Early Internet Economies & Monopolies (Web 1.0)

Early Internet Economies & Monopolies (Web 1.0)

February 13, 2024

“The Internet Trap" by Matthew Hindman (Chapters 1 & 3)

Facilitation Reading

Chapter 1: Sections 3 & 4"The Fetishism of the Commodity and Its Secret"


How did Web 1.0 redefine the relationship between users and the internet, particularly in terms of economic participation?

The Econ of the Early Internet

Lecture Notes

  • Lecture Notes: Examination of how Web 1.0 began shaping user roles in the digital economy, emphasizing the transition from passive consumers to active producers.
  • Guiding Question: How did Web 1.0 redefine the relationship between users and the internet, particularly in terms of economic participation?

To Read

"The Internet Trap: How the Digital Economy Builds Monopolies and Undermines Democracy" by Matthew Hindman. (Introduction & Chapter 3)

This book provides insight into the early internet's economic models, focusing on how Web 1.0 set the stage for digital monopolies and shaped user interaction.

Supplemental Reading

Stigler, G. (1961). The economics of information. Journal of Political Economy, 69 (3), 213-25.


To Watch

George Washington University professor Matthew Hindman talked about his book, The Myth of Digital Democracy. He was interviewed at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Student Facilitation

Section: "The Fetishism of the Commodity and Its Secret" (Chapter 1, Section 4).


  1. Commodification of Personal Data: How does Marx's concept of commodity fetishism apply to the commodification of personal data in the digital age? Discuss with examples from social media and online platforms.
  2. Alienation in the Digital Economy: In what ways can Marx's theory of alienation be used to understand the experiences of individuals in the context of surveillance capitalism and data privacy erosion?
  3. Impact on Social Relations: How do Marx's ideas about commodities and social relations shed light on the changing nature of personal interactions and community building in the era of social media?
  4. Labor and Value in Digital Space: Analyze the role of user-generated content in Web 2.0 through Marx's lens of labor and value. How do users contribute to the creation of value in digital platforms, and what are the implications for their autonomy and sense of self?

To Do In Class

These are to help give you information and ideas for your 📌Final Assignment (20%)

  1. Form Groups: Divide into small groups of 3 to 5 students.
  2. Research Task: Each group will select a specific technology from the late 90s or early 2000s, trace it back to the company that developed or popularized it, and explore the influence and power that company had during the Web 1.0 period. Focus on:
    • How the company became a monopoly (or close to it) through its technology (search engines, connections, online retail, etc).
    • The impact of this dominance on users, laborers, and the market. How did the economic impact affect the technologies we developed?
  3. Presentation: Groups will have 15 minutes for research and 5 minutes each to present their findings, highlighting the company's path to becoming a monopoly and its implications.

Additional Examples for Research:

  • AOL (America Online): Examine AOL's role in popularizing internet access in the U.S., its business model, and its eventual merger with Time Warner.
  • Yahoo!: Look into Yahoo!'s early success as a web portal and search engine, its acquisition strategies, and how it shaped early internet use.
  • eBay: Research how eBay dominated the online auction market, its growth strategies, and the network effect that contributed to its monopoly.
  • Netscape: Investigate Netscape's dominance in the web browser market before the browser wars and its eventual decline due to competition from Internet Explorer.