The Top 10 most influential Internet moments of the decade

By Dominic Custodio

Has it really been over 10 years of internet? The Internet has come a long way, and with 2010 just around the corner The Webby Awards came out with a list of the Top 10 most influential Internet moments of the decade. Whether you agree or disagree with their selection, it’s as good time as any to look back and appreciate how far we’ve come; to remember that what is now taken for granted, used to be biggest buzz.  The list:

Craigslist expands outside San Francisco (2000)
In 2000, the free classifieds site broadened its reach outside of San Francisco into nine additional U.S. cities, sending chills down the spines of newspaper publishers everywhere. Today Craigslist serves free listings in more than 500 cities in 50 countries, serving as a model for no-frills business and community success and the catalyst for countless jobs, apartments, and just about anything else you can think of.

Google AdWords launches (2000)
With the launch of AdWords in October 2000, Google turned advertising on its head. The self-service ad program opened up the marketplace to any business, no matter how big or small, and allowed advertisers to target their customers with laser-sharp precision.

Wikipedia launches (2001)
Containing 20,000 articles in 18 languages by the end of its first year online, Wikipedia today boasts more than 14 million articles in 271 different languages. The free open-source encyclopedia epitomizes the Internet’s power to bring strangers from around the world together to collaborate on projects both big and small.

Napster Shut Down (2001)
Although Napster was shut down in 2001, it opened the file-sharing floodgates. Its demise sparked a wave of innovations that forever changed how we obtain and experience music and video – from Hulu to iTunes to Radiohead famously dropping its label and self-distributing their “In Rainbows” CD online for free.

Google IPO (2004)
Google’s IPO, one of the largest in history, put the six year old search engine on the path to becoming the most dominant and influential company of the decade. From gmail and YouTube to Google Earth, Google Maps, and Google Android, the Internet giant and constant innovator is the engine that powers countless aspects of our everyday lives.

Online video revolution (2006)
In 2006, a perfect storm of faster bandwidth, cheaper camcorders, and the groundbreaking use of Adobe’s Flash 9 video player by YouTube combined to launch the online video revolution. The trifecta led to a boom in homemade and professional content – the Diet Coke and Mentos guys, lonelygirl15, SNL’s Lazy Sunday, and Senator George Allen’s “macacagate” – that has reshaped everything from pop culture to politics.

Facebook opens to non-college students and Twitter takes off (2006)
In September 2006, a social networking site for college students changed its user qualifications to include anyone 13 and older with a valid e-mail address. Facebook struck an immediate chord — and almost overnight, social media went mainstream. Less than a month later, the creators of Twitter acquired the company and its assets from its investors, paving the way for the service to take off in 2007. Both companies took social media mainstream, radically changing the way we connect, collaborate, and communicate with everyone from friends to colleagues to customers.

The iPhone debuts (2007)
The iPhone was released on June 29, 2007. By the end of the weekend, half a million had been sold, and smartphones had gone from a luxury item to a necessity. The iPhone inspired the development of operating systems like Google Android, as well as an app for just about every aspect of modern life. Over the next decade, it’s estimated that a billion new users will come to the Internet for the first time through mobile devices.

U.S. Presidential Campaign (2008)
The Internet altered presidential politicking in 2008 much as television had forty years earlier during the Kennedy/Nixon race. From videos like “Obama Girl” and the Reverend Wright clip shaping the debate, to social media mobilizing voters, to record-breaking online fundraising from small donors, every facet of the way campaigns are run was permanently transformed.

Iranian election protests (2009)
When Iran’s 2009 presidential election produced fishy results, the opposition took to the tweets — and the “Twitter Revolution” was born. In fact, it was so vital to organizing demonstrations that the U.S. State Department asked the company to delay planned maintenance.. The protests also highlighted Twitter’s key asset as a protest tool: Since most users don’t access it through a central website, it’s nearly impossible to censor.

An interesting selection. I would add a few that really stand out from personal experience:

  • Gmail launches: It’s hard to believe that once upon a time, the battle was between Yahoo and Hotmail. Even I had my doubts about the new contender. E-mail addresses are a sticky commodity, like a cell phone number, which you’d ideally like to keep forever (unless you want to go MIA). Who uses yahoo and hotmail as their primary address anymore? Exactly. Conversation style email, combined with the power of Google search tipped the scales. Can you imagine your life without it?
  • Adobe buys Macromedia: Momentous, especially as a designer, because it meant the merging of the de facto design tools (photoshop/illustrator) and with the de facto web tools (dreamweaver/flash). From a production standpoint, it really meant streamlining the flow between designing and buildling sites, and blasted the creative doors wide open for web designers.
  • The rise of AJAX: Another thanks to google. With AJAX, web applications could now retrieve data from the server asynchronously in the background without interfering with the display and behavior of the existing page. Everything Google (gmail, docs, maps), not to mention many of the standard functionalities we find on Web 2.0 sites would not have been possible without it.
  • Amazon Kindle: eBooks. Up until this point, it all seemed like a pipe dream – an empty promise from the beginning of the digital revolution. Many had tried to come up with a good e-reader and a viable business model, but with little success. And then the Kindle came a long. With its smart interface, simplicity and the backing of the largest online bookstore in the world, it became a runaway hit. You could now download not just books, but magazines and newspapers, wirelessly as well. Sony and Barnes and Noble have followed suit with their own readers, but whoever wins the battle in the end, eBooks/eReaders are a pipe dream no longer.

What are your moments?



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