In the “New Media” text (Lister), in the chapter “Networks, Users and Economics”, we are introduced to an extended look at how the internet and those commercial and non-commercial/private users are impacted and impact the way the internet is used and supported, both monetarily and socially. Web 2.0 and its part in the globalization of the private has a big place in this discussion–in fact, it has been argued that web 2.0, and the internet in general, is the dominant catalyst in the progression of globalization in the twenty-first century. With the advent of social networking and internet commerce sites as a spin off, the issues surrounding the economics of the internet have come center stage. Some of the questions being raised are; How do the massive number of servers in place worldwide get paid for if so much on the internet is free? How can companies not only survive and thrive, but become filthy rich and stay that way in a climate of “pick and choose” internet services and sites, where the content you want to deal with comes in a seemingly endless stream of variety and forms, and once again is often free? One answer lies in the word “free” itself. I am talking about the free flow of information in a reciprocal system, where advertisers have just as much access, right and freedom to use “bandwidth” as the on-line consumer, blogger, researcher or casual net-surfer does. How does one make money in such a [global blanketing] of technology and communication?
The answer lies in Chris Andersons Long Tail theory where he points out “This is the world of scarcity. Now, with online distribution and retail, we are entering a world of abundance. And the differences are profound” (e.g., a book goes out of publication, people buy used copies at Amazon.com, the popularity is revived and the publisher releases a new edition, where in the past out of print was often seen as permanent). We can now literally “scour the attics” worldwide to find what we want if it is not available locally. And likewise, advertisers can present us with access to those “attics” where the treasures we desire reside and thus, targeting small numbers in many locations as opposed to large numbers locally–our choices are no longer limited to the local market and retailers are no longer constrained spatially or temporally . Hence, the more globalization takes hold, the more “locales” that will have access and less will mean more in the world of internet transnational commerce based on sheer numbers with access. To put it into numbers, if a record store serves a 10 mile radius in a city of 10,000, you are limited to the percentage of consumers that are “local” and part of that 10,000. I the same retailer is internet based, given that there are now 1,733,993,741 internet users worldwide, and assuming those are all potential customers, the numbers speak for themselves (http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm). But, as third world nations move into developing nations and beyond, and the concept of capitalism becomes less and less defined, what happens when world views collide?
One interesting case that has been at the top of the tech and economic headlines lately is that of Google pulling out of China due to censorship issues. The question is “how can Google afford to pull out of the worlds (arguably) largest and fastest growing market? One key issue is that, as mentioned above, there are approx 1,733,993,741 internet users worldwide, almost equal to the entire population of China, and equal one sixth of the world’s population standing at approx 6,767,805,208. The answer seems to be simply to shift the search engine to an “open” region, in this case Hong Kong. But how can this be an answer, can’t China just completely ban the net? It should be obvious that the answer is no. Tight restriction is possible in less developed and economic fragile spaces, but a total stranglehold would affect the government’s ability to effectively utilize the vast resources of the net. Wireless and satellite technology is a large reason that a total block would be nearly impossible, with the exception of short term interruptions, due mainly to the acceleration of technological development over the past decade. So the question remains, how does the internet and internet commerce fit into the future of the globalized world?