20 Significant Internet Developments
Still deprived of a computer, and perhaps more importantly, access to the Internet. Which got me thinking: the Internet has obviously changed people’s lives, but what are the significant developments in the history of the Internet?
1) HTML: Most people will associate the Internet with HTML, and perhaps rightly so. HTML is a language designed for the interlinking nature of the World Wide Web and while many web pages nowadays are comprised of other programming languages, HTML is perhaps the most common, and most basic.
2)BBS: Also called a bulletin board system, BBS was originally a primitive form of the Internet we now know. The first online communities were probably formed via BBS, and many modern Internet creations such as mailing lists and chat rooms try to emulate what BBS succeeded in doing. As a testament to its longevity, BBS thrives in its modern incarnation, the message boards.
3)Email: Yes, I know. Email predates the Internet. But electronic mail has never been faster, or as popular, ever since it was adapted for the World Wide Web. Unlike BBS, email gives its users privacy, and perhaps more importantly, an identity. Who nowadays doesn’t have an email address? And while people have several email accounts, most online companies ask for your email address to establish ownership (such as forgotten passwords and the like).
4) GIF/JPEG: While they’re two different formats, GIFs and JPEGs do one thing effectively: transmit images in as small a file size as possible. During the Internet’s early days, bandwidth was at a premium, and GIF/JPEGs allowed users to view images without taking too much time downloading them (at least significantly faster than their BMP counterpart). JPEGs have pretty much become a standard nowadays (from webpages to digicams), but that’s probably due to its popularity of usage during the earlier Internet era.
5)IRC: More commonly known as your friendly-neighborhood chat room program, online chatting has changed the way we receive communication over the Internet. Unlike BBS and email, communication occurs in real time. Many relationships (be they plutonic or romantic) have occurred over IRC, and the only thing inaccurate about the movie You Got Mail was that it didn’t occur over a chat room.
6)Yahoo: Nowadays, I think people have forgotten that Yahoo was originally a search engine developed by two college drop-outs. Yahoo wasn’t the first search engine, but it was arguably one of the most popular ones during a pre-Google era. It’s also one of the better models for online business, as Yahoo transcended its college-dorm roots to the huge networking company that it is now (and Google is following in its footsteps).
7)ICQ: The name might sound unfamiliar to you now but back in the 90’s, it was the predecessor to Yahoo Messenger, AIM, and MSN Messenger. Something like a cross between email and IRC, users would establish a contact list with which they can send files, messages, pictures, or engage in a live chat the moment they connect to the Internet. Users would be notified when a person would go online, and when they disconnected. Back then, the system was imperfect, as users had to save their contact lists on their hard drive. After years of making mistakes, ICQ finally got it right when competition finally sprung up.
8)MP3: iPod’s now a household term, not just for Apple’s popular device but for mp3 players in general. Of course mp3’s began circulation in the early 90’s, most notably via the Internet, giving rise to such phenomena such as music piracy, Napster, and podcasts. While mp3 isn’t the only format to deliver music in a compressed format, others have tried to emulate it and failed. Mp3s is still the standard when it comes to music, and toppled “sex” as the most-searched word over the Internet. The Internet isn’t for porn, it’s for mp3’s.
9)Flash: What JPEG did for images and MP3s for music, Macromedia’s Flash did for video. Or at least originally. While its vector technology is innovative, its Action Script language gave it flexibility, allowing programmers to develop games, interactive web pages, and other dynamic content.
10)Internet Explorer: It became important when it was integrated into Microsoft’s operating system. Aside from the controversial lawsuit concerning Microsoft’s monopoly over web browsing, Internet Explorer made access to the Internet more accessible to consumers. Nowadays, one can’t maximize the computer without going online. Internet Explorer also changed the way Microsoft’s operating system was run: instead of the Internet revolving around existing software, software was designed to conform to the Internet’s capabilities.
12)Napster: Aside from the controversy surrounding it, Napster made peer-to-peer networking popular. Programs such as Kazaa, Limewire, and BitTorrent follow Napster’s principle of allowing users to share files (even if it borders on illegality) to other online users.
13)PDF: With all the varying file formats out there, PDFs have become a standard when viewing documents (especially those with images) and distributing them. Embassies and publishers typically use PDFs, but the online black market (pirated ebooks for example) also make use of the format.
14)Amazon.com: Amazon is another example of a company transcending its roots, from online bookstore to online shopping mall. While its financial success is subject to debate, Amazon.com has paved the way for online shopping, and is accessible to a lot of first-world countries. Perhaps another innovation on its part (not necessarily a good thing) is its recommendation list, suggesting items that consumers might enjoy based on previous purchases or browsing habits.
15)Paypal: In line with online shopping and purchases, Paypal has become one of many online currencies that try to replace the credit card. And yes, while Paypal has blacklisted the Philippines, consumers and patrons from other countries do make use of Paypal (and several communities survive on sheer donations via Paypal).
16)Spyware: Whereas computers gave birth to viruses and worms, the Internet was responsible for spyware. While originally not as destructive as viruses or worms, Spyware violates privacy issues, and secretly gathers information on Internet users. Worse, they sometimes spam you with unwanted ads and the like. Today, it’s a security risk as dangerous as any virus or worm.
17)MMORPGs: While online gaming has existed since the dawn of the World Wide Web, MMORPGs made the headlines due to its addictiveness, profitability, and self-contained society and economy. Ultima Online was one of the first MMORPGs wherein players traded real-world currency for in-game one, and it only got worse with succeeding MMORPGs, such as the ever-popular World of Warcraft with farmers and sweatshops running rampant.
18)Broadband Internet: Faster and cheaper connection speeds multiplied the benefits of going online. MMORPGs could be played more reliably, files were being shared more frequently, and people could simply afford to go online 24 hours a day. This would give birth to video codecs like DivX, and peer-to-peer programs like BitTorrent. Simply put, the Internet could do more now than it could ten years ago.
19)Blogs: Individuals started talking about their daily lives, and other people simply found it interesting. But blogs are more than that. Some have used it as a venue for journalistic reporting, others a marketing tactic, and some have even made a business out of it (Star Trek’s Wil Wheaton comes to mind). Other variants have arisen, from photo blogs, audio blogs, and community-tied blogs like livejournal (and to a certain extent, RSS feeds).
20)Wikipedia: The common man might not have heard of Open Source, and indeed, not many might patronize such ideas or products. Wikipedia is different, and is a prime example of how Open Source content can be prevalent and common. Most people use Wikipedia (myself included) as a resource on almost any subject, even if it isn’t 100% accurate (for the time being). Moreover, it thrives despite surviving on donations and the occasional merchandise it sells.
Honorable Mentions: There are other innovations that didn’t make it to the list, but I find are important nonetheless. 21) Google, following Yahoo’s footsteps. 22) Tabbed browsing, a simple yet infinitely convenient function for web browsers. 23) Style Sheets, giving web pages the flexibility of most Word Processors. 24) Friendster, for its networking capabilities much like the blog phenomenon. 25) Ebay, the cheaper alternative to online shopping. And 26) wireless Internet, not limited to Wi-fi but G3 technology (which Japan has been using for several years now) as well.