Here's a challenge. Name one, just one, significant innovation on the internet that came from a profit motive rather than a personal / social motive. Yep, many things from people who were employed in companies or government, but none were intended as commercial products.
- IP? No.
- Email? No.
- Usenet? No.
- DNS? No.
- Unix? No. (FabulousMonstersOfEconomicDebate/TheOriginalFreeUnix)
- Web (html/http)? No.
- MP3? No.
- File-sharing? No.
- Blogs? No.
- Wiki? No.
- Syndication? (just possibly ie. the original Netscape RSS which was abandoned, but then revived as a gift by the blogger community).
- XML / SemanticWeb? ... pending answer
- PerlLanguage? (ie. the duct-tape of the internet) No.
- PythonLanguage? No
- JavaLanguage (possibly, though not clear there was ever a business model for it, or that it's actually made a profit for Sun. So it was a very speculative giftlike thing with an expectation of reciprocation eventually),
- QuickTime (maybe),
- Flash (possibly the best counter-example I can think of),
- Transistors Yes. However, it is a significant counterexample because Bell Labs was given the ability to charge monopoly rents, allowing it to do risky long-term R&D.
- SearchEngines? (That's a very good question.
: The original Yahoo, I'm pretty sure started as a non-commercial venture.
:: (The original search engines were developed by server manufacturers to demonstrate the power of their hardware.)
: But might have needed the market to grow it. Clearly, after that, Google etc. were definitely commercial. You could say that the case is like the browser. It was created in the GiftParadigm and refined in the market. But actually Google is very innovative. So possibly that's an unfair characterization. Another issue is Google acted very unmarketlike for some time. Think about how radical the original design was at the time. Google avoided trying to be a portal or commercialize it's page. It wasn't trading search-results for "eyeballs" when everyone else was. It commercialized quiet subtly (and generally fencing off areas as explicitly non-commercial).
:: A case might be made where the university system provided the R&D to allow Brin/Page to commercialize Google.
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