Once a tiny US government and academic research communications network, the Internet has expanded globally since it was commercialized in the early 1990s. Technologists have developed new ways of using the network and its protocols, and its uses evolved from simple text-based messaging to the World Wide Web, then on to search engine results and eventually music and television streaming. With the rise of online media, advertising dollars have flooded into Internet companies that deliver content and search results to consumers.

The chart uses data from the Internet Advertising Bureau to display annual global Internet advertising revenues from 1997 to 2013.

Competition for these increasing ad dollars is intense, and many traditional newspapers have had a difficult time adapting to Internet news distribution and the loss of revenue from classified ads. The increasing importance of mobile applications makes advertising markets even more competitive and less predictable.

Unlike previous generations of mass media distribution—like broadcast radio and broadcast TV—online music, online video, mobile apps, social media, and search engines are lightly regulated. This makes for a dynamic advertising market where competitive strategies and ad dollars shift quickly.