Twenty-five years doesn’t seem so long ago, but when you consider what today is, just over two decades counts for a hell of a lot. On this day back in 1991, a British researcher working in Switzerland named Tim Berners-Lee suddenly opened a little thing called the World Wide Web to the public. And now, 25 years later, it’s safe to say that the WWW has changed just about every aspect of our lives (and that of billions of others) — for better and for worse. The internet has opened our minds in so many ways; we’re more informed than ever before, with a digital outlet for almost anything from ordering food to dating to connecting with friends and family – all good stuff. However, it’s important to remind ourselves of the downside to 24-hour connectivity: we’re digital junkies (also referred to as Infomaniacs), which can have negative repercussions on our wellbeing, sick of the Kardashian’s attempting to ‘break the Internet’ and, often, the web can be a scary, dark place.
However, in an ode to this rather landmark birthday, we’ve rounded up seven ways in which the internet has impacted our lives:
The invention of the webcam
In 1991 scientists at Cambridge University built a prototype webcam. Skyping, Facetime and the rest would be non-existent without the humble webcam and living abroad would undoubtedly be a lonelier experience.
Launched in 2001, the free user-generated online encyclopaedia quickly became the reference site of choice for Internet users. By the end of its first year, it had 20,000 articles in 18 languages. It reached its one-millionth article in 2006. Today, it has more than 14 million articles in 271 languages and enables us to stalk on the sly (don’t judge, you’ve all done it).
The first-ever blog
Twenty-year-old American student Justin Hall is credited with creating the world’s first internet-based diary (a blog though the term had yet to be invented). He would maintain it for the next 11 years and it would soon inspire a movement in a league of its own.
Online dating goes live
In 1995, the world gets its first dating website, the “interactive digital personals service” that is Match.com.
The launch of Hotmail came about in 1996 — or as it was then, HoTMaiL — one of the world’s first web-based messaging services to bring free email to the masses. Within 18 months it has several million customers.
The world’s first viral video
1996 saw the release of ‘Dancing Baby,’ a 3D animation of a, er, dancing baby that will explode on forums, websites and email to become one of the world’s first viral videos. It is deeply unsettling.
The launch of Facebook and Twitter
2004 saw the launch of “the Facebook,” designed by Harvard University students. In first 24 hours, 1,000 undergraduates signed up and just over 10 years later it is the biggest social network in the world and is ever-growing. Twitter followed in 2006 and the rest is history.