If you think the internet is cool, or that everything that can be done has been done, you ain't seen nothing yet. It's just getting started.
The internet is 40 years old (started in 1969).
The first half of those 40 years... websites didn't exist. Everything was email and file transfers, and text... no graphics.
The web is 20 years old (born March 13, 1989).
The first half of those 20 years... the web was so slow most people didn't find it useful. There were so few computers on the internet, that if you draw a graph of internet growth you can barely see the number of computers connected to the internet in 1991 (and, yet, at the time we thought it was HUGE!).
Fast internet access is about 10 years old.
Broadband (speeds fast enough to be useful for audio and video) has only been widely available since around 2000.
Google is only 10 years old (born September 8, 1999).
Before then to find a website you had to ask your friends or go to a websites that paid people to come up with lists and lists of websites that people might find useful.
The interactive web ("Web 2.0") is only 5 years old.
AJAX is what lets websites be interactive, like the ability to scroll the map in Google Maps. Before then websites were rather static. Your read a web site, you didn't play with it. You could fill out a form, click on links, and some websites were generated dynamically (like Amazon.com), but nothing as interactive as Google Maps, games, or Facebook. Websites that use "AJAX" only started appearing in 2003. That's when Google Maps and other highly-interactive sites sprung up.
YouTube is only 2.5 years old (born Feb 15th 2005 but didn't really take off until early 2007).
YouTube and other video-sharing sites took off about 2.5 years ago. It took that long for a lot of people to have fast internet access at home. 2007 is less than half of half of half of half of the history of the internet!
In 40 years we've gone from a text-based, email system that was slow and difficult to use to a fast, fun, interactive, full-video system!
Imagine what is next:
- As internet access becomes pervasive (usable anywhere we are, via our cell phone), new ideas and applications are springing up like crazy. With cell phone GPS, websites can provide useful information wherever we are. Movie listings know what the nearest theater is. Wikipedia could list every page that mentions what you are looking at!
- Augmented Reality is a new concept where you view the world through a video camera and internet-based information services add information. It could recognize that you are looking at a person and it will remind you what their name is. Or, when you see your friend Joe it will tell you "That's Joe! He hasn't returned that think you loaned him!"
- More and more applications are moving to the web. Web-based wordprocessors and spreadsheets let people collaborate on the same document, at the same time, over long distances! People are writing books together and they've never even met!
- Some day we might access the internet without the use of a computer. Just a connection directly to our brain.
The next 5 years will have more innovation than the last 40! Imagine what things will be like in 40 years!
One more thing...
When my father was born (1932), plastic hadn't been invented. There was bakelite, but not what we consider plastic today. In his lifetime cars have gone from all metal to mostly plastic. When I was born (1968), the internet didn't exist. Communicating using computers was unheard of. The things that are being invented today will make science fiction movies look like cowboy westerns. You think I was kidding about the direct connection to our brain?
- What did the internet look like in 1981?
- Video: 1981 short documentary:
- What did the internet look like in 1991?
- Video: Early 1990s documentary: "The Amazing Internet"
- How fast did the internet grow?
P.S. For the geeks:
I mostly wrote about the last half of the internet's history. Let's talk about the first half. The first half there was no World Wide Web. The first half of the first half (20 years) there was no DNS. One person maintained a file called hosts.txt and it was copied to all other machines periodically. You called or emailed a person to request adds, changes, and deletions. The first half of that (10 years) there wasn't even TCP/IP. There was NCP, the predecessor to TCP/IP. TCP/IP was deployed in 1981. There was a day when everyone turned off NCP and turned on TCP/IP (could you imagine doing that today?). The first half of that (first 5+ year), there were so few computers on the internet, it was still considered a lab experiment! The first half of that, most scientists that studied computer communication didn't know that packet-switched networks (instead of circuits... like the phone system) existed. Then again, there were nay sayers about packet-switched network for a good long time. in 1995 Bob Metcalfe predicted the internet would collapse by 1996!
P.P.S. If someone could draw any of this in a picture or wants to put it into a video I'd love to help!
(Thanks to Peter H. Salus for pointing out some of these facts.)