When people think of the Internet, they’re probably picturing something different depending on when they were born. Those around in the pre-internet days will remember the clunky dial-up connection and the age it took to load a page. Anyone slightly younger may remember computing lessons being introduced on huge desktops, while those who have grown up in the Internet age will never have known a time without having anything you could possibly need in the palm of your hand. But just how much has the Internet changed from the 1990s and 2000s to now?
The Pace of Progress
Some say that there has been more change in the past 20 years than in the past 200 years. Whether this is true or not, life now is undeniably different compared to how it was in the 1990s. The Internet has opened up possibilities beyond what Tim Berners-Lee could possibly have ever imagined when he conceptualized the world wide web. The world quickly moved from telephone directories and encyclopedias, to next day delivery and ‘Hey, Siri?’
The internet has predominately changed the way we work. Office work has been expedited through the internet, with emails enabling business transactions to be conducted far faster. No longer needing to rely on manual means such as faxing, the post, or telephone calls, has opened up the world of business on a global scale. Many jobs themselves can now be done in an automated way. People who are able to work freelance or from home has risen, while those being able to start businesses for themselves simply using the internet has also seen a huge increase. Indeed, people can teach themselves to be better at navigating the internet and turn that into a career, such as learning something like Java programming.
Facebook is now arguably populated by older generations, while many of the elderly are blissfully unaware of what technology can do. Indeed, many in the Baby Boomer generation could feel lost with the pace of progress that has given us so many technological inventions. Even millennials will remember being told that they needed to flex their mental math abilities as they wouldn’t have a calculator on them when they were older. Growing up with internet technology means they are primed to deploy it well, while also understanding and recalling a life before the internet. Gen Z may not have even had to rewind a tape.
What Has Changed?
Once upon a time, the TV guide was the only way to find out what was on and then you had to watch it as it aired. Now, most people watch some form of streaming service. Netflix created the current streaming landscape as we know it, taking the format of a Blockbuster video shop and adding a monthly subscription fee. Some films are even being added to streaming services as early as 17 days after their premiere in the cinema. Streaming is such a way of life that we can’t imagine life without it – with commercial breaks, weeks between shows, and no content on social media as we watch along.
Social media is possibly one of the best examples of how the Internet has developed and how it has taken a stranglehold on our lives. There are several examples of people using social media to create jobs for themselves. This extends to influencers who have turned a following on YouTube or Instagram into a way to model for brands, such as Zoella, or someone in the creative arts who has shared that art online and turned that into a career.
Social media allows people to communicate with others and build networks. It allows you to check in on old friends and connect better with acquaintances in a way that direct contact such as text messaging or phone calls would not. Some decry the negatives of social media, but it has overwhelmingly shown to be a force for good when it comes to connecting people.
Gaming was once thought of as a solitary pursuit – with consoles being single-player and unable to connect to the internet. The launch of Xbox Live, for example, was a huge coup as it enabled players to engage with one another across the internet. 2016 changed things further as it showed the power of modern technology when Pokémon Go launched. The use of AR and VR technology in gaming takes the power of the internet one step further. Indeed, by the end of 2022, the VR industry could be worth $33 billion.
The online casino industry is one of the best examples of the rise of the internet and how traditional past-times can be adapted and modified to reach new audiences. Modern advancements in technology, and the speed and processing power of the internet, have changed the games of poker, blackjack, and roulette by offering live versions. These versions take traditional gameplay and allow players at home to see a live dealer on the screen in front of them. Moreover, as Wink Slots shows, traditional slot machine gameplay has been adapted to allow themed slots, including those based on films, and using RNG (random number generator) technology.
Music streaming has also changed the entertainment industry – with charts rushing to catch up to the new way that people are using the internet to engage with music. The new format allows the power to be placed more with the people who listen rather than those who own the airwaves. This explains why TV shows such as The X Factor and The Voice are falling out of favor, as those who succeed in music can release their own LPs onto SoundCloud and YouTube and promote them through social media. Lil Nas X, for example, created a career by making snippets of music for TikTok viral videos and building his own music career.
One of the best depictions of how much the internet has changed is the Space Jam website. The site has been retained as it was seen in its glory days of 1996, when it was one of the first films to create a website specifically for the release. Once the height of technology, the site is extremely dated, but will fondly be remembered by many as representing the promise of what the internet offered.
The progress for the internet may have occurred at breakneck speed, but the next twenty years could arguably see life looking completely different once again.