Is the Mac Web Selling Its Soul?

Start saving your nickels and dimes, ’cause this column is going to cost you.

Have you been to MacFixIt lately? Well, if you want to figure out what’s conflicting with that QuickTime extension on your Mom’s iMac, you’re going to have to pay.

Want the inside scoop from MacOS Rumors? Well if you “donate” to them, they’ll put you on their Sponsor’s e-mail list! Wow, donate? You mean rumors are now Tax Deductible?

Want to listen to the whole two hours of “The Mac Show”? Well pony up kids ’cause it’s going to cost you now.

Speaking of which, let’s all stand up right now and give Shawn King a standing ovation for walking away and starting “Your Mac Life” when push came to shove, he didn’t back down. Amen! Finally, someone has stood up against this disturbing trend of “pay for content” on the Mac Web.

I remember when I got my first Mac. Experienced Mac users used to help me F.O.C. (that’s free of charge) whenever I needed it. I remember when I had finally gained enough knowledge and experience to be able to pay that all back; I’d share it with new Mac users. I’d help people choose their first Macs. It was fun, it still is. I’m going over to my sister’s house to teach her how to use her Clip Art CDs on her new iMac. Helping is a part of what made the Mac different to me. It helped give it a soul.

When I finally got onto the Internet, I was thrilled to find that same Macintosh culture had translated onto the web with e-mail lists, web sites, and helpful people in chat rooms. All of those helpful things, because of the Mac community. Nobody charged for content, tips or help. What few sites I did find that charged weren’t Mac sites and I didn’t patronize them.

But now with the recent advent of these pay for content schemes, it has me wondering if the Mac Web is going to end up selling it’s soul. It just seems that it’s the antithesis of what the Mac community has always been about.

If you’ve ever seen the PBS special, Nerds 2.0: A Brief History of the Internet, there once was some much loftier goals for the Internet. Imagine, digitizing the entire Library of Congress. And that’s just the beginning. Imagine being able to read any book, ever written at any time of the day or night. Imagine being able to ‘check out’ any movie, magazine, etc. The web could have been so much more than just another heat island of a strip mall designed to easily separate a man from his wallet’s contents. I thought that the Mac Web had in fact come closer to the loftier goals than most others.

Don’t get me wrong. There is something wonderful about shopping at midnight in your pajamas. I love the convenience of comparison-shopping in my home without driving all over town. I just believe that the Internet can be more.

It just seems wrong to me to charge people in the Mac community for content. It’s like my trip over to my sister’s house after I wrap this column up. Should I charge her mileage and a one-hour minimum? If my friend at work gets a new Mac, should I whip out my business card and tell them ’bout my rates? No way!

I recently wrote Shawn King after listening to his new “Your Mac Life.” I wrote him and applauded him for his “courage and insanity” to stand up for what truly he believes. It’s that same courage and insanity that it takes each one of us to use a Mac in a Windows dominated world. Just goes to show you, Shawn King “gets it.” We’re all in this together.

I know that the bottom dropped out of Web advertising. Fewer businesses are paying and paying less for what ads that do get purchased. If you are on the web to make money then it seems to me that you have to hunker down and find a way to make it pay. Add more advertisements, add bigger ones, whatever it might take, or, scale back.

But asking people to pay for content with advertisements seems like PBS having donation drives and then interrupting Frontline in the middle of a show with a two minute commercial break complete with Jack in the Box commercials.

I hope charging for content is just a passing growing pain of the Mac web. It may be it’s a portent of things to come, I don’t know. There has to be a way to make the Web pay and I hope that everyone discovers it shortly. In the meantime, I’ve got to get going. I need to get over to my sister’s house and help her with her new iMac. What do you think, should I charge her for my visit?

Editors note: will never charge its readers a dime to read our content. As one of the longest running Mac websites on the internet today (second only to MacInTouch, I believe) we have stayed committed to our original goal: to provide good, fun, and educational content to Macintosh users free of charge.

Bob McCormick

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