Decentralizing the Economic Power of the Web (A Reading List)

Janice Wait

By Janice Wait | Sept. 11, 2020 | Fellowships & Awards

We recently hosted a panel discussion as part of our MozFest’s Dialogues & Debates series focused on interrogating the web’s reigning business model — digital advertising — and exploring whether alternatives can become mainstream.

As the web has evolved, it has developed a reliance on advertising as its funding model. Now, let me be clear - from a general standpoint, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with advertising. What is problematic are the invasive tracking and data hoarding practices that have become commonplace in digital advertising. It’s also the ways in which these practices are changing the web and impacting democracy.

The panel explored how advertising emerged as the dominant business model, how it’s shaping the web itself, where opportunities might exist to decentralize the economic power on the web, and how we might get from here to there. And panelists had one unanimous point as we closed out the discussion: We need to level the playing field. (Watch the recording or read the transcript.)

Much attention is being paid to reforms needed in current digital advertising practices. Some other changes on the horizon, such as browsers moving away from supporting third-party cookies and Apple’s (delayed) plans to implement explicit tracking permissions, may also impact the role of advertising in the web ecosystem.

But, how might we grow sustainability for the web beyond advertising and the current data economy? Is it possible to have a web that is driven by people rather than platforms? How could the economics of the web be reshaped so they’re not built on the backs of individuals’ security and privacy?

We’ll be digging into these kinds of questions over the coming months, and invite you to join us. Below you’ll find a reading list to help you get started in understanding the issues and learn about some of the solutions emerging for decentralizing the economic power of the web.

Understanding Targeted Advertising

How do the biggest internet companies make money? (Mozilla)

It's the Business Model (Ranking Digital Rights)

AI and Digital Advertising: A Dangerous Pair (Harriet Kingaby, Mozilla Fellow)

Friction-Free Racism (Real Life)

The Internet’s Original Sin (Renee DiResta, Mozilla Fellow)

The cost of an ad-free internet: $35 more per month (Vox)

Why Don’t We Just Ban Targeted Advertising? (WIRED)

Exploring Other Business Models

$100M Grant for the Web fund aims to jump-start a new way to pay online (TechCrunch)

Web Monetization Like I’m 5 (Akintunde Sultan, Grant for the Web Ambassador)

What Place Will Virtual Tipping Have in the Post-Pandemic Music Industry? (Billboard)

Scroll promises a better Internet for users and more money for publishers, all for just five bucks (Nieman Lab)

Why we invested in building an equitable data economy (Omidyar)

Investor Owned vs. User Owned Platforms (The Internet of Ownership)

We’re Missing an Entire Universe of Web Payments: How to Fix the Web for Creators (Amber Case)

Newsletters could be the next (and only) hope to save the media (Wired)