25 years ago the internet was born and the first new users went online. The changes that happened didn’t take place overnight but it’s hard to imagine life now without a connected world.
Here in our opinion are the five main ways the internet has changed the world and changed our lives forever.
In today’s world, we don’t go online – we live online!
1 – Communication
The web is a formidable tool and who could have thought that things would change so much in a relatively short space of time. The days of having to queue up outside the phone box with a stack of 20p pieces to make your phone calls are thankfully long behind us. Indeed the rise of communication can arguably be down to the inception of the mobile phone in the 1980’s but that was nothing in comparison to the rise in use after the switch to digital and again to the 3G services in the early 2000’s. Once people could access everything all at once email, phone, SMS, videos etc from the palm of their hands this caused an explosion in the way communication took place. We can connect with friends, family and coworkers in nearly every corner of the world and now even language is not a barrier as Skype translation has enabled people speaking different languages to talk with one another in real time. Just as a physical address allows people to send mail to your post box, the internet has opened that up to allow communications to be delivered to your inernet connected phone, tablet, TV, PC etc
2 – Relationships
It might seem strange but actually when you think about it the internet has changed relationships massively. Back in the good old days if you wanted to go on a date with someone you had to pluck up the courage to go and ask them in person yourself! The internet changed the way in which we interact with one another and the way in which we speak to one another. It led us to become a far more liberal society in general as attitudes towards relationships changed and people began socialising online. Even before the main social networks started to appear the change in relationships had already begun, the desire to connect online was being fulfilled through chat rooms and forums. It is not just personal relationships that have changed too – the likes on LinkedIn and other professional networks have given rise to a complete shift in the way in which business relationships occur.
3 – Access to information
Back in the days of old if you wanted to learn something new or discover who did what in the world then you needed access to a library. That pattern has slowly shifted to the point where many people wouldn’t dream of going to a library to find the latest book when they can look for it on their phone. Equally the sheer volume of information that people can now access online means that we are not just talking about books here. If you want to know what your next door neighbours cousins Cat had for dinner, then you can probably find out if you have a look at their Facebook page. The speed of access to such a wide range of information internationally is what should be appreciated here. We have moved on from fragmented communication of information through print and TV to a pattern where the user can proactively select the information they require. People can work together interactively, unrestricted by time zone or physical restraints.
4 – Shopping
There are many people out there who used to hate shopping! The thought of trudging around with heavy bags or pushing a trolley through a sea of people was enough to put off said shopping trip until the very last minute when it simply HAD to be done. Thankfully with the advent of E-commerce and online shopping people can now buy pretty much whatever they want, whenever they want it and have it delivered direct to their door or even someone elses door. The meteoric rise in buying and selling digitally has also progressed behind the scenes with increased security measures and features making it easier and safer than ever. New technologies increase the speed of information transfer and this opens up the possibility of “bespoke shopping”. From booking airline tickets to reserving your dinner table, buying a T-Shirt from California or having flowers send to Aunt Beryl in Australia new applications support secure business transactions and create new commercial opportunities. As consumers, the conventional rules and methods of distribution and marketing break down and now more than ever; access to ratings and reviews, product comparisons, recommendations from bloggers and celebrities have shaped a new scenario for consumer behaviour, retail trade and the economy in general.
5 – Privacy
Privacy has always been a problem even before the internet. Back then you could opt to have your phone number as ex-directory so that it was not listed and people could not find you in the phone book. The “phone book” for those who don’t remember them, was literally a very large book of residential and commercial phone numbers listed by name. If you wanted to find someones number you had to sift through that book. As things have progressed, databases have gone online and details were much easier to search. As more and more people started to use the internet it became more important to know who was looking at what and where they were coming from. Analytics are a crucial part of any business in understanding how they should price and market their products or services. The Supermarkets had this pretty much nailed down in the 90’s when they started to introduce loyalty cards and points cards. These cards allowed them to understand what customers were buying, from which stores and how frequently. The same principle applies with online analytics but in order for it to be really useful, companies need to know who you are and correlate that information to your buying patterns. People rushed to sign up to the social media networks as they were launched and began filling in their profiles full of all their personal information – rich pickings for marketers and third party advertisers at the time. As consumers we accept terms and conditions these days with most of us not even giving a second thought as to what they contain. They are long drawn out contracts between you and the service provider that detail how and when they can use the data they collect from you. We should be aware that different internet platforms provide very different privacy experiences. Many of them are entirely open and public meaning that any information you provide is indexable by search engines and no steps whatsoever are taken to protect personal information.