The structure of the economy is one of the most important aspects to the social dynamic of the developed world. How business is conducted effects every individual on a daily, hour-by-hour basis. In the last twenty years, the Internet has profoundly impacted the way that businesses are run, changing the dynamics of sales, communications, advertising and even corporate structures. Increased availability of Internet connectivity through mobile devices has also changed the way that people work.
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As of 2010, more than two billion people in the world had access to the Internet. Thus, whereas many businesses before the age of the Internet had to rely on local consumers or long-term networking for any exchange of services, companies utilising the Internet are capable of connecting with their clients, consumers and business partners around the clock and around the world. The ability for such connectivity has moved many businesses beyond conventional business hours, making the "office" less of a particular building and more of the available means to conduct business transactions.
A large portion of the yearly revenue for which the Internet accounts comes from retail sales. Online shopping has become a convenient and preferred alternative for many individuals; the ability to purchase goods from one's own home, office or even mobile phone without having to physically go to a store saves time -- and often money. Retailers, by reducing their overhead by spending less on display and salespeople, are often able to provide discounts to online shoppers, offsetting the cost of shipping.
Corporations are able to benefit greatly from the Internet (particularly those with multiple physical offices), as they are able to quickly and efficiently synchronise their data and communication. Handling, processing and exchanging large amounts of data on paper with a large number of employees can present enormous logistical difficulties. Internet connectivity allows for data to be shared immediately without presenting the problems of dissemination or waste that are associated with paper.
One of the most significant changes the Internet has had on business has been the revolutionising of the advertising industry. Through the collection of an Internet user's data from various websites, advertisers, such as Google's AdSense program, are able to provide targeted advertisements to Internet users. Additionally, the wide availability of free content on the Internet has forced many companies to switch from subscription services to free content funded solely by advertising revenue.
Not all of the changes the Internet has wrought on business have been considered in a positive light, however. The biggest profile controversy of the Internet's impact on business has been that of illegal file-sharing, whereby individuals can acquire from and share with other individuals copyrighted media such as music and films. Additionally, Internet users have often voiced concerns over product quality, deceptive sales practices, and invasion of privacy through questionable data collection practices associated with advertising.
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