Profitable Online Business Ideas to Start in 2020 - Maritime News

Profitable Online Business Ideas to Start in 2020 - Maritime News

Profitable Online Business Ideas to Start in 2020 - Maritime News

Posted: 29 Feb 2020 06:01 AM PST

Online businesses offer great benefits like global 24/7 customer access, flexibility, convenient management, fast product delivery, and significant cutbacks on paper waste. Of course, there's also the fact that online businesses require significantly less capital to start compared to other options. While starting an online business can be an attractive idea, the fact is that 90% of them fail within four months.

This isn't meant to discourage anyone away from their business idea, but it is an important statistic to know. Among the most likely reasons that online businesses fail is simply a lack of general business knowledge or planning. It's easy to set up an online business, in theory, but it's quite another thing to keep it going. Lacking SEO knowledge or being outcompeted are also common reasons for online businesses to fail. If you think you have the know-how to create a successful online business, here are a few top ideas worth investigating.

Selling Liquidation Pallets

You don't necessarily have to focus on a niche to be successful online. You could run a general retail business that sells returns from other businesses. How is this possible? Big retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Target, etc. process huge amounts of customer returns every day, and they have to do something with them. This often means selling their returns to a big liquidation company which in turn sells them on the secondary market. This basically means selling the returns to other businesses looking for the cheapest possible stock.

If you're looking for cheap merchandise to turn a profit, buying Amazon return pallets can be a great option. These offer a wide range of choices for products, and they're often sold cheaper than from traditional wholesale sellers. You can source just the merchandise you want from a liquidation auction, and the cheap prices ensure greater profits when you sell the products.

Providing Information Services

Are you an expert in your field? If so, fantastic! If not, do you have a passion for a certain subject or skill and posses greater than average knowledge of it? Then you still may have what it takes for information services. This is basically just a fancy way of saying you can share your knowledge of your niche with others and earn subscribers and money by doing it.

YouTube channels provide information services, and popular channels make thousands a month. You could also host webinars, write e-books, or create your own professional website to teach others your skills. People are always searching for information online, and the internet can let you turn nearly any passion into a money-making opportunity.

Selling CDB Products

Cannabidiol (CBD) has exploded in recent years earning a plethora of celebrity endorsements that have taken its popularity to even greater heights. It's earned praise for helping with arthritis and joint pain, nausea, anxiety, and even debilitating symptoms of diseases like Parkinson's. CBD is a natural compound found in the cannabis plant, though it's important to note that it doesn't cause any psychoactive effects like THC. Put another way, CBD can offer its benefits without a "high." It can come in many forms such as oils, creams, edibles, and vapes. Look at some CBD oil reviews for help deciding potential products to stock.

Naturally, you'll need to study regulations and licensing requirements to sell CBD. It's legal at the Federal level so long as it contains less than 0.3% THC, but state laws will vary as to whether you can sell marijuana-based CBD or if you'll have to stick to industrial hemp CBD. You'll also need to obtain a business license as well as a resale license if you're planning to resell CBD from wholesalers. Lastly, you'll need to be sure to only buy from reputable suppliers who are certified to sell CBD.

20+ Business Ideas For Every Cape Cod Entrepreneur - Cape Cod Today

Posted: 25 Feb 2020 05:13 AM PST

Cape Cod, the crowd favorite hook-shaped peninsula, is a popular summertime destination. It's known for its quaint villages, seafood shacks, ponds, lighthouses, and bay and ocean beaches. But below this surface, Cape Cod is a thriving business region in Massachusetts where entrepreneurs of all types compete for their share. If you are looking forward to entrepreneurship, whether it's to dip your toes or dive all in, here are 20+ business ideas that will jumpstart your new career.

The Side Hustlers

As of now, freelancers account for 36% of the US workforce. And as millennials and Generation Z start to take up bigger pieces of the pie, this number will only increase. What's more? Freelancers are shore of clientele, nor are they struggling with income. In fact, most of the freelancers said they no amount of money could convince them to take a traditional job.

If you're interested in freelancing as well but are already in a 9-to-5, your best course of action towards freelancing is to get into a side business. Dedicate some time and money to this business, and only go full-time freelancing when it takes off. But until then, here are some ideas for small businesses you can start on your own:

  • Blogging - If you're into writing, you can find a topic, called a niche topic, that really moves you and think will move others too. You can then start a website on that topic covering everything you and your readers are interested in.

  • Pet sitting - When people go away on trips or vacations, they prefer to pay a pet sitter and avoid sending their pet to a professional kennel. You can offer your home as a safe place for people to leave their pets, or go to their home to take care of their pets.

  • Virtual assistant - With a good internet connection and minimal interaction, you can assist an ultra-busy professional in checking and answering their email, updating their calendars, organizing task lists, and performing other administrative tasks.

  • Others - Other side business ideas include website design, public speaking, growing and selling produce, jewelry making, furniture making, interior decorating, event coordinator, and social media expert.

The Trend Piggybackers

One of the most promising ways of starting a business is to get on a hot, ongoing trend. It may or may not last long term — that depends on your adaptability and creativity — but it will certainly flourish in the short term. Here are some business ideas that are particularly trending right now.

  • Social media expert - when businesses want to reach their customers, their best bet is to do it social media sites. You'll find many companies willing to let you handle their social presences on sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and emerging platforms like TikTok.

  • Senior Care Giver - If you have the qualities of compassion, kindness, and patience and enjoy giving back to others, you can work as a full-time senior caregiver.  As nursing home costs soar, this business stands to perform better in the coming years.

  • Online Casino - Casinos are a great form of entertainment for many people. A brick-and-mortar casino will do fine too, but you'll have to face competition from the local casino at Cape Cod while your clientele is limited. But you can take cues from successful ventures like Vegas Mobile Casino that are able to cater to players from all across the US by offering excellent games and bonuses.

The Recession Bypassers

The US has seen 13 recessions since the Great Depression — that's roughly one every six years. Moreover, economic cycles are a painful fact of life, meaning you're sure to see one in the new few years. So if you're trying to build a business, why not go for one that will stand harsh conditions. Yes, such types of businesses do exist. Let's find out which ones.

  • Candy - Did you know that Snicker, Three Musketeers, and Tootsie Pops were all invented during the Great Depression. When tough times strike, people want to satisfy their sweet tooth without affecting their budget. In such conditions, candy can be a great anxiety soother. Many candy brands saw higher profits during the recession.

  • Veterinary services - Whatever the situation, people don't pinch pennies when it comes to their furry family members' health and well-being. Pet spending actually saw a steady increase through the last recession, showing just how much of a viable option it is.

  • Tax accounting - Recessions would make you think to cut your costs by doing your own taxes. However, this was not the case during the last one at least. People wanted to make sure they get the best refund possible without making costly mistakes. Thus, being a Tax Accountant during a recession can be truly profitable.

  • Others - Other business ideas that will stand their ground during recessions are death care services, thrift stores, cosmetics, tattoo parlors, movie theaters, and beer, wine, and liquor business.

Keep it simple - When you start your new venture, keep thing simple and affordable by using one of the Cape's coworking sites as your home base.  CapeSpace offers facilities in Hyannis and Mashpee, while The Pants Factory offers a coworking facility in Orleans.

4 Creative Ideas Related to Business with Low Investment - KardBlock

Posted: 29 Feb 2020 02:42 AM PST

The Internet has turned the world into a global supermarket of things and services. You can buy whatever you want from anywhere, and it will be delivered within a reasonable time.

Most importantly, the Internet has also become a place where people get consultations and share their opinions. If your brand or product is not discussed, potential customers will hardly pay attention to it.

No one expects customers to write essays about a business like professionals from do on any subject. Yet, sometimes, great and honest reviews can have a tremendous effect on sales.

Therefore, getting customer feedback is not a secondary thing. It is a significant part of your brand building process. In addition to earning new customers, feedback left on third-party platforms can help boost your search engine results.

At the same time, it really matters which platforms customers use to leave it on. Let's discuss the best ones below.


The Yelp platform started as a review site for local businesses.

Its founders wanted to help small businesses, especially restaurants, to get more customers. The platform grew, and nowadays, it is a reputable one that is famous for being hard to please.

A five-star rating means that most of the customers were exceptionally satisfied with the service, shopping and/or dining experience, product variety, etc.

Yelp has also earned a reputation as a platform with extremely objective and detailed reviews. It never accepts payments for positive reviews because that would mean the end of it. However, it offers some upgrades for businesses. Some of them allow responding to reviews and tracking engagement.


If your business is selling something, having an Amazon business listing is a must. This platform has earned a reputation of one of the most trustful resources for customers looking to buy something.

We all know Amazon as a trading platform, but it is also a consultative one. Even if customers decide to buy a particular product from elsewhere, chances are that they will search Amazon for reviews.

Amazon allows customers to upload their own product photos, interact with other people, and ask questions.

Google My Business

Google created another platform that is especially critical for brick-and-mortar smaller businesses.

It serves local businesses based on Google algorithms. Customers seeking any information get it based on their location.

The main benefit of having a Google Business Account is that a customer who is looking for a product or service will see listings and reviews on the closest stores offering particular products and services.

Apart from boosting your search result rankings, it also can help you get a loyal customer base.

Angie's List

This review platform serves mostly US-based service providers. It is known as a 'higher-end' review site because users have to pay to get its membership. However, it is really worth the investment.

In addition to detailed and well-written reviews, a business gets a rating, which is based on representative reviews. Since those cannot be anonymous, it helps in cutting down fake ones.

Unfortunately, misrepresentative or fake reviews is a common problem for most of the platforms. A proven fact is that only paid subscription allows cutting down the number of such reviews.


Trustpilot is a fast-growing and community-driven review platform. It has started its operation in Europe and further expanded to the US.

The mission of this platform is to help businesses around the world to collect customer reviews. Clients leave their feedback, while the Trustpilot team serves as a third-party to verify each.

The basic version is offered for free. However, if, as a business, you are interested in inviting your customers to rate, share reviews, etc., you need to purchase a paid version.


Trustspot is another review platform specializing in publishing customer reviews. It also offers businesses advanced analytics tools. Just like the option above, Trustspot moderates customer reviews, trying to leave only the most representative and relevant ones.

However, it is tailored to fit businesses offering SaaS and online services. It can easily integrate with eCommerce platforms like Shopify and Magento to help businesses get even more reviews.

G2 Crowd

G2 Crowd is a review platform that works with startups selling software in the B2B segment. It has over 1.5 million monthly visitors. They search for competent and in-depth reviews before they are ready to make their purchase and pay with hard-earned cash.

The platform allows visitors to compare services and products based on their rating, ease of use, and other characteristics. Verified reviews include customer comments on security, support, service, shopping experience, etc.

Final Words

Review platforms play an important role in promoting sales and a growing customer base. They intend to provide independent and honest feedback to people looking for information.

Moreover, such platforms help in driving search results for various types of companies that find it hard to gain clientele.

7 Books To Read Before You Quit Your Job - Yahoo Finance

Posted: 29 Feb 2020 11:18 AM PST

Have you been thinking about a career change?

You're not alone.

Approximately 3.2 million Americans quit their job every month, with 33% of the employed population having thoughts of quitting in the last three months, according to a CNBC/SurveyMonkey survey. 

While it's easy to envision yourself as a successful entrepreneur, its essential to remember that 50% of startups don't make it past the five-year mark.

To avoid being part of this grim statistic, read these seven books before quitting your job.

'Rich Dad's Before You Quit Your Job' — Robert T. Kiyosaki

Transitioning from an employee to an entrepreneur isn't easy. You give up the security of a paycheck to probably work for months without pay.

Robert Kiyosaki's book "Rich Dad's Before You Quit Your Job" takes you on a step-by-step journey to starting and running your business.

In the book, Kiyosaki explains the need to first "learn the ropes" before taking the leap into entrepreneurship. Take time to learn how to run a business before starting your own. This could be through an internship position or by reading widely. 

Are you willing to work for months without pay? This book will give you a reality check on whether you want to quit your job. After reading this book, you may not want to give two weeks' notice. 

But if you're determined to start your business, this book is a goldmine.

'The Four-Hour Work Week' — Tim Ferris

Let's be honest.

You want to quit your job so that you can make more money in less time, right?

In his book "The Four-Hour Work Week," Tim Ferris shares a blueprint on how to do this.

One of the most important topics you'll learn from this book is the power of outsourcing. For you to build a successful business, you need to focus on what gives you joy and outsource other strenuous jobs.

If you're looking to quit your job and start an online business, this book is a must-read.

'The Compound Effect' — Darren Hardy

Darren Hardy's book "The Compound Effect" gives a formula for success and living an extraordinary life.

In the book, Hardy, an executive success mentor, talks about the power of small actions performed consistently over time. From this book, you'll learn:

  • How to create the perfect morning routine.
  • How to develop positive habits that last a lifetime.
  • The power of consistency.
  • How to be exceptional in everything you do.

"The Compound Effect" is the perfect book to introduce you to habits you'll need to succeed as an entrepreneur.

'What Color Is Your Parachute? 2020: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career Changers' — Richard N. Bolles

It's perhaps one of the bestselling career advice books of all time.

This book has been in circulation since 1970, with an updated version coming every year to keep up with occupational trends.

If you're thinking of switching jobs, this is the perfect book for you. The book covers all the basics on how to improve your marketable skills, interview etiquett  and resume.

Are you stuck on what you want to do with your life?

In "What Color Is Your Parachute?" Bolles provides exercises to help you discover your inner purpose. These include a flower test and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test.

Whether you're thinking of starting your own business or switching jobs, this book has something for everyone.

'Pitch Anything' — Oren Klaf

If you want to motivate others, raise capital, gain traction for your ideas or even land a job, this is the book for you.

"Pitch Anything" is a must-have for any looking to improve their "pitching and sales game."

Klaf guides you on how to present, persuade and win deals using a six-step pitching process that entails:

  • Setting the frame.
  • Telling the story.
  • Revealing the intrigue.
  • Offering the prize.
  • Nailing the hook point.
  • Getting the deal.

If you come from a non-sales background and are looking to start your business, this is the perfect book for you.

'Crush It' — Gary Vaynerchuk

Are you quitting your job to pursue your passion?

Gary Vaynerchuk's first book, "Crush It," offers a step-by-step guide on how to turn your passion and interests into an income-generating business. In the book, Vaynerchuk reveals the strategies and technologies he used to upscale his family's wine business.

If you're looking to start a business based on your hobbies and passion, this book is a good start. From the book, you'll learn how to use social media and the internet to help build your brand.

The book is simple, honest and straight to the point, just like Vaynerchuk. 

'Get a Life, Not a Job: Do What You Love and Let Your Talents Work for You' — Paula Caligiuri

Why settle for one income stream when you can diversify?

"Get a Life, Not a Job" teaches you how to diversify your income streams and build a life. The book mentions streams such as signing your apartment up for Airbnb, tutoring and earning from your hobbies.

Although it may seem hard to fit in extra tasks in your already busy schedule, this book will teach you how to build a multifaceted income stream while maintaining a career.

See more from Benzinga

© 2020 Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.

10 SE Wyoming entrepreneurs receive funding from SEWYIL challenge - Wyoming Business Report

Posted: 29 Feb 2020 04:00 AM PST

Ten entrepreneurs from southeast Wyoming have had their respective lives changed over the past six months.

It's been a hectic, frantic, chaotic and incredible time, one where all 10 men and women, ranging from a college student to a husband-and-wife team, have been working to change the world.

Or at least Wyoming to start out.

Over a week's period in late January and early February, 10 challengers from Albany and Laramie counties competed in the Southeast Wyoming Innovation Launchpad, a project created last fall to provide opportunities for startup businesses to apply for seed money to take the business past the concept stage and into real-world first article builds and initial sales.

The challenge is open to Albany County and Laramie County residents who are seeking seed money, startup funds or money for early stage companies. All of the seed funding will be heavily controlled and can be requested up to one year after winning the challenge.

The original plan was for all 10 contestants to gather together on the same evening in Cheyenne and give presentations about a product they created to solve a problem they saw in the world.

But due to the fact that the challengers also face the issue of living in Wyoming during the winter, the road conditions on Jan. 31 caused the Albany County contestants to be told to stay home that evening, with plans later made to reschedule their portion for the following Thursday at the University of Wyoming's College of Business auditorium.

The five Laramie County businesses and entrepreneurs were:

Y-Tri Gear Bags, created by Judy Myers: Y-Tri Gear Bags builds high-end, durable and comfortable equipment bags for any situation. The first product helps professional photographers and videographers quickly and easily make their tripod their friend again. Myers is also a student at Laramie County Community College.

Wyoming Drone Imaging, created by Jeremy Arneson: Using drones to capture data, WDI offers geo-information system solutions for industries such as construction, mining, mineral exploration, agriculture and departments of transportation. Offering a variety of product outputs, WDI can provide real-time information to improve workflow, saving them time and money. Arneson is an alumni of LCCC.

String Starters, created by Steven Scott: Providing the needed tools to help orchestra teachers inspire beginning orchestra students to read music. This research-based, brain-friendly method, plus original compositions by Scott, will have a considerable impact on student success across the nation.

Precision Tensioning, created by Colby Irene: This business provides the service of tensioning and maintaining base bolts of wind turbines to keep the wind turbine secure to the foundation and up to maintenance standards. Irene is also an LCCC student.

Crave Nutrition, RD, created by Lindsey McCoy: Company focuses on reducing the burden of chronic disease, particularly diabetes, through person-centered care. With a private practice located in Cheyenne and online educational content that has a global reach, Crave Nutrition is transforming habits in nutrition, fitness and happiness for better health outcomes.

The five Albany County businesses and entrepreneurs were:

NexRel, created by Fritz Ogden: This company has custom built an equipment monitoring connectivity platform that enables data-driven insights across entire heavy equipment fleets. They are raising the bar in the Internet of Things industry, focusing on ease of use, performance and customer service.

Wyoming Wind Tunnel, created by Aaron and Melissa Ross: A world-class low-speed wind tunnel facility in Laramie that will provide technical service to bicycle, drone and aerospace industries.

Codeus Tech, created by Cody Fagley: This company builds small, portable computer systems for use in the Internet of Things. Their product audaciously promises to secure user and system data by providing an entirely new approach to computer security.

Theraneutrics, created by Christoph Geisler: This company is developing genetically modified probiotics for the treatment of gout. Unlike conventional gout drugs, Theraneutrics' engineered probiotics are designed to be affordable, accessible, broadly effective and free of side effects.

Xplor Adventures: An online platform to help people learn, teach and share their skills outdoors. Xplor also helps to encourage, organize and facilitate local company outings to assist with employee morale and retention.

The 10 finalists were chosen from 34 SEWYIL applicants. Fourteen businesses made it to the semifinals, with 10 making the final round. All of the finalists were advised and coached through the full process of building a viable business concept, regardless of team makeup or background. The competitors worked directly with the University of Wyoming's Wyoming Technology Business Center and local staff in building their concept, and had the opportunity to meet and network with other successful entrepreneurs.

The top three teams from each county have the ability to apply for the privately funded SEWYIL seed fund. All of the finalists will continue receiving business counseling and advocacy from the WTBC.

The first round of the challenge was hosted at the Atlas Theatre, where the competitors took the stage, literally and figuratively, to give their presentations to five judges, which included Microsoft's Dennis Ellis.

Challengers gave 12-minute presentations about their product, detailing the problem to be addressed, their plan to solve the issue, their expected demographic, and how they planned to market their product or company.

Following this, the judges would have a few minutes to ask them more about certain topics, such what they expected from their customer base and how they came to conjure up these business ideas.

McCoy's pitch about her dietician work was praised by Ellis, who complimented her forward thinking regarding marketing on social media and creating her own podcast, The Crave Nutrition, RD Podcast.

On Feb. 7, the Albany County portion was held, with the same format for the presentations. Fagley didn't feel nervous about talking with the judges, as he's been going through a similar process to get funding for Codeus Tech.

"Normally, I'm a stuttery nerd," Fagley said. "But we were all on our A-game on Thursday night, and it's because we've worked so hard on these pitches."

Grabner admitted that the extra time given to the five Albany County entrepreneurs was helpful, as it allowed them to rehearse their presentations "a hundred times."

In the process leading up to the presentations, 80 individual business counseling sessions were held for the contestants, as well as seven meetings organized with guest speakers, including two lawyers and accountants, three bankers and four marketers. Around 20 jobs will be created immediately upon the launch of all of the finalists.

These meetings have been an enormous help to all of the contestants, they all agreed.

"All of the help people are willing to reach out and donate to us, it makes this dream more real," String Starters creator Scott said. "I learned that I need a website and everything about setting up a business, which I had literally no idea about before starting this process. Even without an award, the knowledge I have now will help me move forward with this in my own time."

For the Laramie County contestants, String Starters and Meyers' Y-Tri Gear Bags each received $1,000 apiece for their projects.

Precision Tensioning, Crave Nutrition, RD and Wyoming Drone Imaging each received $5,000. Irene also received the West Edge Collective's community choice award for $500 after the audience texted in votes to pick their favorite pitches.

As for Albany County, Codeus Tech and Theraneutrics each received $5,000, while NexRel, Wyoming Wind Tunnel and Xplor Adventures each received $3,000. NexRel received an additional $500 for the community choice award.

Grabner stated his winnings would go toward marketing Xplor, which will help the company launch in the spring. Fagley's $5,000 will go toward startup costs.

Ellen Fike is a freelance writer living in Cheyenne. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @EllenLFike.

The internet without YouTube: an alternate history - The Verge

Posted: 28 Feb 2020 07:47 AM PST

Fifteen years ago this month, one of the most important web domains in history was registered: Today's teenagers have never known an internet that couldn't host as much video as they want for free, server costs be damned. YouTube has helped elect politicians, create entire industries, and taught millions of people how to use eyeliner. It's not a stretch to say it shaped the internet as we know it.

But what if YouTube had failed? Would we have missed out on decades of cultural phenomena and innovative ideas? Would we have avoided a wave of dystopian propaganda and misinformation? Or would the internet have simply spiraled into new — yet strangely familiar — shapes, with their own joys and disasters?

Here's one idea of what it might have looked like, tracing the line from why YouTube might have failed to what the world would have looked like without it. It's far from the only option — but if you're struggling to imagine a world without YouTube, it may not be as hard as you think.

This is a creative work of fiction. Any references to real-life companies, persons, or historical events have been fictionalized for the purposes of furthering this narrative story. Other names, characters, places, companies, and events are imagined, and any resemblance to actual companies, events, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

A video platform fights copyright law (and copyright law wins)

It's 2005, and three guys named Steve Chen, Jawed Karim, and Chad Hurley have just launched a dating website called YouTube. While nobody accepts YouTube's invitation to "Tune In, Hook Up," people do love sharing pop culture clips and little videos about their lives. By 2006, YouTube's viewership has exploded, but reporters raise ominous questions about its financial strategy and legal risks. NPR, for example, declares that "YouTube does for video what Napster did for audio" — and that, like Napster, its days might be numbered. YouTube discusses an acquisition offer with Google, Microsoft, and Oracle, but all three deals fall through, and growing server costs threaten to eat through the company's funding.

YouTube has its first viral hit in early 2006 with a bootleg upload of SNL's "Lazy Sunday" (also known as the "Narnia rap"). Faced with an obvious copyright violation, NBC must decide whether to sign an ad deal with YouTube or try to destroy it. The network chooses the path of war, filing aggressive legal requests and rushing the launch of Hulu, which is soon available through popular websites like Microsoft's MSN portal and News Corp's social network Myspace.

With Hulu established as a legitimate content source, networks view YouTube as a piracy vector for valuable movie and TV clips at a time when the music industry and internet service providers are aggressively pursuing copyright infringers. Companies file lawsuits against YouTube instead of signing deals, and a flood of legal challenges from content-holders threatens to damage the platform's safe harbor status under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Without YouTube, Google focuses on its existing Google Video service. It shifts focus to expanding a recently acquired stake in AOL, reviving plans for a joint venture with Comcast. Focusing on search and advertising services for other web portals, it's largely seen as a web software and infrastructure company.

Facing high bandwidth costs and no revenue stream, YouTube declares bankruptcy. Apple quietly hires most of its talent, assigning them to an iPhone video chat system codenamed "Venice."

Old media giants meet the influencer economy

As YouTube descends into bankruptcy, media companies start buying up lower-profile video sites. Instead of letting anyone immediately post a video, these companies implement a review process and focus on nurturing stables of internet stars often poached from YouTube — including a teenage singer named Justin Bieber.

The resulting services often look more like the Sony-acquired platform Grouper than the chaos of YouTube. Some leverage user-generated content into new business models, particularly NBCUniversal, which acquires a life-streaming platform called in 2007. Results are mixed. Sponsorship deals with "lifecasters" offer 24/7 exposure for brands but create an ongoing trickle of PR gaffes, including a Law & Order ad campaign that derails when viewers provoke a police raid on the broadcaster's apartment. (The incident is dramatized three months later in a Law & Order episode.)

Similarly, a licensing process for cosplay live streams earns criticism from fans who object to a prudish dress code and sweeping contract agreement. The incident fuels a broader discussion of the relationship between fandom and corporate media, alienating many potential streamers. NBCUniversal nudges the platform toward semi-curated reality and talent show formats.

Peer-to-peer video turns the internet upside-down

Hosting a giant streaming repository is expensive and legally risky. But there's a free alternative: peer-to-peer sharing. Without YouTube, decentralized streaming services are developed and popularized earlier. What these systems lack in user-friendliness, they recover in anarchic fun (and a fair amount of pirated content, especially when The Pirate Bay builds a YouTube-style landing page for discovering original videos). Their distributed design makes videos easy to create and difficult to fully erase, and dedicated local networks also spring up on college campuses and high schools.

As Apple's recently released iPhone grows in popularity, the company launches FaceTime: a video calling service that supports both one-on-one chats and small-scale broadcasting. It promotes the feature with a series of heartwarming ads, including an estranged family that reconnects over a shared viewing of a high-school musical. Somewhat unpredictably, the appetite for group broadcasting drives performers and audiences to hold events in massively multiplayer games and virtual worlds, particularly Second Life, which is acquired by Microsoft in 2010.

Major telecoms respond by attacking peer-to-peer systems at the network level. Some internet service providers block peer-to-peer streaming in a violation of fledgling net neutrality rules, setting up a conflict between ISPs and the Federal Communications Commission. These services find an unlikely ally in Apple, whose own FaceTime app runs into similar problems. And rampant copyright infringement alarms Hollywood and record labels, which begin lobbying Congress for stricter intellectual property laws.

Congress takes down the video underground

By 2011, legitimate online video services have seen moderate success. Their submission review process, powered by a combination of automated tools and human moderators, drastically slows the posting of videos. But it heads off some serious problems, quickly stemming the growth of child abuse material and disturbing videos aimed at kids.

Small-scale group broadcasting has also taken off. Public figures regularly use Apple's group broadcasting options to host intimate discussions — including a variety of streaming stars and noted iPhone fan President Barack Obama who kicks off a virtual tour of American classrooms using FaceTime. Microsoft integrates Skype support into Second Life, letting webcam users "dial in" to virtual book readings and other live events. These systems create an expectation of intimacy and personalization as well as a certain level of privacy from outside eyes.

By contrast, decentralized streaming is a free-for-all. Its openness creates a wellspring of creativity, but also persistent problems with harassment and quasi-ironic bigotry. One peer-to-peer streaming subculture is devoted almost entirely to "griefing" mainstream video sites and virtual worlds — clogging submission queues with nonsensical meme videos, launching raids on Second Life, and running elaborate hoaxes to trick celebrities into personal FaceTime and Skype broadcasts. Pirated content continues to circulate, including rips of legitimate video sites' biggest shows.

The combination of lobbyist pressure and increasingly aggressive trolling eventually spurs Congress to crack down. Lawmakers begin debating a sweeping bill called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which requires ISPs to block any foreign sites that host illegal copies of photos, videos, or music. This includes any peer-to-peer services with users outside the US.

Internet advocacy groups protest SOPA, holding an online "blackout" in protest. But they lack the support of web giants like Google — its partner, Comcast, staunchly supports the bill — and peer-to-peer platforms' reputation for unsavory content makes them easy targets for lawmakers. The law passes in 2012, and ISPs quickly block P2P streaming systems without the threat of FCC censure.

The resulting crackdown scuttles some innovative projects, including a popular Lego-like game called Minecraft, which had integrated a peer-to-peer streaming system for players. And it galvanizes young voters into political awareness. Some of their enthusiasm is captured by a growing right-wing extremist movement, which has operated under the radar, thanks to decentralized video.

The internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it

Peer-to-peer video is increasingly inaccessible, alongside foreign streaming services like DailyMotion and Tudou, and people flock to services like FaceTime, Hulu, and This sudden growth adds both technical and social pressure. Users submit swathes of popular videos like the peer-to-peer hit "Charlie Bit My Finger," offering welcome ad revenue but requiring arduous hunts for the original creators. Griefers launch all-out swatting campaigns against live performers. AT&T attempts to justify blocking Apple's FaceTime under SOPA, making the service unavailable to many iPhone users on its network.

And as mainstream platforms face more scrutiny, disturbing reports suggest that conglomerates like Sony and NBCUniversal turned a blind eye toward streamers accused of sexual misconduct, or even offered help by suppressing rumors on their platforms. It's especially troubling because kids' content is thriving on the services.

Children's channels are filtered to remove disturbing content, but they're also filled with product placement, free from the requirements placed on broadcast TV. And while their young stars have the support of a studio system, it also places strict rules on their conduct — which, combined with the always-on ethos of streaming, can prove psychologically damaging.

Peer-to-peer video devotees take increasingly extreme measures to stay online. They respond to the ISP bans by developing local mesh networks that can stream video across limited ranges, creating pocket subcultures split along geographical lines. Some popular videos make the leap between meshnets. Re-edited versions of a 9/11 conspiracy documentary called Loose Change become a rare national hit across the meshnets, circulating throughout California and across the northern Appalachian region.

Aspiring streamers flock to dense urban centers like New York and Los Angeles whose networks are still closely watched by mainstream sites' talent scouts. (Similar scouts watch international sites, poaching stars like DailyMotion streamer Felix "PewDiePie" Kjellberg to host Comedy Central's Pew.0.) Others gather in smaller cities like Kansas City, Missouri, and Akron, Ohio, creating regional media hubs colloquially known as "streamtowns." Streamers from isolated areas with a strong survivalist tradition are often lured into a burgeoning network of far-right media compounds, intermittently monitored by the FBI.

Non-video social media becomes more atomized, regionalized, and personal. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg puts a premium on encryption, declaring in 2013 that "the future is private." (Encryption and limited virality make Facebook less attractive for both pirates and anti-piracy enforcers.) In 2014, public micro-blogging platform Twitter becomes a wire news service for verified businesses and journalists, following a widely criticized public shaming frenzy on the site.

Microsoft acquires a buzzy VR startup called Oculus and integrates its technology into Second Life, offering a virtual world anchored by persistent identities and a real-money economy, although its crackdown on sexual content — particularly quirky subcultures like furries — draws some criticism.

To fight griefers, mainline sites downrank and demonetize most political discussion, limiting divisive topics like vaccine denial and climate change to a handful of carefully vetted channels. Movements like Occupy Wall Street, organized through a local New York meshnet, have earned little mainstream attention. Private networks can avoid censorship but breed unverified rumors and conspiracy theories, which incubate with little outside awareness or intervention.

Streaming sites begin adopting sophisticated machine learning systems and mining sensitive user data gathered by ISPs, which is made possible by consolidation deals like the 2011 merger between Comcast and NBCUniversal. Drawing on Google's AI research, Comcast-NBCUniversal's juggernaut carefully parses the most minor shifts in video performance to set advertising rates and surface content, leaving streamers at the mercy of an unknowable algorithm.

The internet's immune system is weaker than we think

The internet of 2016 has its critics. Media theorists question the "mind-numbing wasteland of sanitized, algorithm-driven monocultures" in which a few media gatekeepers produce limited quantities of web television for the broadest possible audience, padded with some superficially personalized elements like custom title cards that look different for each user. A housing bubble within Second Life has made the thriving virtual world inaccessible to many lower-income Americans, leading to accusations of "virtual gentrification" and debilitating digital mortgages for some unlucky residents.

Even so, it's seen as widely superior to the chaos of the meshnet, which becomes a persistent target for law enforcement after a series of violent inter-network clashes and domestic extremist attacks. With no centralized point of attack, hacking and misinformation campaigns by meshnet griefers and Russian cyber-operatives fail to land, and Hillary Clinton defeats opponent Ted Cruz by a narrow margin in the 2016 presidential election.

President Clinton leads a meshnet compound crackdown with bipartisan congressional support — although ardent progressives see it as a cynical gift to the telecom industry and a substitute for meaningful gun control, while populist conservatives decry the advent of a "Waco 2.0." The newly merged Comcast-Google-AOL-NBCUniversal offers glowing coverage and algorithmically tailored promotion of the campaign. (Disclosure: Comcast-Google-AOL-NBCUniversal is a minority investor in Vox Media.)

While aimed at violent extremists, the crackdown embitters many local streamtowns, and large networks grow paranoid over fears of police infiltration. Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones rallies political support from the local Austin meshnet, running for state Congress on a platform of Texan independence. Political concerns leave other networks nearly untouched — including the Miami meshnet, a hotbed for organized crime in the swing state of Florida. Some small networks are repurposed as honeypot operations by small-time blackmailers who trawl their nodes for nude photos and other embarrassing material.

Clinton's FCC starts a massive push for municipal internet development, hoping to unify a geographically polarized country. But powerful telecom-internet-media conglomerates immediately mire the plan in litigation.

As the 2020 election approaches, a superficial national calm belies a series of brewing secessionist campaigns and potent localized conspiracy theories. A DC-area network plays host to a supposed Department of Energy operative codenamed "Q" who offers dire warnings about President Clinton and a network of baby-eating satanists — warnings that Fox News promotes on the popular web version of its news channel.

A grassroots "Occupy Airwaves" movement is spreading open-source plans for a long-wave transmitter that can bridge the gaps between networks, creating a full-scale decentralized alternative internet. Conversely, the wealthy Mercer family is building networks that offer the illusion of a local meshnet, laced with propaganda for their preferred candidate: Donald Trump.

Amid all of this, Apple adds an extra feature to its popular FaceTime application, capitalizing on the app's widespread popularity. It's a geolocation-based dating tool where users can "pin" short videos to participating bars and restaurants, hoping to attract another patron on a date.

It's called FaceTime Dating.


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