Monday, February 06, 2012

Top 20 Most Important Developments of the Internet

The Internet Society is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. They are a global organization devoted to maintaining a free, open, accessible, and viable Internet.

I've recently blogged about the Internet Society's call for people to submit ideas for a new Internet Hall of Fame they are establishing.

Internet Society is also marking their anniversary with a listing of what people think are the 20 most significant developments in the history of the Internet, whether an innovation, event, or product.

So I figured I would offer my top 20. I tried to combine technological inventions, commercial product launches, and events that have shaped the Internet.  I've linked to Wikipedia (#16) for more information on the topics.

Top 20 Internet Developments:
  1. ARPANET - the military research network of the 1960s that became the Internet
  2. Hypertext - interlinking of digital text and media, predicted by Vannevar Bush in the 1940s, developed by Ted Nelson and Douglas Engelbart in the 1960s
  3. Email - invented in the 1970s and is the bedrock of Internet-based communications (honourable mention to Hotmail for making email more accessible in 1996 by offering the first free web-based email service) 
  4. Domain Name System (DNS) -  gives us the ability to use plain language web addresses
  5. MUDs (Multi-User Dungeon/Domain) - the first form of networked games, developed in the late 1970s and is the precursor to modern forms of collaborative and online gaming such as Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) 
  6. Archie - first Internet search engine (for FTP sites), developed at McGill University in 1990
  7. World Wide Web (WWW) - Tim Berners-Lee creates the ultimate digital medium in 1991
  8. Mosaic - user-friendly browser launched in 1993 that accelerated the popularity of the Web by displaying images and text together
  9. Netscape's Initial Public Offering - the browser's phenomenal IPO propelled Internet development and usage
  10. Secure Socket Layers - Netscape's encryption system, developed in the mid 1990s, helped make the web secure enough to allow e-commerce and e-banking to flourish
  11. Travelocity - one of the first victims of e-business were travel agencies (who books in person anymore?) and Travelocity, which launched to consumers in the mid 1980s via CompuServe, was one of the first online travel booking sites
  12. Internet Movie Database (IMDB) - launched first on USENET in 1990, IMDB was one of the first websites to popularize user-generated content, in the form of user ratings and reviews, thus being Web 2.0 years before the concept was created (honourable mention to for also being one of the first UGC sites and one that encouraged more lengthy and collaborative content)
  13. - widely popular website, launched in 1995, that was among the first to create what we now know as a social networking site (way ahead of Friendster, in 2002,  and MySpace, in 2003)
  14. GeoCities - launched in 1995, popularized personal web publishing by offering free web hosting and  customizable homepages (honourable mention to Blogger with its 1999 launch it was one of the first and most popular web publishing tools and helped create the blog genre))
  15. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) - these guidelines, first published in 1999 by the W3C, have done more than anything else to enable websites to be accessible to people with various abilities 
  16. Wikipedia - launched in 2001, two huge contributions: 1) open access to encyclopaedic information and 2) breaks down barriers of official knowledge by allowing anyone to participate in its creation
  17. Delicious - launched in 2003, the social bookmarking site became possibly the first instance of folksonmies, that is collaborative user tagging of information objects (in this case bookmarks)
  18. Streaming and downloadable media - from listening to the radio or watching video live (such as Victoria's Secret's annual fashion show, the first majorly successful webcast), to downloading music MP3s from Napster or iTunes, to watching videos on YouTube or through IPTV - the Internet has  fundamentally changed our media consumption and purchasing (or lack thereof) behaviour
  19. Mobile Web and Internet-enabled mobile apps - mobile apps or mobile-friendly webpages have enabled ubiquitous access to the Internet, surpassing desktop access since 2008
  20. Open-source software and standards - free programming languages, such as HTML, JavaScript, and XML (hence AJAX), and software, such as Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP and Perl (hence LAMP), have made it financially possible for anyone to build and host their own websites, breaking down prior elite forms of media production and distribution
  • Open access publishing - the Internet made it effective to share information freely and widely, with resulting open access journals, such as First Monday (about the Internet) 
  • Internet porn - legendary driver of online development and adoption
  • Forums and chat rooms - excellent new forms of multi-person communication
  • Recommendation systems - using our collective data to help identify things we may like, the music site Pandora is an excellent example of the power of this, the Netflix Prize contest helped propel development in this area
  • Google - revolutionized search engines and the first great online-only company
  • eBay & PayPal - perfected microsales and consumer-to-consumer commerce
  • VoIP & Skype - no more long-distance telephone charges
  • Craigslist - the first widely popular online classified website that assisted in the demise of newspapers
  • Foursquare - the first geosocial network and location-based service to hit critical mass
  • Internet of Things - everything will soon be wired to the Net from cars, refrigerators, and closets
As you can see I had a hard time, limiting myself to 20.

I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on what should be on the list (or off), and any corrections, such as missing predecessors or international developments that set the trend.

No comments: