Commercialization of the Internet

In his latest blog post, Nicholas Carr writes about how commercialized the Internet has become over the last five years. For example: if you look at the online music and video industries, you find that YouTube and iTunes dominate. Both these systems are quite commercialized. All the most popular YouTube videos are made my professionals, who are using the site as a way to advertise. iTunes sells all of its songs for around $0.99. Even social networks like Facebook and Twitter are for-profit ventures, bound by a legal obligation to maximize profits for their investors.

With one big exception, Wikipedia, the Internet is trending towards a system where fewer, larger, commercial players dominate the information economy. This could concentrate so much power is so few companies that they may be able to censor the information we are exposed to. This process, as Carr notes, is right in line with Tim Wu’s warnings in The Master Switch. In his book, Tim Wu shows how this exact process occurred within the phone and television industries in the 20th century.

However, these changes also have implications for generativity. As commercial information sources become more and more popular, they will crowd out and overshadow the little guys, removing all of their potentially great ideas from the conversation. This could prevent small time producers from getting their information out there and severely hamper creative collaborative projects online. Also, paid journalists and bloggers might not always be able to write what exactly what’s on their mind when they have one eye on job security. Freelance writers tend to be more unbiased. The commercialization of the Internet must be managed if we want to keep the generatively of the Internet, the quality that makes it such a great medium, alive. If it dies, the Internet will have gone down the same unfortunate road that its information technology predecessors did.

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