The internet is an economy.
But it's probably not the economy you think it is. It's not the economy of Target.com or Amazon.com or Etsy.com or any other online retailer. Yeah, it includes those guys (and all the little one-person shops littered across the web landscape) but they're becoming only a slice of the growing internet economy pie.
The ever-correct and all-knowing Wikipedia defines "Internet Economy" this way:
The Internet Economy refers to conducting business through markets whose infrastructure is based on the Internet and World-Wide Web. An Internet economy differs from a traditional economy in a number of ways, including: communication, market segmentation, distribution costs, and price.But Wikipedia is wrong. This is the old internet economy, where transactions were still made with money (virtual now but money non-the-less). The old internet economy was just like the IRL traditional economy but with a new infrastructure of sending and receiving money and marketing your wares. With the advent of blogs, social networks, and social communication tools like Twitter the internet has changed forever.
Why? The currency changed.
We're all on the internet and most of us individually don't really spend all that much online. (We only spend what we have or can borrow and that isn't any different than before we bought everything online). Or do we?
We sure do spend a lot of time online. I know I do. And we all have a profile of sorts, don't we? We all have an image we maintain (to some degree or another). And we all have a network, right? C'mon, I'm punk 25-year-old and I've got over 300 'followers' each on Facebook and Twitter. And every time you give someone else some of your time, some of your attention online you're building their profile. We all have the ability with an internet-connected globe to get our profile in front of literally millions of people which means every hit counts.
But then you have something besides just attention to trade with one another, don't you? You've got the ability to promote others. You can post a link.
It used to be that to post a link in order to share with the world at large you had to have a website. And websites were always a hassle to setup, maintain, and get people to find.
And then there were blogs.
Yay! Blog sites made it really easy to post stuff and maintain your blog. But you still had to get people to show up at your blog and actually read it. Ugh.
And now social networks and Twitter have shown up.
Holy crap, YAY! The internet gods made not only posting info and links really easy but but they've made connecting your profile with others and pushing your content to them so ridiculously easy you can do it on a tiny 2" square screen.
Now we can all share with each other every bit of info and link we stumble on. And here in lies the rub. We don't transact in cash or credit any more on the web. We trade in links and PR. We give each other virtual handshakes and hi-fives in front of hundreds, thousands and even millions with the simple push of a link out to our network.
We all have a profile and network. We've all got something to hype. That's internet economy.