Has Commercialism Ruined the Internet?

I will start this post with a question: What do you use the Internet for? Try to think of some things. Keeping up with old friends? Buying a new pair of shoes? Trying to figure out why your car is making that weird clicking sound? Trading stocks? Reading a fascinating blog? (If you’re here, your answer to that last question better be yes!)

Keep those things in mind. We’ll get back to that.

I recently read a couple articles in which the author, Douglas Rushkoff, expressed an interesting idea. He proposed that the Internet has been used for something that it was not originally intended to do. That thing is commercial business.

According to Rushkoff, the purpose of the Internet is simply to communicate with others freely. The keyword is freely. Because of the general idea of the Internet being free, and the original software being developed by “hackers” (people who knew how to write code and did so free of charge for the general use of the public), Rushkoff seems to oppose the idea of money being involved with the Internet in any way.

Because it was meant to be free, it is not right that the Internet should be used for any profitable gains. But think of the meaning of the word free. The Internet is not just free of charge; rather it is freedom of expression, freedom of thought, the freedom to use it in any way imaginable (and legal, of course).

This brings me back to my original question: What do you use the Internet for? My point is that the Internet is what you make it. If you only want to use it to make/spend money, then go to stock-trading websites or online shopping sites, and stay off sites that don’t interest you. If you’re opposed to that, then stick to the sites that you’re interested and stay off the stock-trading or shopping pages.

Why should someone get to define what the Internet should or should not be used for? Simply because in its early years it was independent of the idea of money, that does not mean that it should never be used to make or spend money. It is not as if Rushkoff is being forced to use these stock-trading or shopping websites, so I just have a hard time understanding why he is opposed to their very existence.

Let me know what you think! What do you use the Internet for? Do you believe commercialism and ads have ruined the Internet? Is there a “correct use” of the Web, or an “incorrect” one? Comment away!

(Note: Rushkoff also condemns banner ads. I agree! As he says, everyone hates them and they get in the way. And while they annoy me as much as the next guy, I understand that not all websites can be run without some sort of income. Some sites are kept up by people who do it as a career. These people need to be paid somehow, and if they want to keep the use of their site free, they have to have money coming in from somewhere. I wish their source of income didn’t send a flashing box dancing around my screen telling me that I’m the 5,000,000th visitor, but when thinking about all the amazing things I can do for free on the Internet, I must admit that avoiding banner ads is a small price to pay.)


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