These days a casual browse on the web might lead you to think it has been hijacked by commercial interests.
Advertising seems to be everywhere, and even though some of the dafter money-making schemes have long bitten the dust, there is no shortage of attempts to make the web a shop front for profit-making ventures.
However, idealism on the net is also alive and well. Johnny Platt is one of a growing number of people who are looking to use the web to give something back to those who do not have as much as he does.
Johnny wanted to help close the gap between rich and poor nations
He has set up rectifi, a search engine with a twist. Every time someone searches the web through rectifi and clicks on one of the advertisers' sponsored links, the advertisers pay rectifi a small commission.
Nothing unusual there, but unlike other search engines, the money raised goes straight to charity. The same applies when someone uses rectifi to compare prices for goods or uses the site to make a bid through eBay.
Click Online's Stephen Cole spoke to Johnny.
Stephen Cole: Is your search engine as powerful as the big ones?
Johnny Platt: To be quite honest, I have to admit that at the moment it's probably not quite at the same standard. However through the publicity we've received in the last few weeks we have been offered a deal with the same organisation that gives the results to Yahoo. So hopefully within a few weeks we will be on a par with the others.
SC: How is your site powered?
JP: Another organisation collects the results and works out who should be at the top and that organises the advertising. We get paid a revenue share for sending users to the advertisers.
SC: What gave you the inspiration for a site like this?
JP: Initially I started out with the shopping element - the price comparison bit. I'd been working as a fund-raiser on the streets for about three or four months right through Christmas shopping and January sales and I realised what an enormous amount we tend to spend in the shops.
After that, I had been saving up to go travelling and I went to volunteer in a hospital in India and the contrast between the massive amount of things we buy on a daily basis and the very little that the majority of the world lives with was really striking but I realised I was just as guilty as everyone else in wanting this new toy or that.
I thought there must be some way of improving that and decided to set up a website where I could take the advertising commissions that I'd generated from sending people to shops and pass that on to charity.
SC: You say very casually 'I set up a website' - was it very difficult to do?
JP: Yes, I didn't actually have a clue when I first started. I had a first crack - it took me about three months to get round to it after I got home - and it was rubbish. I left it for about nine months. I didn't know how to promote it, let alone how to run it.
So over the next nine months or so I carried on scheming. I was living in a house with no internet connection so I was just thinking 'no, I do want to get this working'.
In the end I moved back with my parents for a month before I started university, just to make sure I could get it going before I started.
SC: Do you see rectifi.com as a UK or international site?
JP: At present it is just for the UK, although you can access the eBay sites from other countries. Once we add this new search functionality - where we're getting the same results as Yahoo - we will be able to provide advertisements for users from all around the world.
Click Online is broadcast on BBC News 24: Saturday at 2030, Sunday at 0430 and 1630, and on Monday at 0030. A short version is also shown on BBC Two: Saturday at 0645 and BBC One: Sunday at 0730 . Also BBC World.