We all want our words to be heard. Our carefully crafted essays to be found. That means that they must be visible in Google. It is, indeed, for no other reason that I have devoted a couple of days of my life to doing some work on the old Tertullian Project files.
Increasingly it is only commercial sites that a Google search returns. If you search for some out-of-copyright text, available for nothing online, you must first scroll past half-a-dozen adverts for people offering to sell you that, and then page through bookseller sites. Google gains revenue if you are foolish enough to buy; but real people lose time and energy and money.
But once you start to look at the techniques needed for search engine optimisation, and the endless tweaks and nudges necessary, a conviction comes over you: that all this is evil. For who has the time to do all this?
I’ve just seen some stuff telling me how I can improve my hits in this WordPress based blog, in respect of just one “problem”. I’d have to install two plugins, activate them, and check whether or not they mess anything up. Not too onerous; but impossible if you just sit at home with a text-editor.
When the WWW started, we were all equals. We all created our HTML in a text editor like Notepad. We all got traffic equally. A corporation had no advantage over a man in a bedroom. But now… not so.
The people who get the hits are not those who have something original and of value to offer. They are those with the resources to do all the SEO tweaking necessary. Effectively it privileges the corporation at the expense of the ordinary man or academic. For the latter simply cannot keep up with all the effort needed.
I do not know the answer to all this. But the web is a much different place to what it was. We now have an effective monopoly in place, no different to the old Bell monopoly. The events of January 2021 and the coordinated attack on Trump revealed that, for practical purposes, access to the web is controlled by a cartel – Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter – who can and do coordinate their control of the internet.
The answer must be the same as in the days of the old Bell monopoly. It must be broken up.