Soapbox – Restricted Online Content

 
 

‘Not available in your area’ you say? Gareth Lyons rages about the not-so-free access to information on the internet

‘World Wide Web’ (WWW) is an internet acronym which, it would seem, is consistently ignored by advertising executives. These three words should be repeated as if they were an advertising mantra. The internet was created upon the principle of connecting people around the world, to the point where we now have the ability to interact with nearly everyone on the planet all at once.

When I select a video to discover that it’s not available in my area, I’m quite confused. There is no area. I’m on the internet. There is no land on which you might plant a flag. It’s floating all around us like a big invisible cloud of pornography and fan-fiction spanning the entire globe. Mail, tweets, music and photos swarm from one respective machine to another in an invisible community of introverts that sits directly on top of our own.

The first time I was denied access to content was when the trailer for The Incredible Hulk was released back in 2008. At first I thought it was an error. The trailer was promotional material for a movie. Why would anyone intentionally throw away the opportunity to entice someone to go see it? However, after refreshing the page a few times, I soon realized this was indeed the case.

Presumably advertisers wished to stagger the release of content so as to focus and handle the specific needs for each foreign demographic as best as they could.They needn’t have bothered; within an hour somebody not affiliated with the movie had already uploaded the trailer again so that people overseas could watch it anyway.

However, as bad as it is being on the wrong side when the virtual Berlin wall comes down, it is the condescending message displayed instead of the video that gets me the most.  That sad smiley or scrap of patronising dialogue using the word ‘Oops’ to make you feel like your computer is giving you the cheeky shrug of a cretin who knows they’re annoying you but still believes they are being cute.

It’s hard to believe that Youtube itself is only 6 years old. In its short run it has managed to provide homeless man Ted Williams with paid voiceover work, make a household name of Rebecca Black and started Bieber-mania. With the exception of Black, each of these people simply had a camera and a talent. They showed themselves to the entire world and as a result, were rewarded. If you want to get noticed you have to show yourself to everyone without discriminating about who should see you first. As soon as you put something online you lose the ability to control who watches it. Just remember those three little words: World. Wide. Web.

Maybe instead of trying to do the impossible and have the international denizens of the internet form an orderly queue, embrace the medium and release your so-called promotional material so that everyone can see it.

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