3 years

quarter century

25 Wayward Years

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The net has really grown since its conception, but we still don’t know what it’ll grow to be.

Twenty-five years is very long in internet time. The first dotcom was born back in 1985 on 15 March. Registered as Symbolics.com, it was for a vendor of artificial intelligence and represented the birth of a revolution. The vendor no longer exists. The first popular internet browser was Netscape Navigator. It fuelled the birth and growth of many a million dotcoms. It is almost defunct now. The first internet shock to jolt the cyber community, and the world in general, took place around 10 years ago. That crisis powered the emergence of Web 2.0 and the internet as the most significant force of our time. Those dark days are hardly recalled now.

Today, the internet has transformed business, politics, life, societies and itself into something else. So much that was considered farfetched, impossible and incredible at the time of Symbolics.com has come and gone. It is universally agreed that when it comes to the internet, this is only the beginning.

A mesmerising interactive info-graphic on the BBC news site illustrates how much further the internet has to grow, around the world and into our interconnected lives.

Only about 1.7 billion of the world’s 6.7 billion people use the web. In other words, a humbling 75 per cent of the globe is still some distance away from conducting any kind of e-commerce. In America, the place where it all began, less than a third of Americans bother buying anything online. On Gmail, where the whole world seemingly congregates (or one day will), there are only 170 million people using it regularly. India, tomorrow’s so-labelled ‘superpower’, has a growing population of over a billion people, less than 5 per cent of whom enjoy internet access; the same as in most parts of Africa, the acknowledged ‘basket-case’ of the world. This is to say the dotcom economy is by no means mature. Twenty-five years is also very short in internet time.

So what will a full-blown, internet-enabled world be like? Safe answer: no one really knows. Not Dreamworks, Pixar or even Industrial Light & Magic. As a matter of fact, not even these seminal ‘digital giants’ can say with certainty what the future has in store for us, except that there will be change. But it is most intriguing to watch, listen and participate in their passionate attempts to predict the next ten years.

Speculation aside, one thing’s definite: the advent of ubiquitous connectivity will revolutionise the way the economically disabled access this global resource, which in the eyes of many is a fundamental right. No?