Throughout its 50 years of evolution, the Internet has changed human communications and significantly affected the micro and the macro environments.
In the micro level, firms and individuals base an ever-growing portion of their daily activities on Internet-based platforms, some of which replaced former means of communication and others emerged together with the Internet. Similar changes are occurring in macro environments such as cultures and countries; the Internet catalyzes inner structural changes, interactions between groups and the formation of new and fascinating Internet-induced subcultures.
This paper aims to examine several fields in which the internet changes our lives. The assessment of these issues, based on comparisons and contrasts, should shed light on the rate of change and also on its limitations, namely those aspects which were not significantly affected by the Internet and thus remained rather similar to the past.
Differences and Similarities in Access to Information The Internet provides the platform in which search engines give their users access to enormous array of information and other sources such as music and graphic materials. The net is thus an ‘all-inclusive’ package, in which we learn about the media and in most cases have the possibility to acquire it, either by downloading it directly to the user’s computer or by ordering a physical item.
Nevertheless, the available sorts of media did not change drastically as did the possibilities to access them. Digital music and video are merely adapted versions of the ‘traditional’ media (e.g. CDs and DVDs), which fit the capabilities of PCs. E-books, a promising new web-based platform which theoretically could replace printed versions (e.g., Amazon’s Kindle), fail today to offer significantly lower prices and therefore have relatively low market share (Haff, 2009).
Differences and Similarities in Social Affiliations
Beyond the availability of information, the most significant opportunity given by the Internet is the possibility to open new channels of communications with other individuals, groups and organizations. The main difference in the context of social affiliations is the ability to learn about social groups and subcultures, which are not reachable through other means, to join them in any desired level of involvement or even to form new interest groups. On-line platforms such as discussion boards and designated websites provide the channels in which people can share ideas and to interact, mainly in written form.
Nevertheless, as discussed below, the technical capacities do not always brined over other boundaries such as language and culture. The new online communities (i.e. active social networks) maybe terminate geographical distances, but their members must comply with the groups’ basic norms and customs, such as specific language and/or jargon, behaviour codes and so on. In other words, they are most probably on-line duplicates on ‘real-life’ subcultures.
Differences and Similarities in Commerce
Without a doubt, the Internet has revolutionized the global marketplace. Consumers are much more knowledgeable about market offerings and so as companies about their present and prospective customers. The web-induced differences involve all the spheres of marketing communications, namely Business-to-Business (B2B), Business-to-Customer (B2C) and Customer-to-Customer (C2C), and bring about structural changes in the businesses themselves. Common examples are consumers’ possibility to exchange product information, virtual marketplaces (e.g. auctions for all kinds of consumer durables), e-procurements in business markets and internet-based service companies (Kotler & Keller, 2006).
On the other hand, many things in the marketplace do not tend to change as a result of the Internet. E-commerce cannot replace the physical marketplace, mainly since an e-commerce cannot deliver much of the consumer experiences offered in a real store. Hence, even if buyers will learn about the product prior to their visit in the shop, their final purchasing decision will usually take place only in a traditional shopping environment. This holds true particularly in expensive items or when a significant product differentiation exists. That is, many consumers still prefer to visit the mall when searching for a $50 birthday present, although they have already got used for buying a $500 plain ticket online.
Differences and Similarities in Science
The ideas behind the Internet and its technical framework are impressive achievements of the scientific community, whose work is very much dependent on collaboration between individuals and organizations. The medical community, for example, took advantage of the Internet as a primary information source for practitioners (e.g. the NIH’s literature database pubmed.com), platform for exchanging vital information (e.g. on pandemics) and even as a means for outsourcing some medical jobs such as radiology (Friedman, 2006).
The revolution, though, is far from complete. E-learning and Internet-based empirical research are not widely accepted academic costumes, perhaps because the scientific community is not ready to comprehend the possible advantages of high-quality electronic learning platforms over the classical teaching and researching methods.
In conclusion, it would be impossible to overestimate the magnitude of change that the Internet has brought about. It is however necessary to put those changes in the right perspective and to remember the human underpinnings of the net and its numerous platforms.
- Friedman, T. L. (2006). The World is Flat: The Globalized World in the Twenty-First Century. London: Penguin Books.
- Haff, G. (2009, May 27). Why e-books aren’t cheaper. Retrieved June 1, 2009 from http://news.cnet.com/8301-13556_3-10250017-61.html
- Kotler, P. & Keller, K. L. (2006). Marketing Management (12 ed.). Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall