Should Google and other online sites share some of the gold with users?

Summary:Can users sell their clicks and their surfing habits?

I just read Dan Farber's Syndicate conference blog and his write-up of the compensation ideas that the "Steve Gillmor gang" are busily promoting.

 Here is Seth Goldstein, one of the Attention Trust gang, quoted by Dan:
 "People  have to feel they own equity in the entities that they are providing the data to, which are becoming valuable based on the [user] data," said Goldstein. "The valuation of Google or Yahoo is  based on value of user gestures, and it's getting to a point soon where publishers and consumers, in a social media context, will be fighting over the proceeds."

I just don't get it. Compensating users for spending time online? Compensate them with money or ownership? This smacks of the bubble days when such ideas were common.

I just don't see why users should demand a piece of the action for using a web service.

Bill Gates seems to be a convert, and he's a smart guy. So there must be something I am missing. Bill Gates wants to pay users to use his search box.

Well, we know how that one will play out. There will be entire villages in India converting over from clicking on Google text ads, to populating MSFT search boxes with search terms.

Isn't it wonderful, the distribution of wealth from rich nations to developing nations? It will lift millions out of poverty and make the world a better place.

I agree with Dan, when he writes:

"It's hard to imagine Google or other major sites granting users an explicit piece of the action, other than providing more convenience and relevance."

The compensation to users is provided by the value of the service. I use a lot of Google services, for example, and I get a lot more out of the arrangement than I think Google gets from me.

If Google, or any other online business,  can monetize my clicks and surfing and provide me with an excellent service, then I am all the richer for it. 

I don't need a check, or a stock option, or Uncle Sam getting involved. And I am free to be fickle and move on if someone offers a better service.

Topics: Google


In May 2004, Tom Foremski became the first journalist to leave a major newspaper, the Financial Times, to become a full-time journalist blogger. He writes the popular news blog Silicon Valley Watcher--reporting on the business of Silicon Valley. Tom arrived in San Francisco in 1984, and has covered US technology markets for leading comput... Full Bio

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