Over the last two decades, the Internet has undergone a transformative growth beyond its initial academic origins and extended into other domains. The area formerly limited to technocrats has seen significant growth and transformed into a worldwide company due to the widespread use of the Internet. The commercialization process has resulted in an increased range of choices for both firms and consumers, leading to significant modifications in our modes of communication, consumption, and cognitive processes (Weis, 2010). This essay delves extensively into the abovementioned transition, examining the many favorable consequences of commercializing the digital realm. Nevertheless, concerns have arisen due to the significant scale of the transformation. Is there an excessive concentration of power in a select few digital companies? Does the Internet pose a potential risk to preserving privacy and the essence of societal values? These are a few of the several subjects that will be addressed.
Historical Context and Development
Keeping up with the development of the Internet has been an interesting task. When it first became available in the late 1960s, the Internet’s primary purpose was as a communication medium for academic institutions and the military. This helped to facilitate the sharing of information and the coordination of military tactics. A substantial transition in the digital world marked the decade of the 1990s. Sir Tim Berners-Lee is credited with having the idea for the World Wide Web, which subsequently transformed and democratized access to the huge amounts of information accessible online. In a very short time, the Internet transitioned from being primarily used as a tool for academic pursuits to being a global hub for commercial endeavors and entertainment options (Takano & Kajikawa, 2019). As we traverse the present digital world, it is crucial that we reflect on the enormous improvements made by the Internet, following its history from its early stages to its current powerful position in the global economy. This will help us understand how the Internet became where it is today.
Benefits of Commercialization
Commercializing the Internet might be likened to exploring a vast, uncharted world with boundless opportunities and potential. One of the most conspicuous consequences is the undeniable economic upsurge it generated. The Internet has facilitated remarkable economic growth by providing individuals ranging from Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to artisans residing in isolated rural communities with the means to reach a global audience. The online retail business had significant growth in 2020, as seen by the remarkable figure of $4.2 trillion in sales, as Statista (2021) reported.
The proliferation of the Internet’s commercial endeavors has significantly broadened the availability of information and resources. Global wealth distribution was no longer limited to those who had significant financial resources and were lucky in terms of their physical location. Individuals from all walks of life, regardless of their geographical location, can readily access a vast reservoir of information, resources, and opportunities in a matter of seconds. The potentialities afforded by this unprecedented interconnectedness would have been beyond the imagination of the pre-commercial Internet era (Ramli et al., 2019) According to the International Telecommunications Union, the global population with access to the Internet exceeded 50% by the conclusion of 2019. This significant milestone may be primarily attributed to the commercial appeal and substantial expenditure in the telecommunications industry.
However, it is important to acknowledge that one sometimes disregarded benefit of engaging in commercial activities is the act of innovation. The Internet’s vibrant marketplace fostered the proliferation of innovative ideas. Entrepreneurs, developers, and intellectuals have repeatedly recognized the vast potential inherent in the digital marketplace. Through their persistent efforts, they have introduced many tools, platforms, and technologies that have significantly transformed our lives and modes of interpersonal communication.
Concerns Surrounding Commercialization
The advent of commercialization on the Internet has presented many significant obstacles that pose a danger to the idyllic notion of an interconnected and unrestricted society within the dynamic landscape of the digital era. The increasing prominence of a select few technology giants is undeniable. The presence of monopolistic inclinations is suggested by the notable market dominance shown by a select few corporations inside the Internet industry, such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon. There exists a legitimate worry about the potential negative consequences of monopolies, namely the reduction of consumer choice and the hindrance of innovation.
The commodification of personal data further exacerbates public apprehension. The demarcation between the acquisition of personal data and its use for commercial purposes has become more indistinct due to the widespread adoption of targeted advertising (Hu et al., 2020). In contemporary society, individuals’ online behaviors, preferences, and confidential data are valuable economic resources that may be acquired, traded, and used for financial gain. Although the digital gold rush has brought prosperity, it also raises significant issues around user privacy and the boundaries of commercial activity.
Furthermore, the fundamental essence of the Internet is transforming, formerly characterized by the presence of authentic material provided by users. The pervasive presence of advertising-driven content often diminishes the inherent authenticity of online connections, while the growing influence of computers progressively dictates the content we consume. The economic implications of the Internet have undeniably generated many opportunities. However, they have also engendered valid concerns. In the current era of digitalization, a crucial objective will be to achieve a harmonious equilibrium between the commercial benefits derived from the Internet and the preservation of a liberated, transparent, and user-oriented online milieu (Grosse, 2020).
In the face of widespread criticism over the commercialization of the Internet, compelling counterarguments emerge that highlight a more optimistic trajectory. A prominent advocate of rationality emphasizes the need for rules and checks. The introduction of new technology has historically been met with skepticism; yet, as time has progressed, pragmatic regulations have been established to shape and refine these technologies for the overall advantage. Increasingly, governmental bodies and international organizations are taking measures to regulate the actions of large technology companies to promote fair competition and safeguard users’ rights. Recent investigations into antitrust violations and the implementation of data protection legislation exemplify efforts to regulate and monitor the digital realm (Salmon & Myers, 2019).
Making purchasing decisions represents an additional perspective that fosters a sense of freedom. Contemporary Internet users possess a high level of expertise and are inclined towards active engagement rather than passive consumption of online material. Their level of effect on the overall trajectory of the digital economy is substantial. Promoting ethical business practices may be facilitated by consumers who support platforms that prioritize user privacy, organic content, and ethical methods. The preference shift is evident via the widespread adoption of ad-free platforms and services that emphasize protecting users’ privacy and security, including ad-free search engines and messaging programs (Tseng, 2021).
It is essential to remember that the pursuit of economic objectives on the Internet has often catalyzed the emergence of innovative advancements. The advancements mentioned above, propelled by customer preferences, have enhanced our online experience and mitigated prevalent issues. In the competitive landscape, platforms must adopt more transparent and user-friendly procedures to gain user trust.
The narrative surrounding the development of the Internet, from its first origins inside academic circles to its subsequent rise as a prominent force in the commercial realm, is a subject of great intrigue. Commercializing this digital frontier has resulted in remarkable economic expansion, global interconnectedness, and revolutionary advancements. However, it has also given rise to apprehensions over the redistribution of power, compromised privacy, and fraudulent credentials. Nevertheless, historical evidence suggests that a resolution may be achieved via the collaborative efforts of vigilant regulators, well-informed customers, and persistent innovation. It is incumbent upon each individual to ensure that the Internet, in its evolution, remains an impartial platform for genuine, unrestricted communication and the promotion of entrepreneurial ambition.
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By Yijia Ma.
Commercialization of the Internet: The Intersection of Access and Commercial Interests © 2023 by Yijia Ma is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0