Internet Communications

How has the Internet changed business?
Answered by Michael Dell, David Kelley and 3 others
  • Michael Dell

    Michael Dell

  • David Kelley

    David Kelley

  • Lee Rainie

    Lee Rainie

  • Ellen Stockstill

    Ellen Stockstill

  • Science Channel

    Science Channel

  1. Michael Dell Chairman and CEO, Dell Inc.


    Definitely changed our business in the way we communicate with customers, the way they communicate with us, the way we learn from those communications. You know, billions of communications per year, conversations with customers per year -- the way we share and collaborate internally inside the organization. So one of our teams in France will have a great success with something, and they'll share that online in our internal social network, and that information will propagate much more rapidly through the organization in kind of a horizontal flow. We sort of think about it in a context of if we knew everything that the collective "we" really know across the organization, we'd be much more cable of serving our customers in a better way.

    So these kinds of tools allow us to break down those barriers and create that knowledge and that sharing much more rapidly.

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  2. David Kelley Founder and Chairman of IDEO & Founder of Stanford


    The Internet changed everybody's life, hasn't it? The Internet is just one of those things that we use. It's like another expert. It's like you have your experts around you, and then you have the Internet, which accesses all the other experts in the world. So in trying to get timely information, it seems like it just makes it more efficient to talk to the most important people that you want to talk to. But for me, the big deal in the Internet has to do with keeping track of the people in my life and the timeliness. I can get just-in-time learning from them in the same way.

    So I need to know something: I put out an e-mail saying "Jeez, I'd really like to know how to glue aluminum to stainless steel." And you're back in a second with that thing. And that has to do with the fact that they're answering that question. The people in my network are answering that question, and they're answering it quickly because they know I must need it. And they're answering it quickly because they know that someday they're going to have a question that I might be able to answer.

    So it's that kind of quid pro quo thing that the Internet provides me access to those people. So there's just so many things that make it a perfect market for ideas. And so if you're in the business of trading ideas, what could be better than being connected to everybody?

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  3. Lee Rainie Director, Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project


    It's hard to think of any institution that has not been disrupted by this process. If you think about it, there's a theory of the corporation -- that probably applies to non-profits too -- that the competitive advantage, that pulling all sorts of people together and giving it a nice hierarchical, bureaucratic structure, pulling them together -- that was the best way to amass a lot of information, sift through it, make sense of it and then churn it out for other people's benefits. Well now, that capacity lies in the hands of individuals or much smaller networks. You don't need lots and lots of people to gather up that information and sort through it and make sense of it. You can do it on your own or with a handful of friends.

    So the disruption takes place in sort of every corporate activity that people do. At some level, there might not be major changes, particularly when you're dealing with other individuals. But when you're dealing with collectives of people, this is just a brand new environment almost. It's a new ecosystem that we're adapting to and sort of developing whatever is the communications equivalent of gills and eyeballs and upright, spine-centered walking behavior.

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  4. The Internet has influenced global industry in a number of ways.  First, online shopping made it possible for people to shop from home.  Now a person doesn't have to visit a physical to store to purchase groceries, clothing, books, or, well … anything.  Online retailers might have limited stock or specialized items or they might be like Amazon, selling everything from books to bicycles.  The popularity of shopping online has made companies like Amazon giants, but it has also helped cripple shopping malls.  Strip malls, for example, used to be a staple of suburban life in the United States, but malls across the country are struggling with high vacancy rates and fewer shoppers.  While the Internet cannot be entirely blamed for the current struggles of shopping malls (some cite over-building as a cause and an economic downturn doesn't really help either), since online shopping became prevalent, the shopping landscape has certainly changed [source: CBSNews]. 

    The Internet has also changed how people consume entertainment.  The ability for people to stream video from their computers has made television networks and movie studios in particular re-examine how they deliver their products.  NBC Universal, Fox Entertainment Group and Disney-ABC Television Group joined forces to form Hulu in 2007 [source: Hulu].  Hulu allows Internet users to legally stream television shows and movies for free or at a subscription rate.  Netflix, iTunes and Amazon also sell access to streaming shows and movies.  As people have begun watching more and more online, companies like Blockbuster have struggled to stay viable.  This shift to streaming online content has also impacted television manufacturers as televisions are now being made to connect to the Internet.  Cell phone companies also had to respond to their customers' demands for streaming video, so many smartphones now have the capability to stream content. 

    Knowing how often people are on the Internet (either at work, at home or on their phones), businesses are increasingly pressured to advertise or sell online.  As technology advances and the Internet becomes more prevalent worldwide, we will see how it continues to affect the global economy. 


    More answers from Ellen Stockstill »

  5. The Internet provides businesses an inexpensive way to meet customers. It has made processes faster, as with the onset of online booking for airlines and account-related features, such as automated bill pay, for banks. The Internet has also made it easier for small businesses and start-ups to develop a presence and conduct transactions online. If a stay-at-home mom bakes delicious cakes and pies, she could sell her desserts through the Internet with a very small initial investment. One of the biggest impacts the Internet has had on business is through targeted advertising. Using this strategy, companies don't have to advertise into a random void; instead, they can choose specific targets for their advertisements based on the search keywords these people use.

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