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.com price hike – where is the Internet going?

A few days ago I got an email notification from my domain registrar. It boils down to what’s explained on Namecheap’s page about .com domain price increase.
By the way – near the end of the year 2019, quietly, under the radar, there was a sale of .org domain to a private corporation called “Ethos Capital”.

Soon, there was a discussion on .com price hike on LowEndSpirit forum (good place of free and independent information on hosting and website related topics, with a great community… and bikegremlin 🙂 ). This particular post in that discussion got me thinking:

vyas – forum member

We have 15 odd .com domains with our registrars.
Factor in discount, savings in Paypal tax (paying in local currency) and tax savings makes no sense for us to leave just yet. We do 2 year renewals maybe will do 3 or 5 then assess.
A learned sage once said, (translated from हिंदी ) 
“If your child is a good kid, why worry? 
Also if your child is a bad kid, why worry?”
Meaning- the good kid will keep doing good, and will prosper no matter. The bad one will pay for their crimes/ sins no matter.”
Similarly, if the business/domain survives and makes you good money after 3 years, $10 a year is hardly a cost.
If the domain continues to remain stagnant or bleed you, then $10 a year should be the least of your worries

For me, since the beginning, Internet has been a place for open and free sharing of information and ideas. Connecting people from different continents. Open and affordable. In time, it becomes more and more a playground for the big and rich, place for people surveillance and making profit. Looking at the above quoted post: must every website make money? This website of mine is meant to be free and informative. Wouldn’t like to see the prices of domain registration and hosting go so high that I’m practically forced to place adverts in order to keep it running. Because that way corporations that pay for the adverts could influence what I write and publish.

1. Auto-censorship that comes from website monetization

For example, my post on cPanel price hike was re-posted (with permission) by a popular Serbian portal. However, they omitted the chapter that discusses the ethical aspect of cPanel price hike. The explanation was that “getting into politics is against our editing policy” (my translation from Serbian). It is a NGO that is, I believe, funded by foreign corporations. I love their work, but this made it apparent to me that they are auto-censoring themselves. Even though the post was noted as my work, my opinion on the topic.

The sole visibility of a website, ie. will anyone find and read what you are writing, highly depends today on one large corporation: Google. Google for example, in my experience, doesn’t like the word “communism”. Same text, after adding that word, drops in search results. After removing it, it returns to the first results page. That at least has been my experience with one article, where I had added “the C word” to explain something, and later thought of a better example.

Of course, this is not a statistically valid example, but there are many independent experiments and reports that, without a doubt, confirm that Google censors the Internet.

Still, at least “officially”, no one can forbid you to register a domain (explanation of what is a domain), get a hosting account (what is web hosting) and freely publish what you wish on your website. Or can you? We’ll get back to this later, first a few words on another phenomena – social networks.

2. Social networks and the freedom of speech

You have surely heard of Instagram, Linkedin, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Reddit (I wrote about Reddit censorship as well) etc. The “social networks”. Here I won’t be talking about whether they are good at connecting people, nor about the downsides of socialization using these networks. If you are reasonable enough and use them wisely, you will probably get more good than harm out of them. I’ll discuss social networks in terms of censorship and the freedom of speech.

For many young people, Instagram is the equivalent of the Internet. What isn’t on Instagram, isn’t on the Net – as far as many of the youngsters are concerned. Yes, you can open an account for free and publish your content. Still, it is owned by a corporation and your account can be closed if they don’t like what you are publishing. There’s lots of legal and virtue signaling mumbo-jumbo, but it boils down to that: play by their rules, or get lost!

Same goes for all the other popular social networks.

You can have the best website in the world, but when most people use solely social networks for their information (and fun/leisure), you are practically non-existent.

3. Affect of domain registration price increase on the freedom of speech

I live in Serbia. Let’s take an amount of money, say 10 $. For someone living in US and EU – it is an hours work to earn, or less. For an average Serbian, it is about 5 hours. For someone in Africa, it might as well be 10 to 20 work hours. The point is that any price hike mostly affects the poor. This way, by increasing domain registration prices (and web hosting prices), the poor are practically censored.

While the companies running the show are making more and more profit.

4. Internet censorship – in general

In the world, and on the Internet, there are many idiots. Many write and publish awful things. The corporations running the show have decided to protect us from any harm. So it is getting more and more difficult to find a hosting provider that will host a website with controversial content. Most often it is completely justified, in my opinion. The problem is that the bar is getting higher and higher.

For example, a query with gender choice containing “only” man/woman and not a third option is considered discriminatory, toxic, sexist, intolerant. Calling a person “black” is also considered (and often censored) as racist, the proper term is “African American” – or, I suppose, European). People decide to get offended by many things, and more and more of those are getting into laws and censorship algorithms.

Latest “pearl” I came across (on Linkedin) is: “affected by reorganization”, instead of “let off”, or “fired”!?

This “decoration” of language makes free communication of ideas more and more difficult. It is my personal conviction that blunt language leads to a blunt mind.

In those terms, with all the “political correctness”, there is a censorship of any ideas that might contradict the rule and power of large corporations (and capitalism in general). Point of fact, this European Union resolution – with an interesting quote:

“Stresses that the Second World War, the most devastating war in Europe’s history, was started as an immediate result of the notorious Nazi-Soviet Treaty on Non-Aggression of 23 August 1939, also known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and its secret protocols, whereby two totalitarian regimes that shared the goal of world conquest divided Europe into two zones of influence;”
“whereas in some Member States, communist and Nazi ideologies are prohibited by law;”

The whole resolution practically says Nazism=Communism. And introduces “remembrance for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes”, instead of for the victims of Nazism. Suppose this remembrance goes for the Nazis killed by the Communist liberation armies/movements.

Overwriting the history, brainwashing and censorship, made invisible – by simply not showing the “inappropriate content” on Google’s first page, nor on social networks.

Back to the topic in the narrower sense, after this “controversial political digression”. Google enforces SSL/TLS encryption (that can, for now, still be achieved for free using Let’s Encrypt – see my post on free vs paid SSL/TLS certificates). So even if a website collects no visitor data, it can be punished if not using SSL. All advertised as “for our better security”. Making things more complicated for the not technically savvy – and unable to pay an expert.

At the same time, after all the Google algorithm changes in order to “offer visitors the best experience”, Googling: “top 10 hosting providers” will show pages of paid reviews that favour EIG owned brands (see my post on EIG company).

Likewise, clicking on “Trending” button in YouTube gives a list of low quality music and videos.

It is my impression that the Internet is getting more and more centralized, more and more in the hands of large corporations and businesses, being less and less open and free. Things that are not welcome are sometimes outright censored (more and more often), and sometimes just pushed to the second page of Google search results (with practically the same result).

My article about Freedom of speech and science.

5. Conclusion

I don’t see a way for this trend to be changed. This site, for example, uses Google AdSense ads (see my Google AdSense experiment). And it is a fair policy – people get good quality information for free, while I get covered expenses. However, it depends on Google to allow it, or not. Another way of making money are affiliate links (unless a person sells their own products on their website). But this also depends on the large corporations – like Amazon.

In the mean time, I expect the costs of running a website to keep growing. While Internet access might become free – even obligatory (in my country it is impossible to do company taxes without using Internet – and Windows), content publishing will become more and more difficult. At least if you want anyone to see it.

Political campaigns of policy makers are paid by the big corporations, so it would not be reasonable to expect anything to be done about this by any country.

European GDPR privacy laws, along with US ones, complicate life of small websites and companies, while large corporations and various “government security agencies” collect practically all of our data without much limits or any real control. The goal was probably a noble one, but the actual result of these policies is making things harder for the small and independent.

Please use the forum for any comments or questions.

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