effects of commercialization

[The following analysis appeared in the March/April edition of 
"Extra!" magazine, published by Fairness and Accuracy in 
Reporting (www.fair.org.)  The author, Norman Solomon, is a 
widely-published media analyst.  I believe the facts below can be 
partly explained by the closed and commercialized nature of the 
World Wide Web Consortium, especially in regard to HTML forms 
developments.  These paragraphs are reproduced for their "fair" 
educational use.  :jps]

What Happened to the "Information Superhighway?"

A few numbers tell a dramatic story about extreme changes in 
media fascination with the Internet.

In 1995, media outlets were transfixed with the Internet as an 
amazing source of knowledge.  Major newspapers in the U.S. and 
abroad referred to the "information superhighway" in 4,562 
stories, according to the Nexis database.  Meanwhile, articles 
mentioned "e-commerce" or "electronic commerce" only 915 times.

Over the next few years, while Internet usage continued to grow 
by leaps and bounds, the news media increasingly downplayed 
"information superhighway" imagery (with a mere 842 mentions in 
major papers in 1999.)  But media mania for electronic commerce 
exploded.  In 1999, major newspapers mentioned e-commerce in 
20,641 articles.

Five years ago, there was tremendous enthusiasm for the emerging 
World Wide Web.  The phrase "information superhighway" suggested 
that the Web was primarily a resource for learning and 
communication.  Today, according to the prevalent spin, the Web 
is best understood as a way to make and spend money.

The news media's recalibration of public expectations for the 
Internet has occurred in tandem with the steady commercialization 
of cyberspace.  More and more, big money is weaving the Web, and 
the most heavily trafficked web-sites reflect that reality.  
Almost all of the Web's largest-volume sites are now owned by 
huge conglomerates.

Establishing a pantheon of cyber-heroes, media coverage has cast 
businessmen like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Steve Case as great 
visionaries.  If your hopes for the communications future are 
along the lines of Microsoft, Amazon.com, and America Online, 
you'll be mighty pleased.  -- Norman Solomon

Received on Wednesday, 29 March 2000 17:24:26 UTC