In this book, the author has tried to review the economic literature with the aim of firstly extrapolating the conceptual models with which the Internet is represented, and secondly to highlight how and to what extent the Internet impacts economic systems.
The ubiquitous nature of the Internet makes its modeling and impact assessment a matter of great academic interest, but also very complex and difficult to analyze. The basic concept of the economic contribution of the Internet is actually very simple: the Internet facilitates the sharing of information in a cheap and fast way. This translates into an increase in information efficiency, which supports the production of products and services dependent on information sharing. The speed of Internet propagation combined with its impact on international economies (McKinsey quantifies the weight of the Internet economy in 2009 as 3.4% of the GDP produced by the 13 major world economies), justifies the interest of scholars in the attempt to model the phenomenon from an economic point of view.
Several models have been developed and both generalist models and specific models of the online industry have been analyzed in the book. Analyzing the Internet with models tracing the CAS (Complex Adaptive System), the GPT (General Purpose Technology) or the LTS (Large Technological System), allows the reader to have an overview of the Internet system, and allows you to study how this is relationships and impacts on other systems. The disadvantage of these models is the lack of specificity in the analysis of what the Internet is and how it is composed, not providing the scholar with the necessary tools to break it down and to understand how the various parts interact with each other.
The more specific models of analysis analyzed in the book, such as the layered models, with economic flows and focused on the value chain, instead have the advantage of looking into the Internet, trying to identify the different pieces of which the industry is composed, but they are lacking, in the author’s opinion, in not adequately representing the specificities of the economic models that exist in the Internet industry and in not extending the analysis to other dimensions of investigation beyond the simple definition of the parts. For this reason, the author has proposed a new framework for the analysis of the Internet industry, the LIIF. The framework is based on the interpretation of the Internet as a multi-layer meta-platform, i.e. a universal and neutral platform that constitutes the ecosystem where numerous platforms are born and evolve, which, due to their functions, create the different layers that make up the Internet industry. The identified layers are:
The Internet model as a meta-platform makes it possible to highlight the main evolutionary stages of the network based on the affirmation of different aspects of the meta-platform. We start from the Internet of origins, intended as a Scientific Platform, aimed at exchanging information between researchers. We then move on to the Information Platform, where the information aspect of the network goes beyond the scientific sphere to reach consumers and the web is dominated by portals that organize the content. In the next phase, the explosion of contents leads to a paradigm shift: the web is no longer the closed world of portals but becomes an expanding galaxy in which search engines are the entry point for the network, we are in the period of Searchable Platform. The network later established itself as a new media, where information is no longer one to many but many to many, marking the advent of the Social Platform.
Being online becomes a necessity even on the move, the base of connected devices is getting wider, the Internet evolves into the Mobile Platform. The network is confirmed as a reference infrastructure for the exchange of information where not only people, but also sensors, objects and things connect, marking the advent of the next Internet, the Internet of Things Platform.
The framework consists of an analysis dimension that allows you to study the Internet in its fundamental guidelines, in particular in the book the LIIF is used to analyze:
The book ends with a taxonomy of products and services in the Internet industry. This is because in every modern industry there is a need to represent products by creating a taxonomy of production, also for statistical and economic purposes. To this end, not finding anything exhaustive in the current academic literature, the author proceeded in an attempt to create one, which by specifying clear elements of distinction, identifies three major macro-categories in the industry: websites, technological platforms and services for sites and platforms, each of which is suitably opened and characterized with levels and sublevels.
The method followed throughout the book is profoundly analytical and starts with an accurate analysis of the literature to compare it with the everyday facts. The goal is at the same time both to produce debate in the academic world and to provide a working tool for managers and entrepreneurs who decide to approach the world of the Internet to develop their business or to create new forms of business.