With today's apps, social media, and all other conveniences and comforts that the internet has welcomed us, it can be easy to take it for granted. Things were of course not always as they are now, and in fact the more time passes, the more exponential the change in technology. In this light, let's take a moment to review how things came to be how they are today.
The internet actually tracks its roots all the way back to the 60's. At a time more known for hippie culture and music, a group of research scientists bought a way for the interconnection of computers for the sharing of data across long distances. The first of these networked computers was called the Advanced Projects Research Agency Network or ARPANET. The network linked computers from four US universities in 1969. The first e-mail program was developed by Ray Tomlinson in 1972, after which the Internet was used primarily for e-mailing purposes. By the late 70's, the internet protocol (IP) was developed, and in 1984, the domain name service was created, to include many still in use today such as.com, .org and.edu.
Rise of the Internet
In 1991, Tim Berners-Lee developed the World Wide Web using the hyper-text transfer protocol to make the internet's potential for information sharing accessible to the public. The first "browser" program, Mosaic, came out in 1993.
The internet population then started to grow in leaps and bounds, rising up to 45 million by 1996. This was up to 150 million by 1999, mostly people in the US This more than doubled in a single year to reach over 400 million in the year 2000. By 2004, some estimates put it at around 600 million, although having reached this size it has become harder to make accurate estimates. (Elon University School of Communications)
Changes in the Past Decade
Now things really picked up. While it took over a decade for the number of internet users to reach 600 million, the succeeding decision added a whopping 2 billion to this number -over a third of the world's total population. Earlier this year, We Are Social even reported a 2 million rise in a mere 2 weeks for social media users alone. The amount of time spent on the internet has also ballooned less than an hour a day a decade ago, to average 4 hours a day in 2012. The number of websites exploded from 3 million in 2002 to 555 million in 2012.
The ways in which we use the internet has changed in the past decade drastically.Just 10 years ago, Internet Explorer absolutely dominated as the browser of choice, cornering 95% of users. Today, IE still holds around a third of the share (for some reason), with Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox close behind. The Opera browser is also starting to carve a niche of its own.
What we typed in search engines a decade ago is also quite indicative of the progress (if not so much changes) in society's interests, compared to what we search for today. In 2002 the top ten search terms were, in order, Spiderman, Shakira, Winter Olympics, World Cup, AvrilLavigne, Star Wars, Eminem, American Idol, Morrowind, and Warcraft 3. In 2012, they were Rebecca Black, Google+, Hurricane Irene , Pinterest, Ryan Dunn, iPhone 5, Casey Anthony, Adele, Osama Bin Laden, and Steve Jobs. The top meme of yesterdecade was Ninjas (wait, what?), While more recently, it's Forever Alone. Browser page loading times have also gone down by 62.5%.
Remember Friendster? A decade ago they dominated social, with a "whopping" 3 million users. Today, Facebook is unbeatable with over 1 billion. Other stories are more tragic. Blockbuster was worth over $ 5 billion a decade ago, and repeatedly refused offers to buy Netflix, at the time worth $ 150 million. Today, Netflix is worth over $ 3 billion, and Blockbuster is bankrupt. A decade ago, Borders had over 1,200 stores and refused to roll out an online bookstore. Today, they are bankrupt as well. Tower Records, which had 200 stores back then, went the same way. (Information drawn primarily from an infographic compiled by http://www.bestedsites.com )
The Future of the Internet
The National Science Foundation predicts that internet users will reach nearly 5 billion by 2020. It is also safe to assume that the US will continue to have less dominance of internet usage, with more remote areas in the Middle East, Asia and Africa gaining more access .
By 2020, the world is also expected to be dominated by "the Internet of things". These are things that exclude PCs, tablets, and smartphones but rather devices that make up "smart" buildings, cars, etc. It is expected to be several times the more commonly known internet of personal devices, to be worth up to $ 8.9 trillion by 2020, made up of 212 billion connected "things".
The very infrastructure of the internet is expected to change soon, with IPv6 about to be roled out, and a team of scientists planning a complete from-scratch reinvention of worldwide internet infra.
These are just some of the things we can expect to see in the coming years. In real terms, however, who really knows what the internet will look like in another decade?