The Changing Online Landscape: From Free-for-All To Commercial Gatekeeping [click for pdf copy of the full paper]

2004. Community Practice in the Network Society: Local Actions/Global Interaction. Edited by Peter Day and Doug Schuler. New York: Routledge. pp.66-76.

Much of the literature on Internet use looks at the behavior of users in isolation from institutional factors that also affect how people use the medium. This chapter looks at how decisions at the organizational level influence what people do online and more specifically, how they find their way to information on the Web. Big point-of-entry sites make strategic business decisions about how to organize and present content to users. The results of search engines, the layout of portal sites, the way people are directed from one site to another may all influence what type of content people find and view online. Since big portal sites are driven by a need to make a profit, their decisions on what content to feature are not necessarily based on the quality and relevance of the Web sites they present to users. Companies spend great financial resources on gaining prominent positions on portals and in the results listings of search engines. Thus, exposure seems to be increasingly connected to financial means. What are the implications of this for not-for-profit Web sites? Non-profits have fewer resources to spend on promoting their online presence. After discussing the ways in which financial considerations affect much of what content is easily accessible online, the paper suggests ways in which non-profits can also gain exposure to relevant audiences without large expenditures.

I. Introduction
II. The Changing Online Landscape
III. The Implications of Commercial Interests Online
IV. Strategies for Non-Profits
V. Conclusion

Figure 1. The launch date of some major search engines and their original institutional affiliations.

I would like to thank Paul DiMaggio for his insightful comments throughout this project, Stan Katz for his ongoing support, and Peter Day, Carl Page and Doug Schuler for invaluable suggestions. Generous support from the Markle Foundation and the National Science Foundation (grants #SES9819907 and # IIS0086143) is kindly acknowledged. This work has also been supported in part by a grant from the Russell Sage Foundation, and through a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts to the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies, Princeton University. I am also grateful to the Dan David Foundation for its support.

Please note
This is a pre-print version of the book chapter to appear in "Community Practice in the Network Society: Local Actions/Global Interaction" Edited by Peter Day and Doug Schuler. New York: Routledge 2003.

Please do not post this document on any Web sites or distribute it on any mailing lists. You can point people to its online location here:

Thank you.

Last updated: March, 2003
Contact: eszter at eszter dot com Version 3.0 (online since July 24, 1995)