The internet has dominated changes that have affected the world in the last 20 years. In 2000, there were fewer than 450 million internet users. The world now has 5 billion people online. That’s more than 65% of the world population.
Significant ways technology and the internet have changed our lives include:
- Diverse usage of smartphones
- Connections and advertising via Facebook
- Google Search and Data Organization
- The Profilderation of Cybercrime
- The Kindle Revolution
IBM made an embarrassing-looking smartphone in 1994, but we could say that the first iteration of smartphones as we know them now arrived in the 2000s. Many consider the first generation Apple iPhone (2007) the first real Smartphone.
The iPhone is now in its 15th generation. In early 2000, to do all the things that a smartphone can now, we would have needed a rucksack and a lot more patience than the typical person has. That rucksack would be filled with maps, a torch, an instant camera, two video cameras, thousands of CDs, an address book, a calendar, several notepads, multiple alarm clocks, dictionaries in multiple languages, and money for a phone booth, among other items. In one hand, you’d be carrying a stereo system.
Pre-smartphones, people got to places on time. If not, you risked friendships, appointments, and opportunities. Before smartphones, people got into arguments and couldn’t immediately settle the debate with a search.
These are just some of the reasons that 85% of US adults now own a smartphone and why the smartphone has made a massive impact on the world, whether we own and use one of these devices or not.
Started in 2004, Facebook became open to the public in 2006. Within a year, it had 100,000 businesses with pages promoting their services to Facebook users.
The creators of Facebook realized that people would want to use their real names and connect with friends and family. This is one of the things that gave Facebook an edge over MySpace and other social media outlets of the time.
Now, it looks like Facebook will soon be the first social media network to pass 3 billion monthly users. Seven out of ten of these users check Facebook at least once per day. Half of them check in several times in a 24-hour period.
Facebook and other social media outlets have genuinely changed the world because they have changed people’s daily behavior, but they have also helped people to connect with friends, family, and strangers. They have changed the way people consume news – two thirds of adult users consume news via Facebook. Facebook has allowed people to share information and misinformation. People have used Facebook to connect with others and challenge regimes worldwide.
But no one said that all technological advances have been positive. Social media has also played a major part in cyberbullying, fake news, and epidemic levels of procrastination. Whatever the advances in technology, how we use the tech can make all the difference.
Google is one of the two most visited sites on the net. The other is YouTube, which Google owns. Google has become synonymous with online searches, turning the company name into a verb.
The search engine performs searches efficiently and effectively, beating off the competition in terms of speed and quality. It’s technological improvements include algorithms that intuit user intent and investigate backlinks to determine a website’s usefulness.
The firm also got an edge on the market by offering massive amounts of email storage so that people could archive their conversations instead of triaging and deleting them.
All the while, Google began collecting data regarding its users to make data-driven decisions regarding its expansion. It has succeeded with many user-friendly and extremely effective offshoots, including maps, music, books, cloud storage and collaboration, email, Android operating systems, and the FitBit. They are also involved in ambitious tech for the (near) future, including self-driving cars. Still, it is online search and it’s organization of the world’s information that has made the firm and its technology remarkable.
With more people online and increasing amounts of data sent and received, the threat from cybercrime has also increased. 2001 saw the first virus that didn’t need to be downloaded to do damage. Visiting an infected website was enough. Instant messaging also became a route for viruses to attack devices.
Viruses have attacked stock markets and infected hundreds of thousands of devices in a single day. People have accessed confidential business and government information and leaked it to the press.
Estimates say that cybercrime will cost the world $10.5 trillion per year. And the US has almost a quarter of all reported cybercrime. With figures like these, it’s safe to say that cybercrime has had a massive impact on the last 20 years.
Ransomware, phishing attempts, identity theft, and many more attacks are all on the increase. Fortunately, the fight against cybercrime continues. Companies like McAfee and Norton continue to help protect devices against criminal activity. Avast was one of the first virus checkers and continues to offer a free service to help make a safer and more secure world.
And other resources help people stay safe online. For example, people use Nuwber and PhoneHistory to verify the details of people they “meet” online. They can quickly check a person’s name, profession, location, date of birth, and other information to be reassured that they are participating in a honest, authentic communication. In a world that is increasingly connected and yet increasingly anonymous, this resource is particularly useful.
Amazon Kindle and Print-on-Demand
Amazon’s Kindle revolutionized the book industry. It changed the way that people consumed books, because it meant that people could access and carry thousands of books all on one device. Other e-readers, such as Nook, joined the market not long after.
Kindle may also have had a positive impact on the environment, since it meant that fewer books needed to be printed. The Kindle and other e-reader devices are not without a cost to the environment, however, as the devices themselves require fabrication. But more and more people are now using the Kindle app and other e-reading apps on existing devices, including tablets and smartphones.
Also, for the first time, books could be printed on demand, rather than printed in large quantities, stored in warehouses, and then pulped and sent to landfills if unpurchased.
Amazon Kindle opened up the book publishing industry making it possible for anyone with a computer and a story to tell (and for some without a story to tell) to produce and publish a book online. Before Kindle, the digital book market was not viable. Amazon’s technology and support, however, gave life to a whole new product, market, and culture around reading and creating.
There have been other major innovations in the last 20 years, of course. Some of the most notable include electric cars (and flying cars and driverless cars), advances in biotechnology that have improved our health, breakthroughts in solar power that may have a massive, positive impact on the planet and our pockets, and 3D printing, which can reduce manufacturing costs and improve innovation and prototyping. Still, these technologies are still in their infancy relative to the internet technologies in this post.
For now, our devices and how we use them have been the major technological changes of the 2000s so far, affecting our lives profoundly daily. From boxes in our pockets from which we can access the world’s information to resources that allow us learn more about the people we’re connected to, these changes have moved the needle on how we live, play, and collaborate every day.