Summary and conclusion

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Google Overview
  • Google is a corporation that was formed to provide internet-based search services, providing accessibility to the world's online information.
  • Founded in 1998, Google expanded from their initial search-based services into providing advertising, applications and services for mobile internet devices.
  • Google relies upon leveraging technology, such as using complex computer algorithms (e.g. PageRank) to determine how to sort and rank search results.
Google Products & Services (->)
  • Gmail: A free email platform that also offers voice and video chat.
  • Google Docs: Free web-based word processing, spreadsheet and slide presentations.
  • Google Search: A portal for searching information held on websites all over the internet. Different types of search include web, images and blogs.
  • Google Maps: interactive mapping technology.
  • Google Wave: Real time collaboration and communication platform.

Google Business Model
  • Google generates revenue from targeted advertising.
  • Google AdWords allows customers to create advertisements and display them in various locations, such as Google search engine results pages (SERPs).
  • Google AdSense is the technology that best matches Google Adwords advertisements for delivery to consumers via Google's network of advertising-support products and services.
Attention Economy (->)
  • It is possible to gain a financial return through receiving attention.
  • A common model includes a product or service being offered for free. When attention is gained, it becomes possible to generate income from sponsorship, advertising or brand marketing.
  • Google offered a free web search portal, to which it added advertisements (AdWords and AdSense) to generate revenue.
Free Economy (->)
  • There are many definitions of a "Free Economy", however the focus for our purposes rests on providing a product or service without charge, with a hope that a profit will be returned at a later date.
  • There are varying degrees of a free economic model, including eBay (free for buyers yet sellers attract fees), Amazon (free to browse and read reviews, but products are bought/sold), Facebook and Google (members and users subjected to targeted advertising)
  • Google can be partially considered as a free economy as it offers many free products and services, however it does collect user data which is used to target advertisements most suited to users in it's AdSense program.
Network Economy (->)
  • The internet has reduced the costs and increased the speed of information transmission.
  • Technological advances and the speed and ease of communication have meant the internet can create real value for organisations that operate in an online networked economy.
  • Google leveraged the networked economy by dominating the internet search market and offering an excellent free suite of online products (such as Google Docs and Gmail). They next monitised the traffic (via AdSense and AdWords), rather than the content of their network, which allowed them to keep their products and services free and keep their customers returning and their network effect in place.
Gift Economy (->)
  • The gift economy is similar to the free economy and attention economy. The purpose of the gift economy is based on exchange, through providing gifts, information or services, rather than exchange of cash.
  • Wikipedia uses the gift economy model by giving and sharing information freely without charge to users. In return, it receives recognition and a reputation as an information source. Users of the site can contribute "gifts" by updating and refining the information contained within the site itself.
  • In it's earlier days, Google initially used the concept of a gift economy to provide a search portal. Through time they have incorporated elements of the attention, free and network economy models to build their reputation and brand. This has allowed the corporation to become universally successful.


The Internet has reduced the cost and increased the speed of information transfer. This has transformed the economic landscape, allowing new and exciting ways to generate revenue that include and differ from traditional economic models. Through studying and contrasting several large internet businesses, we have examined the attention, free, network and gift economic models. In order to explain in more detail how these models work, we have looked at Google as a unique business case study, because it has used elements of all of the models we studied throughout its history.

Google started off by offering a gift economy with an aim to organise and make information accessible over the internet. Over time, this developed into an attention economy which gained financial return from monetising the traffic to its pages through a customised advertising platform that tailors advertisements to viewers. By continuing to offer products and services it uses a free economic model to create an online community of users who continually return to the site (networked economy) to use Google's services.

By presenting simple explanations of the different economic models and applying them to the chosen case study, we have outlined the principles and practices which sustain internet commerce in a way that is easy to follow and understand. Through reviewing multiple online businesses we were able to focus on one that utilised multiple economic models to help explain the similarities and differences between the different ways of conducting business online.

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