tradewinds - 12:46 am on May 6, 2010 (gmt 0) [edited by: tradewinds at 12:57 am (utc) on May 6, 2010]
From the middle of the first decade of the new millenium, there has been an increasing awareness of the fact that more and more webmasters, even the "mom and pop" types that are seen as "fodder" that could be taken advantage of (in the form of easily convincing them to give you a "goodwill" backlink for example), are adopting the "what's in it for me?" attitude.
There have been several threads/posts pointing out the issue of how people are becoming more and more stingy with backlinks, and even amateur webmasters who think customizing a blogspot blog is "web design", when asked for a backlink, demand a reciprocal link from a "page that has at least a PR of 3" etc. Of course, placing so much importance on PR only confirms the fact that they are amateurs, but I digress.
And so us experienced webmasters turn to warmer, more "give and you shall receive" approaches (that require a greater investment of effort) to link and brand building, including various ever-evolving creative ideas such as conducting interviews to attract links.
In fact, some webmasters have changed their focus to branding, word-of-mouth and diversification of traffic sources instead of SEO. At which point they notice that even such avenues are saturated/used/abused/the targets jaded.
Let me give you an example: martinibuster made a great post on creating mindshare or branding through genuine involvement and contribution to online communities. This is about as solid and white hat as it gets. As martinibuster noted, "people can smell self promotion a mile away". Okay, so you decide to become a valued contributor to a forum related to a niche website of yours, with a non-spammy link in your signature to your incredibly useful informational site. So you find a suitable related forum, register, and since you're here for the long-term, decide to read the forum rules/faq. You're OK'ing each rule as your scroll down until you reach the part about signatures. And it reads something like this: "No links to thematically related sites". And I thought signatures with links to unrelated sites were spammy! Disallowing affiliate links / commercial sites is one thing, but this? Competition is becoming more cutthroat; one day novice webmasters may have to resort to promoting their websites on the streets. And this wasn't even in a "webmaster" or "SEO" forum; it was a non-technical forum.
Frowning on black-hat tactics is understandable, but increasingly things that were considered white-hat before are being treated as undesirable. The "hippie" days of the internet characterized by generosity and opportunity are long gone. Now it's all about the money, and this attitude has seeped into every corner of the web in a VERY preemptive manifestation.
[edited by: tradewinds at 12:57 am (utc) on May 6, 2010]