The Relentless Monetization of Everything

April 12, 2024

I think the framing of everything as a Means of Monetization™ has killed a lot of the excitement and optimism that we used to feel back in the PC decades. It’s no longer sufficient to produce software and hardware for their own utility; you must also sell some subscription or disruptive network-effect technology behind it. You can’t make a living by filling a niche need any more; you must also conduct arbitrage.

The relentless monetization of everything means you can’t make a living just selling software or hardware any more; you must eventually sell a service. Not everything should be sold as a service (I’m looking at you, video games), and not everyone wants to run a service business. Unless you are already wealthy and can afford to give your work away for free (e.g. open source), there’s really not many viable ways to be rewarded for honing your computer arts these days.

Is there a market for non-monetized, well-crafted products? Yes. But that market is shrinking, and increasingly focused on the wealthy.

Only the wealthy can afford to pay artisans to create small-batch products that do nothing but what they claim to do, without constant subscriptions, upsells, nags, and arbitrage. Turns out, people actually like products that don’t try to constantly show ads, but only few can afford them any more, thanks to our current product culture.

You can still make artisanal hardware and software. But they’ll probably go into some billionaire’s home entertainment system or private jet.