Paywalls: Artificial intelligence threatens the free Internet

Why you'll soon see paywalls everywhere

The Internet was once a place of limitless freedom, where we could click through countless websites undisturbed. But this era may soon be a thing of the past, because a menacing force called artificial intelligence (AI) has opened the battle for the free Internet.

The use of AI to analyze websites is spreading like wildfire and could lead to an increase in paywalls. So prepare to be asked to pay for your digital consumption everywhere in the near future.

The increasing use of artificial intelligence is the main reason for this change. Systems such as GPT4 or Bing are able to automatically search websites and summarize the content in a short, understandable form. While this sounds impressive at first, it poses a threat to the business model of websites.

The Internet depends on advertising to survive. Without advertising revenue, many websites could not exist. But AI analytics systems pose a threat to this model. By being able to process information more efficiently and quickly than humans, they enable more precise evaluation of user data and interests. As a result, advertising revenue is declining and website operators are having to look for alternative sources of revenue. One obvious option is paywalls. And these in particular are extremely unpopular with users, makes economic sense, you can plan relatively well over subscriptions, better than with advertising (unless you have direct marketing advertising partners who put down good money, but provided you then also have the traffic), the problem, you lose as a user at some point the overview of all the subscriptions you have, each operator relies on a different system, sometimes with Paypal, sometimes with credit card, others again only on the SEPA direct debit, etc..

How artificial intelligence threatens the free internet

Now the question is: Should users pay for content or continue to be bombarded with advertising? The survival of many websites depends on this decision. It almost seems like we're faced with the choice of either spending money or having to deal with annoying advertising. But let's face it, subscription rates for news outlets like Der Spiegel (19,99€ per month) or Heise can be very high and are not affordable for everyone.

Another problem is the efficiency of AI analysis systems. They can process and summarize information in record time. As a result, they could change the way we consume content and acquire knowledge. We have to ask ourselves whether we really want to have everything put in front of us by an AI or whether we don't want to retain control over our information flow ourselves.

The future of the free Internet is at stake. If the trend toward paywalls continues, we could find ourselves in a world where access to information and knowledge is only possible against payment. This would lead the free internet as we know it into a grim apocalypse, because AI systems can access the website, read out information and process it further, the user is stuck with the AI, in the chatbot, has no reason to browse the search engine of choice by hand anymore. Google, after the news that ChatGPT had been released, also had not called the red alarm without reasonGoogle in particular sees its own business model in acute danger.

It remains to be seen what the future of the Internet will actually look like. One thing is certain, however: Artificial intelligence will play a significant role. Whether it restricts our freedom or opens up new opportunities is in our hands. You should therefore start thinking about how to secure your website against AI now, so that not every AI just takes out your data like that.

We should keep a close eye on developments and be aware of the consequences they may have for our digital world, in another article I already talked about the danger of generative AI written. Otherwise, it could soon be "Welcome to the paywall era of the Internet!"

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Posted by Petr Kirpeit

All articles are my personal opinion and are written in German. In order to offer English-speaking readers access to the article, they are automatically translated via DeepL. Facts and sources will be added where possible. Unless there is clear evidence, the respective article is considered to be my personal opinion at the time of publication. This opinion may change over time. Friends, partners, companies and others do not have to share this position.

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