Preston Gralla: Is Microsoft out to kill online advertising? Let's get real
Computerworld - If you believe some people, Windows 8 will sound the death knell of online advertising, helping destroy the fast-growing industry. Their worry is that in Windows 8, Internet Explorer 10 automatically turns on a feature called "Do Not Track," which sends a signal to websites saying that the browser doesn't want its activities tracked. So, the argument goes, advertisers wouldn't be able to serve targeted ads to users. And without targeted advertising, advertisers would be much less interested in spending big money online.
In truth, though, Windows 8 won't kill online advertising. Microsoft, as much as anyone else, has its eyes on that multibillion-dollar prize, and turning on DNT (as insiders call the Do Not Track feature) won't hurt the industry at all. In fact, it will help it.
The idea behind DNT is simple: Give people a way to take control over their privacy when they browse the Web. Ad networks, marketing firms and big sites like Google can gather an enormous amount of information about people if they are able to track their online activities across websites, creating profiles of their likes, dislikes, buying habits and more. DNT would give people some control over that tracking and profiling.
But the online ad industry doesn't like this idea, and it particularly doesn't like Microsoft's decision to make "DNT on" the default setting in IE10. The Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), a coalition of marketing, advertising and media groups, complained to The Wall Street Journal that Microsoft's decision was "unilateral," saying the industry instead supports "consumer choice, not a choice made by one browser or technology vendor." (Ahem. Attention, DAA: Consumers retain the choice to turn DNT off.) On the other side of the issue, the EU has applauded Microsoft's action.
Ironically, DNT is nearly worthless as things stand today, because there's no agreement on how it should work. The Worldwide Web Consortium has set up a working group composed of online advertisers, privacy advocates, academics, government agencies and others to figure that out. So far, they've agreed that browsers should let people turn DNT on and off, but there's still no consensus on what turning DNT on would actually mean or whether the default setting should be on or off. But without an agreement on what a DNT signal should mean, advertisers can simply ignore DNT signals. Microsoft Chief Privacy Officer Brendon Lynch said as much in a blog back in May.
So how is Microsoft helping the advertising industry? By turning on DNT by default, it is forcing advertisers to decide what the signal should do. Microsoft, unlike the ad industry, seems to recognize that a business model based on keeping consumers in the dark about privacy won't work.
Rik van der Kooi, head of the advertising business group at Microsoft, recently wrote in Adweek that if people are given control over their personal information and are educated about how their Web experience can be enriched by sharing some of it, the ad industry will be better off. He wrote: "By building trust and demonstrating real value -- serving ads when they are accretive to the consumer experience and not serving them when they aren't -- consumers will be willing to share more information with marketers and online services."
I think he's right. You have to believe that consumers respond more readily to things they're interested in than they do to things they don't care to see.
More by Preston Gralla
- Preston Gralla: Jeff Bezos hates you
- Preston Gralla: Straight A's for Microsoft CEO Nadella at the 60-day mark
- Preston Gralla: With Comcast deal, say goodbye to the Internet as we've known it
- Preston Gralla: Patents don't equal innovation
- Preston Gralla: There's time to fix Net neutrality
- Preston Gralla: Can Amazon drones save the economy?
- Preston Gralla: Apple still making it hard to think differently
- Preston Gralla: Why Ford's CEO is wrong for Microsoft
- Preston Gralla: Time to break up Microsoft? Not so fast
- Preston Gralla: Why Bill Gates Can't Save Microsoft
Read more about Internet in Computerworld's Internet Topic Center.
- Social Media Education: The New Edge for Success Failure to train for social media will cost your business money. A recent report showed how digitally prepared companies can unlock up to...
- Social Media in Technology: A Unified Strategy for Success Find out how social media is sparking a new era of customer and industry-understanding in technology enterprises and how industry leaders are overcoming...
- How Network Connections Drive Web Application Performance Users around the globe, on all sorts of devices, expect Web applications to function as seamlessly as desktop applications. This paper discusses the...
- Improving IT Efficiencies: Four Advantages of Multi-Tenant Data Centers Increasing demands on IT are forcing organizations to rethink their data center options. For many organizations, that means turning to the flexibility afforded...
- NSS Labs & Cisco Present: Evaluating Leading Breach Detection Systems Today's constantly evolving advanced malware and APTs can evade point-in-time defenses to penetrate networks. Security professionals must evolve their strategy in lockstep to...
- Will the Real Endpoint Threat Detection and Response Please Stand Up? This webinar explores new technologies & process for protecting endpoints from advanced attackers as well as the innovations that are pushing the envelope... All Internet White Papers | Webcasts
Our new bimonthly Internet of Things newsletter helps you keep pace with the rapidly evolving technologies, trends and developments related to the IoT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!