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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

21 mins ago - Politics & Policy

GOP leaders skip Trump sendoff in favor of church with Biden

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in July. Photo by Erin Scott-Pool/Getty Images

Congressional leaders, including House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will skip President Trump's departure ceremony in Maryland tomorrow morning in favor of attending mass with incoming President Joe Biden ahead of his inauguration, congressional sources familiar with their plans tell Axios.

Why it matters: Their decision is a clear sign of unity before Biden takes the oath of office.

24 mins ago - World

U.S. declares China's actions against Uighurs "genocide"

A protester in London. Photo Hasan Esen/Anadolu Agency via Getty

With just one day left in President Trump's term, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has officially determined that China's campaign of mass internment, forced labor and forced sterilization of over 1 million Muslim minorities in Xinjiang constitutes "genocide" and "crimes against humanity."

Why it matters: The U.S. has become the first country to adopt these terms to describe the Chinese Communist Party's gross human rights abuses in its far northwest.

Biden's pick for intel chief commits to public assessment of QAnon threat

Avril Haines, President-elect Biden's nominee for director of national intelligence, pledged at her Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday to conduct a public assessment of the threat of the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory.

Why it matters: Many members of the pro-Trump mob involved in the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol siege were seen sporting symbols referencing QAnon, a sprawling and baseless conspiracy theory that purports that President Trump is fighting a vast deep-state cabal of pedophiles.

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