For me, it started with Amazon affiliates. Before that, you mostly saw the Amazon brand on the Amazon site. After that, seemingly every web page you went to had Amazon somewhere on it.
Now we are into mash-ups and widgets; but inevitably it seems to be the big brands that dominate. Instead of going to the site, the site comes to you. It’s even worse if you install one of their toolbars: Google, Yahoo, MSN, eBay.
At the IE8 briefing the other day, we were shown the Accelerator – Smart Tags revisited – and Web Slices. The Accelerator is especially intrusive, because it behaves as if it is embedded in the site you are visiting. You go to an ad-free site (in the UK) like the BBC, select some text or right-click, and suddenly your screen is festooned with links to all the usual suspects: Microsoft, eBay, Google, Amazon.
It feels claustrophobic; an oppressive encirclement by brands.
The Web’s poor security makes this worse. After a couple of bad experiences, users are more inclined to stick with what is tried, trusted and well-known.
In the early days of the Internet, it was possible to think that the inherently low technical barriers to entry would benefit small players and make it hard for a few entities to dominate. It is hard to believe that now.