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 34 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 20,620,847 — Total deaths: 748,416— Total recoveries: 12,770,718Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 5,197,000 — Total deaths: 166,026 — Total recoveries: 1,714,960 — Total tests: 63,252,257Map.
  3. Politics: Pelosi says Mnuchin told her White House is "not budging" on stimulus position.
  4. Business: U.S. already feeling effects of ending unemployment benefits.
  5. Public health: America's two-sided COVID-19 response America is flying blind on its coronavirus response.
  6. Education: New Jersey governor allows schools to reopenGallup: America's confidence in public school system jumps to highest level since 2004.

Bob Woodward's new book details letters between Trump and Kim Jong-un

Bob Woodward during a 2019 event in Los Angele. Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Journalist Bob Woodward has obtained "25 personal letters exchanged" between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for his new book, "Rage," publisher Simon & Schuster revealed on Wednesday.

Details: In the letters, "Kim describes the bond between the two leaders as out of a 'fantasy film,' as the two leaders engage in an extraordinary diplomatic minuet," according to a description of the book posted on Amazon.

Dozens of Confederate symbols removed in wake of George Floyd's death

A statue of Confederate States President Jefferson Davis lies on the street after protesters pulled it down in Richmond, Virginia, in June. Photo: Parker Michels-Boyce/AFP via Getty Images

59 Confederate symbols have been removed, relocated or renamed since anti-racism protests began over George Floyd's death, a new Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) report finds.

Why it matters: That's a marked increase on previous years, per the report, which points out just 16 Confederate monuments were affected in 2019.