(continued from the previous post)
For several years now, people have been predicting a future internet model based on micro-payments. Essentially, every time you went to a site you would pay it some tiny amount of money. Big sites would have a lot to gain. Little sites would still get something for their effort. Even though this would make me a few bucks, I think it would lead to real trouble. Once people got paid for clicks, there would be massive attempts to game the system for maximum profit. Popups, of course, would become even more ubiquitous, but that wouldn't be the real problem.
The shit would really hit the fan when companies like AOL and Microsoft figured out that the easiest way to drive traffic to their sites was to restrict access to everyone else's (and don't think micro-payments or something similar wouldn't lead to exactly this). It wouldn't always have to be a total block of sites, although that would be a possibility. First, the internet providers who also make content would rework their servers so that their customers accessed their content way faster than they could access anything else. Then they would start bribing Google and the other search engines to give them preference, the easiest way would be simply to list every hit for a paying customer ahead of every one for a non-payer (which would mean goodbye to being the #1 hit for my name on google), then you could eventually drop the non-payers completely on the grounds that no one clicks on them anyway.
...Most people wouldn't mind so much, since all the stuff they were looking for (sports scores, stock quotes, naked pictures of Britney Spears) would still be accessible. You'd still be able to play games online. You just wouldn't see any non-approved or non-paying sites.
...I'm guessing that if we ever institute a system by which sites get paid for every reader without subscriptions, that'll be the end of the web as we know it. It'd just be a matter of time before the internet was a bunch of sheep looking at the pretty pictures brought to you by Chevrolet and Time/Warner.
(Can you tell I'm reading my blogroll in reverse order today?)