The Internet is, as the cliché goes, “a marketplace of ideas.” Whether a person has an opinion on politics, commerce, or even the show they saw on TV last night, there is always a forum to spread their opinion on, and that opinion will be available worldwide.
But the ability to instantly spread information worldwide is of a neutral benefit. It is a tool-as good or as bad as the person who uses it. And there are people out there who, although in the minority, are still a significant enough number to cause havoc, who would use the ability to spread information as more of a tool to spread “misinformation.”
Terms of service, also called acceptable use policies, are the Internet equivalent of the fine print, the document that dictates the conditions that apply in order for an individual to use a website or a network.
Suppose you have an inside lock on the world’s best widgets. Not now, but at some point in the indeterminate future, you intend to create an Internet ecommerce site from which you’ll sell them.
So you choose a domain name, say “widgetworld.com” You find a registrar who does the necessary search and discovers that “widgetworld.com” has not been snagged by some prior distributor of widgets, and is, in fact, unique. You pay the extremely modest registration fee, secure in the knowledge that the domain name you have chosen is yours and yours alone, to do with what you like.
From its inception, the promise of the Internet has been parity. The Internet is fundamentally democratic, its most idealistic users tell us: It does not discriminate between packets of information. The Internet allows you to access the website of that tiny independent bookstore around the corner just as quickly as you access Amazon.com; it does not filter out access to digital forums where unpopular ideas or opinions are expressed; it does not transmit MSNBC content any more efficiently than it relays content from Fox News.
The above being said, it is important to remember the overall strategy of your business. No matter what, a business operates to make money. Our cars do not run on good-will, and you cannot pay your rent with praise. By starting a business with initiatives that promote social responsibility and advance its financial objectives you will be one step ahead from those that do not. The challenge, however, is to maintain balance between your obligations to your paying clients and to the community as a whole.
As a child, I stood in awe at the skyscrapers of metal and glass that were home to some of the world’s biggest corporations. Today, I am equally amazed at the small businesses that are the driving force of our nation’s economy. No matter what kind of business it is, I always ask myself how it got to where it is today. The success of a business is rooted in its foundation, and like a tree a business is only as strong as its roots. So in order to firmly supplant your business in its particular niche, it is important to take the time to understand the different options you have when forming a business.