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CITP Luncheon Speaker Series: Shane Greenstein – How the Internet Became Commercial: Innovation, Privatization, and the Birth of a New Network

Tuesday, April 28, 2015
12:30 pm


Sherrerd Hall, 3rd floor open space
Princeton, NJ 08544 United States + Google Map

Streaming Live:

Food and discussion begin at 12:30 pm. Open to current Princeton faculty, staff, and students. Open to members of the public by invitation only. Please contact Laura Cummings-Abdo at if you are interested in attending a particular lunch.

In this talk Shane Greenstein will discuss his forthcoming book, How the Internet Became Commercial. In less than a decade, the Internet went from being a series of loosely connected networks used by universities and the military to the powerful commercial engine it is today. This book describes how many of the key innovations that made this possible came from entrepreneurs and iconoclasts who were outside the mainstream—and how the commercialization of the Internet was by no means a foregone conclusion at its outset.

Shane Greenstein traces the evolution of the Internet from government ownership to privatization to the commercial Internet we know today. This is a story of innovation from the edges. Greenstein shows how mainstream service providers that had traditionally been leaders in the old-market economy became threatened by innovations from industry outsiders who saw economic opportunities where others didn’t—and how these mainstream firms had no choice but to innovate themselves. New models were tried: some succeeded, some failed. Commercial markets turned innovations into valuable products and services as the Internet evolved in those markets. New business processes and new uses for the technology had to be invented from scratch as a network originally intended for research and military defense had to deal with network interconnectivity, the needs of commercial users, and a host of challenges with implementing innovative new services.

How the Internet Became Commercial demonstrates how there was no central authority that brought about this transformation, but how it was the product of a unique and vibrant interplay between government and private industry.


Shane Greenstein is Professor at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.. He is the Kellogg Chair of Information Technology. He was administrative head of the Management and Strategy department from 2002 to 2005. For AY 2013-14 he was the Thomas Henry Carroll Ford Foundation Visiting Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. Greenstein is co-director of the program on the economics of digitization at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He is presently finishing a history of the development of the commercial Internet in the United States, called How the Internet became Commercial. He also publishes commentary on his blog virulent word of mouse and digitopoly. Greenstein received his BA from University of California at Berkeley in 1983, and his PhD from Stanford University in 1989, both in economics. He also continues to receive a daily education in life from his wife and children.