The Internet: Then and Now
July 31, 2015
The Internet – it’s a giant piece of our everyday lives and yet, the internet as we know it today is just gearing up to enjoy its first legal drink. While some argue that the World Wide Web has created a whole slew of problems for the universe, there ARE plenty of things it’s changed for the better. (And if someone blatantly disagrees with that statement, they’re definitely the same person who whines all winter long about the snow and then complains about it being too hot June-August.)
So just how far have we come over the past 21 years? Our content team shares their memories of internet usage and how it differs today.
Then: AIM/AOL. It was a way to keep in touch with your friends when you were miles away, a dorm room away, or even when you were away from your computer (“BRB, out with friends!” Remember those days?) Knowing what members of your “buddy list” were doing at all times became an obsession; this idea of always being connected was something that we could no longer live without.
Now: Facebook, Twitter, Skype, FaceTime, etc. Keeping in touch has not only become easier, but it’s also changed the way we define it. We ditched our juvenile screennames (mine was xxballet14xx) for, GASP, our birth names displayed on our Facebook profiles. Instead of picking up the phone to call a friend, we leave Instagram comments and send Snapchats. I can friend request a classmate I haven’t seen in years, tweet a celebrity, and FaceTime a relative living abroad. The idea of “instant messaging” is still alive thanks to GChat and texts, but now we have a seemingly endless list of social media platforms in which we can communicate with our circle. The sheer number of social profiles we have – and time spent on them – further proves we still LOVE being connected. At all times.
‘Content’ is a buzzword that’s having a moment—but what exactly is content? In the simplest form, content is information. And with the invention of computers and the Internet, how we consume said information and who creates it has evolved quite a bit.
Then: forums. This was when internet users started being able to voice their opinions to others. We used to go to our doctors to figure out what that bump was, but now you could post any question online and within minutes have a list of answers. All the sudden, you could ask anything and be anybody you wanted to be because you were just a screen name (catfish anyone?). So what started happening? Anybody could write about any given topic, and if enough people were listening, they were suddenly experts. These experts sought out their target audience, and boom, the earliest class of influencers was born.
Now: Bloggers and Tumblr. Content has always existed in some shape or form, but one thing changed: what opinion do you listen to? First journalists dictated the stories, then anybody could post in forums and chatrooms. Now, there is a whole new group of authorities: bloggers. Bloggers became famous for posting content about specific topics, and people choosing to listen to them. Content doesn’t necessarily have to come from a big publication anymore, and anybody with a computer and the desire to create can do so. The problem with this, is navigating the killer content from the BS… Everybody uses everybody’s content, and it seems like no idea is original anymore. This may be true, but the evolution of technology has also made it that much easier to absorb great content—just be smart about where it comes from!
Then: Limewire, Kazaa, and Napster. Do you remember buying your first CD? I do. Mine was Spice Girls ‘Spiceworld.’ CDs slowly dwindled away (RIP childhood), and with the internet came a slew of websites where you could suddenly download any song or album you wanted—illegally. Before the time of ITunes and song purchasing, you went on Limewire and downloaded music that all of your friends could access (known as ‘peer-to-peer’ file sharing). These websites were originally created to make music sharing easy, but somewhere along the way started running into copyright infringement… music companies filed law suits against consumers, and as we can clearly see today, artists have no tolerance for fans illegally downloading music. No time for that!
Now: Paid music streaming. Although you can no longer illegally file share with friends, music lovers still wanted a way to stream music on the web. Behold: streaming sites like Pandora, Spotify, and very recently Apple Radio were born. These sites started off free for users, but today people are willing to pay a monthly fee to stream the music they want. Times are changing, and streaming policies are changing as we speak. And of course, we can credit Taylor Swift with a large portion of the industry shift (she may or may not have made Apple change their policy in 24 hours because she’s that much of a star). Today artists are fighting to get paid for their art, and people are willing to do so.
Then: Match.com. The very first online dating service. The idea of meeting somebody behind the screen seemed taboo back then (which is slightly hard to believe in today’s world). Online dating was happening– but you didn’t hear people bragging about how they met their significant other on the web. Other online dating sites began surfacing, but it wasn’t like it is today. If you’ve ever seen You’ve Got Mail, Meg Ryan and Tom Hank’s characters slowly email each other back and forth (using AOL Email! Throwback). They aren’t plugged into technology in constant contact (sound familiar?) but there is some discrepancy in their relationship. They are attracted to one another over the Internet, but hate each other in person—are we missing a step when we start a relationship through a computer and not in person?
Now: Tinder. It is so commonplace that you don’t need a movie dedicated to it. At least three of my friends have met their significant others on the mobile dating app, and people aren’t ashamed to admit their Tinder habits. Dating through technology doesn’t seem taboo in the slightest bit anymore– It’s almost as if people today prefer talking online. Although online dating is commonplace and there are other ways to communicate besides for email, there is still an element that is lost. Being in constant contact with the person you’re dating has become “normal,” yet when you’re actually seeing the person face-to-face it’s like the person is a stranger. Being (probably) one of the only millennials that doesn’t have a Tinder, I would rather have a conversation in person than behind a screen. I better get with it then, because the question of our time seems to be: swipe right or swipe left?
Which technology do you miss from way back when? Tweet us @Norbella with your thoughts!