Microsoft’s Vision for the Internet’s Future: Not a Pretty Picture

“We can tell you who saw…we let you target that…we will let you serve that on dayparting…” Yusuf Mendi, Microsoft’s Senior VP and “Chief Advertising Strategist” delivered such words—and more— yesterday. We urge you to watch and listen to his presentation. One learns that Microsoft is willing to help its wealthiest customers to better “pop” their brands. This includes helping them `know’ “who the user is and target to the user.” Mendi told the group that he knows they don’t want to target only “raw tonnage.” So, for Microsoft, the “quality of the user” can be better defined by the “25 behavioral segments” that can be targeted to the “280 million people who use Hotmail” at least once a month. The 280 million Messenger users can be targeted with rich media marketing technologies that sense their mouse hovering and interacting with an ad. For Microsoft, the “end to end IP experience” is all about transforming the global digital platform into one powerful brandwashing system.

Mr. Mendi told the audience that Microsoft is “open for business” to help “redefine” the Internet’s future. Such a future—given to us by Microsoft, Google, Yahoo!, major ad agencies and marketers—raises a series of disturbing questions and should be a cause for alarm and debate. The foremost role for digital media should be to promote civil society (that’s not the “cause” marketing cases Microsoft and others have embraced as the “Trojan Horse” to convince everyone to endorse the idea about data collection and targeted interactive marketing). Shaping the most powerful platforms so it can better collect our data and then drive our behaviors—without our full awareness and informed consent—is not a responsible act. That’s why it’s time for a much more robust debate about where this is headed—before it’s too late.

We will be come back to Mr. Gates and the Summit.

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