Once a digital wilderness teeming with possibilities for connecting people and sharing information freely, the internet has undergone a transformation over the years. This transformation is characterised by the rise of commercialisation, where the internet has become a thriving marketplace. In this hypertextual and multimedia essay, we’ll explore the multifaceted aspects of the internet’s commercialisation, discussing its advantages and drawbacks.
The Digital Marketplace
The commercialisation of the internet has given rise to a vast digital marketplace, transforming how products and services are bought and sold. E-commerce giants like Amazon, Alibaba, and eBay have played pivotal roles in reshaping how we shop and engage in commerce. These online marketplaces have made shopping incredibly convenient and opened doors for small businesses and entrepreneurs worldwide.
Among these giants, Amazon (Pearse, 2021) is the unrivalled leader in the e-commerce landscape, particularly in the UK. The COVID-19 pandemic acted as a catalyst, propelling online shopping to unforeseen heights, with sales surging from an annual growth rate of 11% to an impressive 19%. At the heart of this surge lies Amazon, boasting an astonishing 86% share of the UK’s online marketplace trade. Additionally, a quarter of the adult population in the UK is subscribed to Amazon Prime, underscoring its pervasive influence.
Amazon’s success can be attributed to several key factors. Its colossal web traffic, SEO dominance, and stellar brand credibility have made it the go-to platform for consumers. A staggering 66% of consumers begin their product searches on Amazon. Even amid intense competition, Amazon’s reputation and its capacity to position brands to attract businesses seeking success. However, navigating the platform’s complexities and upholding stringent quality standards are essential for maintaining a sterling brand reputation in this highly competitive digital marketplace.
The digital marketplace, led by e-commerce giants like Amazon, has revolutionised shopping and democratised entrepreneurship, offering a global stage for businesses of all sizes to thrive.
Advertising and Personal Data
The commercial internet’s heavy reliance on advertising revenue has given rise to significant debates surrounding data ethics and informed consent. Giants like Google and Facebook, which provide free services to users, have built their business models on the extensive collection and utilisation of personal data for precise ad targeting.
In essence, these internet giants offer their services at no monetary cost to users, but the price users unwittingly pay is with their data. This exchange of convenience for data has brought the ethicality of data practices into sharp focus. The commercial internet landscape is a complex and ever-evolving space where the intersection of advertising and personal data is both a driving force and a source of contention.
Targeted advertising, enabled by the vast pool of personal data, is the lifeblood of free online services and underpins the digital economy. However, it simultaneously raises valid concerns about user privacy and the ethics of data handling. Striking a harmonious balance between effective advertising, user consent, and ethical data utilisation is an ongoing challenge that will significantly shape the trajectory of the digital realm.
A video (Explains, 2022) exploring the concept of targeted advertising sheds light on how tech companies gather personal data and use it to customise ads for individuals. It emphasises the invasive nature of tracking through first-party and third-party cookies, explaining how this can result in an overwhelming influx of personalised ads. The video argues that targeted advertising can encroach upon privacy, exploit vulnerabilities, and potentially impact mental health. It also raises concerns about its role in politics and price discrimination. To counter the effects of targeted advertising, the video suggests using a VPN, seeking out platforms that prioritise user data protection, and staying informed about privacy regulations such as GDPR. Finally, it mentions the upcoming phase-out of third-party cookies by Google Chrome.
Monopolisation and Competition
While fostering opportunities for startups and innovation, the internet has also witnessed the concentration of power within a select group of tech giants. These major players’ dominance can threaten healthy competition, potentially limiting innovation and consumer choices. In recent years, the call for antitrust investigations and regulatory actions has become increasingly common.
State attorneys in the United States have initiated antitrust investigations targeting tech giants like Facebook and Google. Notably, New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, announced an inquiry into Facebook, with expectations of a separate investigation into Google. These investigations are emblematic of the growing governmental scrutiny facing major tech companies.
Antitrust regulations (Paul, 2019) are designed to prevent businesses from amassing excessive centralised power. They can lead to various actions, including breaking up large corporations or imposing fines for anti-competitive practices. Facebook, for instance, is under investigation for allegations of stifling competition and posing risks to users. Meanwhile, Google’s inquiry is poised to investigate its impact on digital advertising markets.
These investigations present a formidable challenge to the established business models of these tech giants and could have profound and far-reaching consequences in the tech industry.
Content Creators and Intellectual Property
The internet has played a pivotal role in democratising content creation, empowering individuals to share their creativity with a global audience. This transformation has opened up vast opportunities for content creators to showcase their work, connect with audiences worldwide, and monetise their talents. Platforms like YouTube and Patreon have enabled content creators to diversify their revenue streams and reach new heights of creativity and innovation.
However, this digital revolution has also brought forth complex challenges, particularly intellectual property (IP) rights. The ease of sharing and replicating content in the digital age has blurred the lines between original ownership and duplication, raising concerns about IP theft and copyright infringement. Creators must recognise that, even on social media platforms, they retain their IP rights, with the platform’s terms and conditions merely granting a license for content use.
Vigilance is paramount for content creators, as violations of IP rights can lead to significant financial losses. Staying well-informed about IP laws and regulations is crucial for safeguarding their creative assets and contributing to broader discussions on IP rights within social media.
In this evolving digital landscape, content creators must strike a delicate balance between embracing the sharing culture of the internet and protecting their intellectual property. Utilising tools like Digital Rights Management (DRM) and advocating for their rights through relevant organisations can help creators navigate these challenges and thrive in the digital marketplace.
Cybersecurity and Online Fraud
The commercial internet is a breeding ground for cybercriminals. Phishing attacks, identity theft, and data breaches have become commonplace. Users and businesses must remain vigilant and adopt robust cybersecurity (chowdary, 2021) measures. Protecting your data and systems from cyber threats is paramount in today’s digital world. By following these cybersecurity best practices, including setting strong passwords, using password manager tools, enabling multi-factor authentication, staying updated on CERT-In alerts, keeping software and systems up-to-date, using firewalls and antivirus software, avoiding online debit card usage, being vigilant against phishing attacks, and practising cautious online behaviour, you can significantly enhance your cybersecurity posture. Additionally, making regular data backups and using a VPN when on public Wi-Fi are crucial steps to safeguard your valuable information and privacy. These practices are essential for individuals and organisations alike to mitigate the risks associated with cybersecurity and online fraud.
The commercialisation of the internet has ushered in a new era of connectivity, convenience, and economic opportunities. However, it also brings with it a set of challenges, from privacy concerns to the digital divide. As the internet continues to evolve, finding a balance between commercial interests and the public good will be crucial for its future.
In this blog, we’ve only scratched the surface of the complex world of internet commercialisation. It’s a double-edged sword that requires careful navigation to harness its benefits while safeguarding our privacy and security. Stay informed, stay vigilant, and stay connected responsibly in this digital age.
chowdary, charan. (2021, July 6). Top cyber security tips and practices. Intellipaat. https://intellipaat.com/blog/cyber-security-tips-best-practices/
Explains, S. (2022). Targeted advertising is damaging our mental health [Video]. In YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-VOTpLVfZo
Mehraa, A. (n.d.). Importance of IP in content creation.
Paul, K. (2019, September 7). Facebook and Google antitrust investigations: All you need to know. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/sep/06/facebook-google-antitrust-investigations-explained
Pearse, J. (2021, March 30). Why Amazon has become the driving force in the growth of ecommerce. New Digital Age. https://newdigitalage.co/retail/why-amazon-has-become-the-driving-force-in-the-growth-of-ecommerce/
The Commercialisation of the Internet: A Double-Edged Sword © 2023 by Litian Yao is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0