In less than a decade, the Internet went from being a series of loosely connected networks used by universities and the military to the powerful commercial engine it is today. This book describes how many of the key innovations that made this possible came from entrepreneurs and iconoclasts who were outside the mainstream—and how the commercialization of the Internet was by no means a foregone conclusion at its outset.
Shane Greenstein traces the evolution of the Internet from government ownership to privatization to the commercial Internet we know today. This is a story of innovation from the edges. Greenstein shows how mainstream service providers that had traditionally been leaders in the old-market economy became threatened by innovations from industry outsiders who saw economic opportunities where others didn’t—and how these mainstream firms had no choice but to innovate themselves. New models were tried: some succeeded, some failed. Commercial markets turned innovations into valuable products and services as the Internet evolved in those markets. New business processes had to be created from scratch as a network originally intended for research and military defense had to deal with network interconnectivity, the needs of commercial users, and a host of challenges with implementing innovative new services.
How the Internet Became Commercial demonstrates how, without any central authority, a unique and vibrant interplay between government and private industry transformed the Internet.
Shane Greenstein is the MBA Class of 1957 Professor of Business Administration and cochair of the Digital Initiative at Harvard Business School, and codirector of the program on the economics of digitization at the National Bureau of Economic Research. His books include Diamonds Are Forever, Computers Are Not and Standards and Public Policy.
"Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the broader context in which the explosion of Internet-related innovation occurred."--Marc Levinson, The Wall Street Journal
"A welcome, well-conceived contribution to the history of technology."--Kirkus
"Definitely recommended."--Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution
"This is the best book yet about the rise of the Internet."--David Warsh, Economic Principals
"[A] detailed history of the Internet."--Foreign Affairs
"How the Internet Became Commercial is immensely informative."--Philadelphia Inquirer
"Greenstein is not simply telling a colorful and important story. His analysis systematically explores why innovation and commercialization of the Internet emerged and evolved as it did and why innovation from the edges thrived and was so important."--Jonathan David Aronson, Journal of Communication
"In this important book, Greenstein draws on economics, business history, and the history of technology to tell a story of disruption on a grand scale. He shows how outsiders to the information and communications technology establishment brought the Internet from its techie origins to its current role as an economic growth engine."--Timothy Bresnahan, Stanford University
"With this engaging account of the Internet’s origins and innovative explosion, Shane Greenstein cements his claim as the foremost economic historian of digital technology. An essential read for all who want to understand the miracle of our lifetime."--Joshua Gans, University of Toronto
"Greenstein offers a powerful and lucid account of the way the Internet’s exceptional growth arose from unexceptional economic forces. How the Internet Became Commercial is a foundational read for anyone wanting to understand the origins and dynamics of the mainstream Internet."--Jonathan Zittrain, Harvard Law School
Table of Contents:
1 Ubiquitous Clicks and How It All Started 3
THE TRANSITION 31
2 The White House Did Not Call 33
3 Honest Policy Wonks 65
4 A Taste of Champaign 97
5 Unleashing Commercial Iconoclasts 130
THE BLOSSOMING 157
6 How Not to Start a Gold Rush 159
7 Platforms at the Core and Periphery 187
8 Overcoming Two Conundrums 215
9 Virulent Word of Mouse 243
10 Capital Deepening and Complements 272
EXPLORATION AND RENEWAL 301
11 Bill Votes with a Veto 303
12 Internet Exceptionalism Runs Rampant 335
13 The Paradox of the Prevailing View 365
14 The High Cost of a Cheap Lesson in Wireless Access 392
15 Enabling Innovation from the Edges 419