I am only 21 and really don't follow the business world all that much, so consider this a disclaimer and possible explanation that perhaps this has always been common practice and that i am merely noticing things that are closer to home.
In the second half of the 1990's we all witnessed, some made money, many lost money, of the dot-com bubble/boom/bust/cluster****. While some people made millions off of things like Stamps.com (any entourage fans out there? ) many people saw their clever idea's go belly up. Today the internet is still a powerhouse and you can still find just about anything you want (just so long as you aren't trying to do a report on the White House ). Today though, not everyone and their cousin is trying to make money off of some "clever" website startup.
Instead, what i see is the rapid and vast shrinking of the internet. Essentially we have Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft. They seem to be buying up everything that becomes anything which only further enhances their ability to do just that.
I'll give you a small example in my own world.
I use Windows to check my gmail account and if the right information isn't there i search it on google.com.
If i'm bored i go to youtube and watch videos, which google now owns.
If i'm bored i go to musicmatch to listen to music, which was bought out by Yahoo
If i want to share my photography i go to flickr which was recently bought out by yahoo
Google just bought a phone company
the lists are huge and revolve mostly around a small handful of companies
It seems to me that this next stage is marked by intelligent websites that appeal to people that have grown from the ground up that are being bought out by a few giants. Soon, it seems, that everything i do will be owned by these few giants.One way Yahoo can do this is by moving more swiftly on acquisitions. Instead of wasting energy building homegrown versions of popular Web sites or deliberating for months over potential purchases, Yahoo should reach for the pocketbook when it sees a promising property. Imagine, for example, if Yahoo had pounced on Del.icio.us, a company it ultimately acquired, rather than first trying to build its social bookmarking site, "my web." Instead, Yahoo now has two sites attempting to provide similar services. Yahoo Senior Vice-President Brad Garlinghouse cited several such examples of "competing [or redundant] initiatives" in his lengthy "Peanut Butter Manifesto," a scathing internal memo leaked last November [see BusinessWeek.com, 12/6/06, "Yahoo's Shakeup"].
At what point does the advertising you see become advertisement of the own company that you are using. Google is perhaps one of the scariest examples of this. I never really notice the ads when i check my gmail account, but the other day my spanish teacher sent me an email and spanish and all the ads were, in spanish, an regarding the topic in the email.
Its kinda scary...