The Internet Has Gotten Worse
Looking over the profile of a seller who had sold me a counterfeit charger recently, I was trying to understand how I was supposed to have known. Everything I was supposed to look at pointed to legitimacy. Of course once it became clear what had happened, it turns out there were tons of others getting screwed and venting about it - but buried under changed item listings or in the reviews of identical products from almost identical companies. Comparing to the available information on truly trustworthy counter parties, it’s possible to put some things together; but every detail of the order flow seems designed to make thoughtful analysis costly and painful.
Abstracting away the parties on the other side of
(sale|forum message|SaaS app|.*) and using the resulting uncertainty to get away with some complete nonsense is one more of the ways in which the modern internet seems designed to bamboozle me.
Berkshire has a website, which is just, incredibly Berkshire Hathaway. The home page weighs in at a whopping eight kilobytes, versus about five megabytes for something like CNN 1, or closer to eight at Bloomberg, while still being mobile responsive, served securely over HTTPS, and, well you get it. If you told me Warren Buffett wrote it himself, in notepad, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.
From the homepage there is a link to eBay where you can buy copies of the excellent 50th anniversary book they were selling a few years ago during the AGM. As far as I can tell the seller, brka_b, located in Omaha, is the main office of Berkshire. And by virtue of having apparently never shipped an item to a seller recently, brka_b has a positive transaction rating of 98.5%, lower than the 99.xx of the guy who recently sold me a fake charger for a Raspberry Pi and successfully wasted the better part of a day for me as I tried to figure out what the hell was wrong with my setup.2
First off, there is just something hilarious about picturing Warren Buffett rubbing his hands together and laughing maniacally at the thought of conning some guy out of like five bucks. Second, this is everything on the internet now. There was a point in the very recent past where five minutes of intelligent web browsing and poking around would get you a pretty big leg up if you were starting from zero. A democratized modern day library of Alexandria, open to all.
We are very, very far past that point. It’s all Elsa-gate, dark patterns, and subtle sponsored content nowadays. Some not so subtle of course, like Time Magazine Covers on the Next Space Race Brought to you by Jimmy Dean! 3. Over the last year I can think of a number of times that I have seen friends or family led astray by doing the kind of internet fact checking. Fact checking that would have been just fine a few years ago led to results that were now almost certainly misleading if not outright fraudulent.
While the stories have been about how tech has “struggled” in recent months or years with privacy scandals or anything else, market caps are still at all-time highs and expectations about the future are still fairly rosy. If it becomes increasingly difficult to tell apart Warren Buffett from crooks selling Pi chargers that put out 1 amp instead of 3 and ruin your Sunday, then its not that hard to see how the value per user, CPC, market cap per eyeball4 or however you want to measure it falls in line with the value received by the users. And that value has been falling fast.
TL;DR: People ruin nice things. In other news: water still wet, fire still hot, - more at 11.
I ignored the Google analytics call, which adds ~ 45 kilobytes to Berkshire, and many times that with similar tools on CNN and Bloomberg. I’m clear these are meaningless comparisons as the sites serve wildly different purposes, but the scale is interesting. The Berkshire site is largely unchanged since at least 1997. ↩︎
These are absolutely recommendations to go get both that book, and a Raspberry Pi. Buy an on-brand charger though. Also, probably a fan. The new one gets super hot. ↩︎
This is offline clearly, and they actually kinda hide it online, but I can’t be the only one that’s thinking it’s kinda funny that the sponsored covers come back when the tech billionaire buys the place. ↩︎
This was a real thing. I swear. ↩︎