Do you remember the time when your software came on a certain number of floppy disks? Sitting at your desk with several boxes of disks and ejecting and inserting them whenever the screen told you to do so.
As you clicked on the .exe, .com or .bat file, you would pray not to have just unleashed a virus on your computer. That was never the case, but your fate was almost as bad as you would hear some techno funky synth tune come out from inside the computer. Yes, it would not be the gigantic PC speakers, but the onboard sound of your motherboard.
This was the time when people start to figure out how to monetize the great World Wide Web. Early adopters attempted to get consumers to adhere to traditional methods as pay for play. A large part of the WWW was behind credit card gated doors. Government or NGOs bankrolled the most popular web pages and sites. It wasn’t until commercial companies unlocked the method to make investing in the internet commercially sustainable: advertisements.
This led to a Golden Age of the internet where everything seemed to be ‘free’. I had my first website in 1996. Remember GeoCities where everyone could carve out their own place in cyberspace? I was a blogger before blogging was a thing. thanks to sites like Free Open Diary. Then came MySpace, that gave you a more structured approach of claiming your own spot online.
We are many years from GeoCities and MySpace, and along the way, we have seen some mind-blowing tech become obsolete faster than we could keep it updated. Usenet’s are not a thing anymore, nor a wide range of plugins aiming to provide you ‘streaming’ video of the size of a stamp, as no one has RealPlayer installed, do they
With internet speeds and bandwidth increased drastically and untethered now on mobile devices, we seem to take it all for granted. Just think of how angry you might get when your internet connection goes down, or when you break your phone. Now I am not saying we should all do a digital detox – I am, but that’s not the point – I do want to take a moment and appreciate the current internet greats. Some, because they are great in their own right, others because they occupy a very significant space in the world.
Twitter, because it has changed the way people consume news and the speed at which it can reach the masses. Yes, one could argue that it has brought out the worst of the 24 hours news cycle, but you can’t deny its ability to bring us closer to important happenings in the world. If it’s conflict in Aleppo, the Boston Marathon bombings or the ‘Me Too’ movement. A mention here for Facebook and the implementation of the ‘mark yourself safe’ option in response to incidents across the globe.
The web has also enabled us to see the lighter side of life. You can always rely on The Onion to make light of the ridiculous. Political satire has also been given an extended podium online. All the late night political satire shows nowadays publish clips from their shows on their Youtube channel for all to enjoy. If you are looking for something less political, you can mindlessly flick through Imgur for some LOLs. XKCD also never disappoints!
The internet has also made us more productive and knowledgeable. Youtube is great to figure out how to fix ‘that rattling sound in my car’ or to see ‘how to make an origami swan’. Those Facebook Tasty videos might not make us great cooks, but at least make us aspire to try something different. Programmers would most likely put Stack Overflow in their top three sites ever. Knowledge is at your fingertips, only limited by how smart you search for it. We can’t talk about great websites, without mentioning the Google search engine and how that has made navigating the internet endlessly better. Or Bing if that’s your jam or DuckDuckGo.
And if you are working on a presentation of school report, don’t forget Wikipedia. Gone are the days you would buy a specific letter volume of an encyclopaedia, which would then fill several bookshelves. And if you need some pretty pictures to go with that, Google now provides you excellent image searches. If you want to go slightly more professional and don’t have the funds to get one from Getty Images, try Unsplash.
The internet is also the ultimate place to find new ideas, or – as we tend to do in most cases – stay within our echo chamber. Reddit is one of the best places to get lost in on the web. Some threads will make you gasp, some giggle and some are genuinely heartfelt. Check out ‘/AskReddit’, ‘/funny’, ‘/TIFU’ or ‘/GetMotivated’. If you feel adventurous, you might want to check out 4Chan, but tread at your peril. Another gem is Rotten Tomatoes that provides a rating of pretty much any movie or TV show you can think of. It is a sort of aggregation of reviews from ‘experts’ and balances this out with ‘user’ reviews, so take it all with a grain of salt.
So, the web is not only a place where you can find ideas but also many reviews, especially unwanted ones. Not just of what movie you should watch, but even if you should buy that next phone, car or lawn mower you had in mind. You can find a review and rating site of pretty much anything you can find. Yelp and Trustpilot help you form an opinion before you even have seen or enjoyed the product or service. Think about it, how many times did you went to Amazon to not only sort by price but also filter out any result below four stars?
Talking about online shopping, everyone should have visited This Is Why I’m Broke if they haven’t done so already. Things you will want to buy, but really shouldn’t as it will ruin your bank balance. Perhaps it’s safer to visit Uncrate as its mostly stuff you wouldn’t be able to afford in the first place. A great place to browse some products and think: ‘who can afford this?’. And if you need some extra funds to cover the cost of that thing that you want, go win some at some of these legal online casinos.
If you have been engaged in a healthy amount of online shopping and have pulled out your credit card from time to time, it might be a good idea to check Have I Been Pwned. It seems that every month there is a data breach and your details might be floating somewhere on the dark web. Bundled up and sold to the highest bidder. If you are paranoid, perhaps it's time to get off the internet altogether, check out Deseat.me to vanish entirely.
The list won’t be complete without mentioning Twitch.tv, a place where we can watch people playing games. Who would have predicted that one of the most popular internet pastimes would be so meta? The pioneers here enjoy internet fame and can make a decent earning from it, spawning armies of celebrity streamer hopefuls aiming for the same thing.
The internet is a beautiful and weird place. It has provided us with so much good regarding news, knowledge and connections. It also has given us more anxiety, trolling and amplified our echo chambers. It has become our main channel for shopping and consuming movies and music. It’s a place to get lost in weird threads and sites. We have come so far from those early days of baud modems and writing your first HTML tags. And as beautiful and responsive all these new sites are designed, no one can tell you that a <BLINK> tag is not a thing of beauty.
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