A Brief History of Online

The curators of the best of the Internet have recently come out with a list of the top web moments of the past ten years. David-Michel Davies, the Webby Awards’ executive director, called the Internet the “story of the decade”, and while I may question his objectivity on that perspective, I’d be hard-pressed to disagree.

The chronologically-ordered list, below, is interesting to me as it’s a clear testament to the growth of the Participation Economy. More and more, people online are finding new ways to create, share, and connect. And as the two most recent selected “influential moments” show (the US Elections and Iranian election protests), when movements form online, the rest of the world feels it. Davies concurs: “The recurring theme among all of the milestones on our list is the Internet’s capacity to circumvent old systems and put more power into the hands of ordinary people”.

The other thing that jumped out at me was that, despite the Internet’s worldwide nature, the websites the list is based on are by and large US-centric (although of course their users are more widespread). I’m confident that another such survey in ten years time would show more stories of change starting in the margins, or at least outside of the West. In China alone, the number of Internet users surpasses the total US population – despite the “Great Firewall”. And with Internet regulators voting to allow website domain names in non-Latin scripts, the barriers are coming down even further for the 50% of Internet users who speak languages based on other writing systems. While in the USA Facebook is social networking base du jour, don’t forget that in India it’s Orkut, South Korea has Cyworld, and China’s biggest such site is Renren.

The Webby’s Ten Most Influential Internet Moments of the Decade

2000 Craigslist expands outside San Francisco
2000 Google AdWords launches
2001 Wikipedia launches
2001 Napster Shut Down
2004 Google IPO
2006 Online video revolution
2006 Facebook opens to non-college students and Twitter takes off
2007 The iPhone debuts
2008 U.S. Presidential Campaign
2009 Iranian election protests

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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