as well be a computer science major. People often turn to me for advice on how to use their computers. When they do I feel obliged to assist because I owe a debt of gratitude to the handful of people who helped me back in the early nineties, and so I continue to pay-it-forward.
However, when you turn to me with your computer questions be prepared to get a lesson in computer fundamentals and concepts before I answer your question.
Most of the problems people have with their computers stems from not knowing how their computers work, how operating systems work, and the basic concepts of how most applications are designed and interact with the operating system and hardware. So like a prophet I invariably launch into a condensed class of Computers 101 or Internet 101 before I will ultimately answer the unsuspecting person’s computer help questions.
I could just tell them how to get around or deal with the problem at hand. But that’s the problem, most people simply memorize a process of doing something on the computer and never really connect it with how and what is actually happening. So by giving some background and explanation I hope that when the person who is seeking my assistance comes across a similar problem, maybe, just maybe they will remember my mini-lesson and figure out what to do next time all by themselves.
But I fear that my passive lessons are not enough. It is time to take proactive action. Capitalism, nay freedom in the modern age may be at risk from you not knowing what a browser is.
A browser is a program (aka application or tool) that you run on your computer’s operating system to access information on the internet, especially information using the http protocol.
And what does all this have to do with the future of the internet and capitalism?
Everytime you use your browser incorrectly you might be making someone rich who is not providing the internet with a useful resource. And while they are getting rich they are also in the process of buying up every domain in the world. So when you goto start your locksmithing website, you find that not only locksmith.com is taken, but so are every other useful and neat domain name out there (e.g. locksmithing.com , unlockmycar.com, mobilelocksmith.com .
Of course all the good domain names are taken…I still don’t get it
But if you go to any of those locksmithing sites, you’ll find that there is not a locksmithing company at that address. You will find what the average internet user will believe is a directory devoted to locksmithing. Except these is not a well thought out and intentional resource devoted to locksmithing, it is a sneaky automated way of delivering advertising obfuscated as a useful resource.
Every time you accidentally (or intentionally) land on one of these sites, you are making someone rich, who is doing nothing but going out and buying more domain names that somebody else might find truly useful, and putting more ads on them.
How does this happen? Well most of the time people end up at these sites because they meant to do an internet search, but instead of going to a search engine or using the search bar in their browser, they just type what they would have searched for directly into the address bar and add a .com at the end (or in some cases their browser kindly adds it for them) and voila, you are at a non-valuable resource for the thing you were looking for (e.g. weddingshoes.com)
They look like real websites, but they are sucking away potential traffic and clogging the domain name space with useless websites. If there were only a few of these fake landing page directories, no big deal. But the internet is full of them, and one man Kevin Ham owns over 300,000 of them all by himself. Every one of them a useless directory of semi-related links to whatever you might have been looking for, and he is the most powerful dotcom mogul you’ve never heard of.
Kevin Ham has a $300 million dollar empire built out of snatching up all the domain names. In his own words, “f you control all the domains, then you control the Internet.”
According to an article in Business 2.0 Magazine he snatches up domains at auction for as much as $350,000 without blinking an eye. Ham may purchase anywhere from 30 to 100 domains a day. Not only does that mean regular folks are staring new business ventures and blog sites everyday that are eliminating the most common domain names, but Kevin Ham and a whole elite group of questionable internet investors are not only registering the domain name that might have been perfect for you, but Kevin and his colleagues, are in some respects accomplishing Kevin’s goal, ownership of the internet.
Kevin isn’t stopping at just registering useful domain names, he also purchases what he believes will be a worthwhile typo of popular words and phrases. Recently he also went one step too far for even his direct competitors in this shady market. Ham partnered with the Cameroon government.
What the heck does Cameroon have to do with all this?
Cameroon happens to be the owner of the TLD (top level domain) ‘.cm’. So he has begun working directly with the Cameroon government to buy up all those domains as well. So when youaccidentally type new.cm or clothing.cm you end up at yet another ad only directory page.
While the .cm strategy might never pay off (even some of the examples given in the Business 2.0 article from June of 2007 are already sold or litigated to legitimate owners) the fact remains that this kind of thinking could spell long term troubles for the internet and capitalism as we know it.
When I say I’m a capitalist, I mean it almost in the same way Ayn Rand defined it. I believe that it right to offer a valuable service and expect something in exchange for it. But I also recognize that technology and concepts of how, what and why we are exchanging are constantly evolving. Unfortunately people like Ham buying up domain names to take advantage of and take control of how the internet works, as well as people mindlessly buying up intellectual property rights to profit on in the future, or people filing patents for processes and inventions they will never make for the sole purpose of suing you later when you think it up and actually implement the idea are all contributing to a decline of functional capitalism on a remotely level playing field.
I remember back when I first heard about domain harvesters and domain farms, and the concept of buying up domain names as a business. At once I was disgusted and intrigued. I even considered the idea. I was there at the beginning, all of those common domain names like food.com or clothing.com or bicycle.com were all available for the taking. Had I the capital to do it on a large scale maybe I would have seriously considered it. But in the end I thought it through, and something about it just didn’t seem right. I have values that prevent me from doing those sorts of things.
But now I look and say, “But I could have been rich.” Rich maybe, but what kind of person would I be? Note that I have enough faith in the very foundation of capitalism and democracy that people like Kevin Ham will be stopped simply by these systems working as they should. Companies like Google do not allow their AdSense program to be displayed on pages such as Kevin Ham’s fake directories. Browsers are starting to autofix typos and detect sites like these. Other technologies will also prevent blatant exploitation of the system, but people like Kevin Ham will keep finding new ways around it, and a new angle to scam. And I do not believe that capitalism is about angles to scam. Angles to scam bring us the type of television programming we have today,software that tells record executives which new music will be popular based on algorithms instead of quality or ear, or formula movie plots that really don’t need writers .
So I take this opportunity to implore you to learn how to use your browser, learn what a browser is, and quit accidentally making people like Kevin Ham rich. It is time to take a proactive action towards a more sustainable future. Sustainability is more than about being green. It is about how we CHOOSE to interact with each other on a personal and professional level. It is about how we choose to perceive the world. It is about how much we choose to understand the world around us.
Be the mechanism that saves the future. Live your dreams and learn how to use your computer.