• datafarm

last modified June 20, 2019 by strypey

'Datafarm' (and 'datafarming' as the activity they undertake) is a neologism that describes the dominant resource model (or "revenue model") of internet corporations since the bursting of the DotCom bubble in the early 2000s. Datafarms provide a service, usually via a website or more recently via apps on mobile devices, harvesting as much user data as possible, and finding ways to make a profit selling that data or services like advertising based on that data. In the early days of the internet the service was usually free-of-charge to the end user ('gratis'), to make it more attractive to the users whose data they want to harvest, but more recently new datafarming industries have emerged offering pay-to-play services, including the "sharing economy", mobile app stores, games with in-app purchases, and so on. The more data a company has on users, the more ways it can use it and the more profitable it is, so businesses depending on this revenue model naturally tends towards concentrated ownership. In the anglophone world and in Europe, an oligopoly dominated by Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon controls the majority of commercial internet services. This doesn't include internet access itself, which is still dominated for now by a separate telecommunications oligopoly, and entertainment and news content, which is still the domain of yet another oligopoly of media corporations.

Another thing pushing the internet industry towards concentration of ownership is described by Douglas Rushkoff in his book 'Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus'. People starting new internet companies generally need to get funding from VCs (Venture Capitalists) so they can afford to work fulltime on building their software and attracting an initial pool of users, before they start turning a profit. Because only a handful of these companies will ultimately succeed, VCs want to make a huge amount of money back from the ones that do, which they usually achieve by pushing the company to either sell ownership of the company on the stock exchange (an "Initial Public Offering" or "IPO") and become a corporation, or failing that, get their company (and its users) acquired by an existing one. This means that people will tend to end up being bought like livestock when the companies running the services they use do an IPO or get acquired, and even those who try to choose services not controlled by the largest datafarming corporations, will often find their data ending up owned and farmed by them anyway.