Welcome to the latest incarnation of sweatshop labor

In the middle of an IM conversation with Reginald, I realized:

  • Develop a sub-$100 laptop.
  • Create a huge number of new web surfers with said laptop.
  • Serve them CPC and CPM ads.
  • Profit!

Suppose the laptop’s useful life span is 3 years. Is a pair of eyeballs (with respect to ad revenue) worth over $100 in that time? If so, this becomes an easily sustainable business, assuming web ad revenues continue to grow or at least stay at their current levels.

This is the latest incarnation of “sweatshop labor.” Exploitation 2.0.



  1. Dossy, you’re just going to force Google to invent some sort of filtering system with a catchy name like SweatSafe(tm).

  2. Well, the people buying those CPM and CPC ads won’t want to spend money showing ads to people who can’t buy anything (how many $100 laptop owners have significant disposable income?). In other words, I don’t think that $100 over three years is a likely expected value. I could be wrong.

  3. Mike: While I think I understand what you’re saying (those sub-$100 laptop user’s eyeballs aren’t worth much without disposable income behind them), I do think that Internet-based advertising will continue to evolve to exploit the audience.

    Just as the September that never ended brought the Internet a mass of new, clueless users, and naivete exploiteurs found ways of making money off them (i.e., “get rich quick” scams, Ponzi schemes, network MLM, etc.) … I am sure they’ll find a way to exploit this next batch.

    Even now we have the “work from home, install our (zombie botnet) software and be your own boss!” scams. Just imagine the kind of inventive schemes that can be perpetrated against people to whom USD$1 a day is a huge sum of money.

    Perhaps I’m being overly cynical, but maybe I’m not.

  4. Hmm… you bring up an interesting point. Since Google is already involved – the OLPC browser starts at the Google homepage – do you think they are thinking along these lines? Better yet, could you think out a longer post on this topic for OLPC News?

  5. Wayan: I’m probably not the right person to speak to these issues since I only have cursory outsider knowledge of the situation. I might dig a little deeper and do some more thinking and write more about the subject, if I get so inspired. 🙂

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