In Week 2 of my Intro to Digital Communications class, we centered the discussion around one key question. What is the Internet? It wasn’t a trick question. It also wasn’t really an overly easy question despite your possible thinking. We split up into smaller groups, and my group came up with a (very) lengthy answer that we thought encompassed enough of the internet’s main characteristics.
“The internet it a ubiquitous function connecting people to information, communications, entertainment, commerce, social, education, and news and informs daily function, with a downside of a decrease in privacy and possibility for censorship, whether necessary or unnecessary.”
The definition is certainly a mouthful, but it does hit some of the positives and negatives of internet use. We can send emails across the world, read the news, research about 17th century blacksmiths, but a John Wall jersey, and complete tasks for work, all via the internet. In essence, the internet enables us to complete any task possible, and communicate with anyone anywhere.
We also talked some about who controls the internet, and who should in the future. In America, we’re very reliant on cable companies to give us access, but the government doesn’t have a big hand in enforcing guidelines. In other countries, the government controls the internet, and can deny anyone access, for something like tweeting inflammatory remarks about the administration.
At the start of class, before getting into what the internet is, we also discussed Dead Dot-Coms and why they eventually went out of business. I wrote about Pets.com of viral fame, that simply couldn’t keep its profits above its spending. From the Pets.com Wikipedia page, “During its first fiscal year (February to September 1999) Pets.com earned revenues of $619,000, yet spent $11.8 million on advertising.” That alone was truly astounding and is one of the more cautionary tales from the dotcom bubble. Pets.com was famous for its sock puppet, but the puppet couldn’t keep the company afloat.
Another contributing factor was that the company began by offering free shipping on most of its product. Over time, they removed the free shipping perks, which led to some customers fleeing. The professor brought up an example of newspapers going digital years ago and giving away news for free. Eventually they decided to charge, and readers left to find another free medium. Essentially, if you give something away for free enough, it’s going to be hard to charge for it.
Next week we’ll be discussing emerging social media platforms.