In some ways, ads bother me more than censorship. Free speech is the right not to get your door knocked down by the government... it's not the right to say whatever you want in a forum owned by others. I'm extremely grateful to have had free speech here for as long as I've had it, but the owners are different now, and well, this almost always happens. For the same reason the ads are happening, truth be told. The dreamers have left the building.
The ads thing bothers me more in some ways.
I admit it. I'm allergic to ads. I'm a blathering worshipper of Adblock Plus. I get twitches when forced to visit ad-heavy pages on IE. I mute commercials on tv. I've tried every kind of popup blocker there is. Ads are, first and foremost, a technology designed to insert an auction barker into my living room. They are a rude technology, much like the telephone. The only way to voluntarily get people to watch ads is to place ad-hurdles in front of things that people desperately want to get to on the web.
I don't spend a lot of time complaining about crass commercialism and the like, but frankly, I just get a pukey taste in my mouth every time I think about how much our culture is defined by the experience of constant advertisement. Here's this country that I love so much, constantly polluted by hawkers. It's not moral outrage. It's just plain disgust. Why can't I move around in public without getting this muck all over me? People say I'm being a whiny baby about disliking ads to THIS extent. Why? Ads are universally obnoxious, and internet ads are much, much worse. At least television commercials have aspired to a new form of entertainment. I approve of that. But internet ads aren't subject to the market forces that would force them to become attractive and entertaining... on the web, there are too many widgets available to force them in front of things you are trying to look at. Let's not even go into the fact that internet ads are dominated by snake oil salesmen.
I'll go further... one of the reasons I fell in love with lj in the first place was the lack of ads.
Do you remember way back when the founders got rid of the invite system? Which was a perfectly acceptable, if sometimes annoying, way to keep membership within the limits of support. For those of you not around back then, when lj first started, you couldn't get a free account without someone who already had an account sending you a password. Users were given ten of them, with occasional supplements. I never ran out.
The reason I mention that is because I'm sitting here thinking about how excited they were to finally be able to get rid of that system. The founders of lj wanted it to be as free as possible. They were so excited about it. Because, in their minds, they'd finally achieved what was originally the whole point of the thing. I still remember reading that and thinking, "How awesome of them."
What a treat, to be signed up for something run by awesome people.
I didn't sign up as a consumer, I signed up as a participant. I invited people to come here in droves. I wanted ALL my friends on livejournal so that I could stay in touch with everyone. I came here precisely because IT WASN'T FUCKING CLASSMATES.COM. I bought paid accounts for myself and for others... because icons and polls rock. (I have never, and will never, have any objection to ponying up the dough for extra icons.) I never minded giving such awesome people my money. I loved it here.
Well, they've taken my playground and turned it into pro sports. Good for them. I hope they make lots of money at it. But I no longer love it here. I was a loyal member. Now I'm just a hard milker*.
I have a permanent account, and for some weird reason, they aren't charging me the money I would be perfectly willing to pay to have more icons, they just give me one or two more every month or so... which saddens me, because something has to offset the cost of that, and now I know it will be something I hate. My own personal boycott is this: I'm not inviting anybody else to come here.
I don't even have to inspire myself to moral fortitude to do so, I just... don't want anybody else on here, really. What would be the point? It's no different from anywhere else on the web. Content deletions based on trigger words and advertisements to offset the cost of free accounts. Free accounts, which were originally the whole point, are now an imposition upon the corporation. Come on, people, we all knew that Plus accounts were a way to raise the temperature in the pot of water, to get us accustomed to including ads. Nobody who saw those accounts could possibly have believed free accounts were going to stay around for much longer. I didn't. That's not how it works in business. That was a little disgusting too... watching them do that and wondering, How stupid do they think we are? Don't ever ask yourself that question, btw. The answer will always disappoint you.
We have gone from a company managed by those who wanted to figure out a way to bring people together and make some money doing it, to a company who is looking for ways to make money off the of the fact that people want to get connected. It's a fine line, but most of us still prefer one side of it to the other side.
Livejournal will not die. The user-base will change slightly to people who don't mind being cows. That's exactly what the owners want, and there'll be a little bit of spitting and kicking, but that's exactly what they're going to get. The commercial machine depends upon people slowly, reluctantly growing to accept the easiest ways to make a profit off them as necessary evils. The owners only have to care about free accounts and censorship as much as the portion of the lj population under the bell-curve of usage can tolerate. The founders cared about these things on their own. But Six Apart? They are not only okay with me leaving... they want me to leave.
I've never been able to keep a journal on paper, this is the only journal I've ever kept going in my life for years at a time. So it hurts. But they're taking away all of my awesome. That hurts worse.
* A cow, either young or temperamental, with difficult-to-squeeze udders. I'm not going to assume everybody else read the same books that I did as a child.
* * *
Edit: and by the way.
Saying, "Why do they have to take all my awesome away?" may indeed be a childish act. But it's not childish in the sense of doing something wrong that you have to outgrow in order to become responsible. It's childish in the same way that believing in fairy tales is childish... you give up believing in the most wonderful things, not in order to grow up, but in order to try and anticipate hurt. It's embitterment for the sake of power over our own lives. Given that power is just as much a fantasy as the ideal, it causes more harm than good.
I was frequently told I was a whiny, perfectionist complainer growing up, because I called things bad which actually were bad things. I know better now. "Quit whining," means, "I don't know how to fix it either, but the fact that you're making me think about it just reminds me how powerless I am. I do, however, have the power to tell you to shut up. Then I can still feel powerful."