Beyond today's add-supported web

The web was designed in the 20th century as a decentralised technique to freely share information. The initial audience for the web protocols were scientific researchers who needed to share scientific documents. HTTP was designed as a stateless protocol and Netscape added HTTP cookies to ease e-commerce. These cookies play a crucial role in today’s ad-supported Internet. They have also enabled companies like Google or Facebook to collect huge amount of data about the browsing habits of almost all Internet users in order to deliver targeted advertisements.

Ad-paid content is not the only possible business model for publishing content on the Internet. There are various examples of websites that publish quality content without relying on advertisements and forcing their users to expose their privacy to access this content. Some content providers explore solutions like Flattr Patreon or donations in Bitcoins.

Apple’s iOS11 might encourage more content providers to explore alternatives to exposing their reader’s privacy. With the release of iOS11, Safari will limit the lifetime of HTTP Cookies to limit the associated privacy leaks. Four large American Advertisement associations have argued against Apple’s approach in an open letter and has published an article summarising those issues.

Written on September 18, 2017