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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Cyber Monday — with a predicted $9 billion in U.S. sales online — has become a self-sustaining phenomenon in the world of e-retail, with email blasts and ad blitzes pushing pre-holiday season discounts.

The big picture: This event did not emerge organically. It's a marketing construct built around a discredited prefix that was originally coined for an invented science.

Background: The term "Cyber Monday" was created by a marketing executive in 2005. Data had shown online sales spiking the Monday after Thanksgiving.

  • Analysts guessed workers were loading up their virtual shopping carts when they returned to their offices' high-speed internet connections after the holiday weekend.

Yes, but: In following years, consumers demanded higher-speed connections at home so they could play World of Warcraft and binge-watch Netflix, and the telecom industry obliged. Meanwhile, most of the population had also put internet-connected smartphones in their pockets.

The bottom line: Those office T1 lines no longer matter, and Cyber Monday should have evaporated, but it's still going strong.

  • Retailers love events, and everyone loves a sale!
  • The occasion is now just one more element in the fierce battle for consumer holiday-shopping mindshare, which takes place everywhere and anytime. Stores now launch many of their online specials on Black Friday — or even on Thanksgiving itself.

Between the lines: No one says "cyber" today, except with reference to security and this one frenzied day of online purchasing. Even in 2005, the "cyber" prefix had lost its cachet.

  • "Cyberspace" had a brief heyday in the 1990s, when the internet first entered public consciousness, and America Online was ushering millions of newcomers into the online universe.
  • The word was the invention of science fiction writer William Gibson, who'd first envisioned a shared dataspace roamed by "console cowboys" in his 1984 novel "Neuromancer" — an instant classic that gave the cyberpunk genre its label.
  • Gibson borrowed "cyber" from the field of cybernetics, the study of feedback-driven control systems in machines and nature, founded by Norbert Wiener a century ago.
  • Wiener based the name on the Greek word for piloting or steering because he saw his new discipline as a means for understanding how humans could find a path through the looming complexities of technological automation.

Why it matters: We could all use some help steering our way safely through today's wilderness of email barrages and coupon codes.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 31 mins ago - World

17 U.S. and Canadian missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

American officials and authorities in Haiti are working to try and free 12 adults and five children from a U.S.-based missionary group kidnapped in Port-au-Prince over the weekend, AP reported Monday.

The latest: Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement Sunday, "The group of 16 U.S citizens and one Canadian citizen includes five men, seven women, and five children." The Ohio-based group said they were on a trip to visit an orphanage when they were kidnapped Saturday.

China's economic growth slows

A worker assembles heavy truck engines in Hangzhou in eastern China's Zhejiang Province, on Monday. Photo: Long We/Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

China's economy grew 4.9% in the third quarter of 2021 compared with a year earlier, the country's National Bureau of Statistics announced Monday.

Why it matters: The gross domestic product growth in the July-September quarter in the world’s second-largest economy marked the "weakest pace since the third quarter of 2020 and slowing from 7.9% in the second quarter," Reuters notes.

3 hours ago - World

Former spy Steele defends controversial Trump Russia dossier

Former U.K. intelligence officer Christopher Steele arrives at the High Court in London in July 2020. Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

The author of the "Steele Dossier," containing unverified claims about former President Trump told ABC News he stands by his controversial report, according to excerpts from an upcoming documentary released Sunday.

Why it matters: Former U.K. intelligence officer Christopher Steele's dossier was used as part of former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged links to Russia's government.

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