How the Internet Has Changed Over the Years

For better or for worse, the internet is intertwined with our everyday lives. Heading on a camping trip soon? Time to purchase a tent off of Amazon. Looking for recommendations for new restaurants to try out? Reddit and its users will likely have the answers. Have some downtime? Might as well scroll through TikTok for a bit. We use it for work, play, and everything in between, and it accompanies us everywhere we go with our smartphones.

But life wasn’t always like this, and neither was the internet. Just over two decades ago, the internet was confined to a space in our living rooms, bedrooms, or study rooms. We’d accept and deal with the screeching dial-up sounds and slow-loading screens, and then once we were done browsing or using the web, we’d log off and go back to living our lives offline. It was a place you’d go to and leave – a far cry from the consuming presence it has today.

How the Internet Came to Be

Before we could do just about anything we wanted using the internet, it was merely a way for government bodies and universities to share information through one network. It was more of a way to deliver messages rather than the treasure trove of information that we know it as now. Through the hard work of engineers, scientists, programmers, and other experts, the base of the modern internet was born in 1983. In 1990, the World Wide Web (browsers, web pages, and resources) was created, and it began operating on top of that infrastructure.

Using the Internet as a Way to Connect

Because the internet allowed society to connect regardless of where people were located, it quickly became the place to exchange information and ideas, share experiences, and communicate and interact with each other. People no longer had to handwrite letters or pay by the minute to make international calls to friends and family. And it’s no surprise that this was the first function of the web. After all, the initial internet system revolved around sending messages.

In the late ‘80s and early to mid-’90s, the email craze began – and it’s been a mainstay in our communications even today for business and personal purposes. After instant messaging platforms like AIM and MSN Messenger were launched, however, that’s when communication changed. We would expect instantaneous replies back, check whether people were online or offline, and use methods other than words (like emoticons and stickers) to express ourselves to one another.

The Internet as a Shopping Hub

Soon enough, the internet wasn’t only a place to communicate. Although things like online gaming and online shopping existed back in the late 1970s and 1980s, these activities certainly didn’t operate as they do now. There was the Boston Computer Exchange that launched in 1982, commonly believed to be the first ecommerce company. Then, Book Stacks Unlimited came out as the first online book marketplace. That’s right – it wasn’t Amazon that started the whole online bookstore concept first, but Jeff Bezos undoubtedly had the more successful launch.

Shopping using the internet made sense, and so online commerce began to take off. In the early days, we navigated basic HTML-ridden interfaces and felt skeptical of providing our personal information. We didn’t have the luxury of the myriad of payment methods or the confidence in online retail security – people would even breathe a sigh of relief when the package would show up at their doorstep.

Modern e-commerce shopping is a whole new world in comparison – we can purchase anything from basic necessities to novelty items with the click of a button and receive them as quickly as a few hours. With platforms like Uber Eats and DoorDash, we can even get a hot meal, an entire week’s worth of groceries, personal care items, and more delivered right to us within the hour. Not to mention the level of personalization that algorithms can now offer – we’ll get recommended items based on our browsing history and preferences. Just. Like. That.

Anytime Entertainment with Streaming

Society is spoiled with endless, unlimited entertainment thanks to the internet. We don’t have to rent movies from Blockbuster, nor do we don’t have to wait for a show to start airing at a certain time. All we do now is head online, and we can browse through all sorts of videos, songs, movies, and TV shows whenever we want. Whether free or through a monthly subscription format, we can access an overwhelming amount of content. Streaming hasn’t only revolutionized how viewers view movies either, but also how the entertainment industry operates. Filmmakers now commonly release their titles on streaming platforms and in theaters to capture a wider audience base.

The Mobile Revolution and the Internet of Things (IoT)

The first iPhone was launched in 2007, and it set new standards for the roles phones played in our lives. Calling and texting were functions that would never go away, but we were now able to enjoy apps for things like note-taking, gaming, checking emails, browsing the internet, and learning new languages and topics. We could now bring the internet with us wherever we went, and communication and connection were always at our fingertips. If you hop on any app store, you’ll find an app for absolutely everything, even online gambling apps for the best real money slot apps for Android.

While our phones once upon a time were separate entities from our laptops and other devices, the Internet of Things broke that notion and created an entire ecosystem of interconnected parts. Our vehicles, appliances, and other devices can come together to craft a smarter, better, more efficient user experience than ever before. Whether we’re all better off because of it, however, is a subject for another article.