10 May 2006

Vinton Cerf and Esther Dyson discuss the internet’s future

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Esther Dyson
A few days ago, the Wall Street Journal online published a long interview with web pioneer Vinton G. Cerf and CNET’s editor in chief Esther Dyson. The interview is part of a series of articles to mark the 10th anniversary of the WSJ.com website, and focuses specifically on the next 10 years of the internet.

One quote from Esther Dyson:

“I think you’ll see a fundamental shift in the balance of power towards individuals. Individuals will declare what kinds of vendors they want sponsoring their content, and then those vendors will have the privilege of appearing, discreetly, around the user’s content. There will be much less “advertising” and much more communication to interested customers. Advertisers will have to learn to listen, not just to track and segment customers.

So the message to marketers is: If you can’t sell your product (assuming it’s already in the market), fix the product! Don’t try to change the situation by advertising.

Consumers will publish wish lists for marketers to scan. Also, their choices will be influenced by their friends’ comments much more than by marketers’ messages.

On the other hand, it will be much harder for consumers to get free content anonymously, because advertisers will want to know more about the people they are paying to reach. In many cases, whether email or ads, users may even get a share of the marketer’s payments. (See AttentionTrust.org or my op-ed on Goodmail or my post on Release 1.0.)

This makes sense from advertisers’ point of view, but it has a social downside: People who buy Porsches can earn more from marketers than people who buy used cars. People without money will find it harder and harder to get free content — which means a role for nonprofits in funding access to content for all.”

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