From Open Access to Profit Margins

Eli Paiser’s The Filter Bubble outlines the complex algorithms and systems with determine the content users see on the internet. From Google’s PageRank which decides if you’ll see Seal the singer or a seal cub, to Facebook’s Edgerank which number of Farmville requests you’ll receive, these systems have a powerful impact on the information you’re exposed to on a daily basis. These programs surround us and play a major role in our decision making. For instance: If you’re in the market for a new cake recipe, Amazon can provide you with a list of cookbooks similar to ones you purchased in the past. This is a valuable service, providing users with information quickly, and narrowing down their options in a quick way that browsing through a local bookstore never could, but it also gives for-profit websites license to use their position as middlemen between shoppers and sellers to shape the purchases of their users. Websites like Amazon boost certain sponsored rankings. While these items still reflect possible interests of customers, they aren’t necessarily the most relevant results. in order to increase sales, the company has altered it’s own effective algorithm to boost profits. This set up violates many of the principles which early internet pioneers believed in. The commitment to open access to information and betterment of society has been replaced with dedication to profits and market share. Does this represent a mutually beneficial system for both companies and costumers and users or are these websites taking advantage of users’ dependence on their services?

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3 Responses to From Open Access to Profit Margins

  1. melmarcus says:

    I feel that the advantages of personalization for websites such as Amazon or eBay outweigh the negative effects associated with companies’ drive for profit. Although personalization can leave many of us underexposed to world events, when it comes to our specific needs, companies like Amazon do provide a system that successfully caters to our interests. Even though there could be recommendations that are sponsored by the companies, these do not have a detrimental effect on our purchases because there are plenty of other options that are not being sponsored by companies such as Amazon. It may even turn out that the sponsored suggestion is exactly what we are looking for. The customer using these websites are typically informed about the process of buying goods online, and so we cannot blame Amazon for “duping” us by providing fairly relevant, sponsored recommendations.

  2. klyapp says:

    As an extremely active user I think personalization has truly optimized my online experience, by enhancing and expanding information, resources and networks that are relevant to me. I’ve found that the more specific and frequent I am online with what I’m liking, posting, commenting and following, the more personally preferred information I am exposed to. Or so it seems. However as enhanced as my experience appears to be now and in the short term, I feel that in the long term this may solely benefit service providers. As beneficial as it seems to me as a user now, there is an endless narrowing of information that is occurring. It also makes me think ahead…as we change does our online experience change with us?

  3. margauxsax says:

    Websites like Amazon take their users’ information to increase their profit. During Monday’s class we discussed the idea that the user is the commodity. Websites are able to take user preferences/information and market other products they may be interested in as well as sell this information to third parties. These companies are continuously acquiring information of their (potential) customers to learn how to gain their business. On the other hand, the users benefit from the sites’ algorithms by making the process of searching for goods/information easier and less time consuming. They are also able to compare the prices/quality of goods on the web with ease. However, it is important for users to understand they are not the only ones who are scrutinizing the marketability of the product.

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