At its inception, the Internet seemed synonymous with diversity due to its unique ease of replication and dissemination. Indeed, with the advent of the Web 2.0 era, most people’s lives can be solved through the Internet. The prosperity of the modern Internet has created a false illusion full of diversity. However, the diversity of the Internet has been gradually declining in recent years. The lack of diversity in the modern Internet is notable for major technology companies near monopoly of the global market.
Regarding search engines, Google is the first thing many users think of, and when it comes to travel, Airbnb is the first choice for many users. The most important cause of the lack of diversity on the Internet is that the homogenization of modern Internet content is so severe that the Internet has lost the incentive to innovate. Second, the monopoly of the market by large technology companies has led to many small and medium-sized enterprises being acquired, which has affected the economic development of the Internet. At the same time, the lack of diversity on the Internet has led to the limitation of the most basic communication function in developing the Internet. This blog will focus on the impact of the lack of diversity on the innovative, economic, and communication functions of the Internet.
Impact of Lack of Diversity on Internet Innovation
The impact of the lack of diversity on the Internet is that innovation on the Internet can be hindered. The lack of Internet diversity can be reflected mainly in the homogenization of the Internet. In the history of the Internet, the most critical underlying technology concept, was the open architecture network. All platforms running on the Internet were not restricted to specific network architecture, allowing operators and platforms the freedom of choice (Leiner et al., 2009). Therefore, the Internet has a unique openness and plurality. At the beginning of the Internet development, many Internet mediums were also born, such as Google, Facebook, and Napster. The creation of these new media platforms has once again deepened the concept of pluralism on the Internet. However, with the popularity of Internet use, many platform functions are beginning to be integrated, content is becoming increasingly homogeneous, and the diversity of the Internet is gradually lacking.
Take Instagram, the world’s most popular social media platform. At its inception, Instagram was just a photo viewing software that allowed users to add filters to their photos and post them publicly. However, as the Internet grew, Instagram added many features other social media have, such as Tik Tok‘s video creation and viewing, WhatsApp‘s chat and group features, and Twitter‘s world hotspot feature. Since the digital algorithms of the Internet rely on big data collection and recommend content based on individual browsing habits (Al-Jarrah et al., 2015). This means that the content users see on Tik Tok converges primarily with the content that users see on Instagram. This homogenization of social media content and functionality has further contributed to the lack of diversity on the Internet. The most significant danger of this lack of Internet diversity for individual users is that they see the same content on any platform they use, making the range of information they receive to begin to diminish. For society, this is a significant danger to innovation in society as a whole. Because the content and features are becoming more and more identical between platforms, these big social platforms are not thinking about how to improve and develop new features but just adding existing features of other platforms. Not only does this limit the type of information that individual users receive, but it also undermines social innovation.
Impact of Lack of Diversity on the Internet Economy
Second, the lack of Internet diversity can make the development of the Internet economy suffer. Another reason for the lack of diversity on the Internet is that big technology companies have monopolized the global Internet market, inhibited the development of small and medium-sized enterprises, and created a situation where users can only use products big technology companies own. Over the past few decades, the Internet industry has seen a prevalence of acquisitions, mergers, and monopolies. Many small and medium-sized technology companies have been forcibly acquired or merged with large technology companies (McCarthy, 2022). For example, the three most famous social media platforms, Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp, are owned by Meta. The two most well-known online payment methods in China are WeChat pay and Alipay, owned by two different technology companies, Tencent and Alibaba. With these two companies’ constant monopolies, other standard international payment methods such as Apple pay and PayPal are rarely available in China. When online payments are gradually replacing paper money, users can only choose to deposit their funds with Tencent or Alibaba. As a result, these two major technology companies can continue to earn more from their users with the raw accumulation of capital. Meanwhile, for other SMEs, even though they can innovate their products, the result will be a merger or acquisition because the Chinese market is already monopolized. For society, this is a disgusting market competition dominated by big technology companies. In the long run, the economic development of the Internet will create a highly unstable situation where large companies get richer and small businesses to get poorer.
Impact of Lack of Diversity on the Communication Function of the Internet
The Chinese government’s control of online public opinion. Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/-oKDPZ7Xuto
The last and most important effect of the lack of diversity on the development of the Internet is that the communication function of the Internet will be limited. As an emerging means of communication, the Internet’s communication function cannot be ignored (Glowniak, 1998). In the past, most Internet communication functions were point-to-point, e.g., an email was transmitted only between the receiver and the sender. Nevertheless, with the birth of social media platforms, more people can be in direct contact with each other, providing users with a broader range of opportunities to connect and communicate. It can be said that everyone on the Internet today is a producer and distributor of news (Gillespie, 2019). However, the Internet is not disorderly; it has a set of governing orders independent of countries and regions, such as national communications companies and national, regional governments (“Who Makes the Internet Work: The Internet Ecosystem,” 2014). As a result, users’ behavior on the Internet is starting to be controlled. In China, for example, the Chinese government has absolute control over the Internet, and they have set some information unfavorable to the Chinese government as “sensitive words” and require platforms to monitor these “sensitive words.” Once users trigger these words, they will be blocked, or their posts will be forcibly deleted. For example, on Chinese Internet platforms, the name of Xi Jinping, the current president of China, is a sensitive word. Once users mention it on social media platforms, whether it is complimentary or denigrating, it will be automatically detected by the platform and then blocked with deletion of posts. Thus, as platforms and governments work more closely together, the media allows only “politically correct” speech to exist. The lack of diversity in Internet discourse has a highly detrimental effect on the Internet’s communication function. For individuals, the individual’s freedom of expression online is violated. For society, the government and social platforms have more centralized power, creating extreme inequality in society.
In conclusion, the lack of diversity will, first of all, make the innovation of the Internet suffer, as users constantly receive duplicate information on different social platforms. At the same time, the innovation of society is inhibited. Second, the lack of diversity has a detrimental effect on the development of the Internet economy. Large technology companies continue to squeeze public assets to develop their economies, thus making the economic development of society more unequal, resulting in a situation where the poor get poorer, and the rich get richer. Finally, the lack of diversity has compromised the communication function of the Internet, with increasingly close cooperation between platforms and governments, users’ online speech under surveillance, loss of freedom of expression, and society in extreme power inequality. Therefore, in the future development of the Internet, more attention should be paid to how to increase the diversity of the Internet to ensure that it becomes a truly open platform.
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