Digital middlemen are the problem, not the solution

To use the internet these days is to be constantly at the whim of middlemen who ultimately detract from our enjoyment of it. For instance:

Visiting your favorite news site? First, your browser has to load tracking codes from DoubleClick, Facebook, and God knows who else, so you can be more effectively targeted for ads. Most of these ads will still be useless to you, to the point that only a fraction of 1 percent of all web ads ever actually get clicked on. But your web browser's pageload time will nevertheless be slowed down 100 percent of the time while all this crap code runs to make these ads "work."

Want to buy music online? Cool. Just use iTunes or Google Play, which will restrict which devices you can play the music on as a consumer and skim 30 percent off the purchase price before they pay the record label. In turn, the label will cut its payment to the artists that actually made the music accordingly.

Who is all this really good for, again? Oh, right. The middlemen. And no one else.

So it tends to be with anything in life in which middlemen are involved, no? They promise some form of expedience – and may indeed even provide a measure of it at first. But it also usually turns out they're adding in hassle and cost that we never bargained for, perhaps to the point of not being worth the trouble at all.

I think internet users are in a relatively early stage of that realization right now, just beginning to publicly identify the middlemen as such and pinpoint the downside of having them around. Many people still don't even "get it" at all and misguidedly continue to look to the middlemen for solutions that they'll never actually provide, because it's simply not in their nature.

I point all this out for two reasons. First, as a simple reminder, so more people see the middlemen for what they are and so we never get complacent as users. If it seems like it doesn't have to be this way, you're right. But it will never actually end unless we demand better.

Second, this is why I'm still bullish on blockchain and similar distributed-ledger technologies (DLT), even after the beating they took from a market standpoint in 2018. We can talk about the technical details of such stuff until everyone has a headache, but if you're new to DLT, the first important thing you should know at a high level is that DLT by its very nature is anti-middleman. And the world we actually live in is absolutely rife with problems caused by middlemen.  

I don't say that to be a blockchain or DLT maximalist, mind you. I'm not saying DLT will solve all the internet's middleman problems. Just that it can be a great tool if implemented and adopted correctly against these problems.

It's also not some radical or hippie-dippy idea to say that getting rid of middlemen tends to be good business. In expensive MBA programs, the fancy term they use for it is "disintermediation," and it's a bedrock principle that it's usually a desirable thing since it lowers costs and helps you operate more nimbly.

I'm just saying, we still have a fighting chance versus the internet's middlemen right now, even the really big ones. And that's not nothing.

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