Thursday, 29 October 2009

Forty Years of Internet – Some Thoughts on today's World-wide Internet Day

Forty years ago from today, on the 29th October 1969 the Internet was launched. The term “Internet” was already coined in 1962, but on the 29th October 1969 four computer systems located in the USA were connected via a telephone line which was considered as the start of the Internet. Since then millions of computer systems around the world have been connected and this global network has seen extraordinary growth rates since the mid 1990s and has revolutionised the business models and processes as well as the marketing strategies of companies.

In fact, the Internet has influenced and changed the communication and interaction among human beings on all levels. The World Wide Web (WWW) is the biggest information and knowledge source which mankind has ever managed to create in a collaborative effort. Today about 1.7 billion people worldwide are online (source: http://www.internetworldstats.com/), which accounts for one quarter of the entire human population on earth (see chart below, click on graphic to enlarge).

An unbelievable number of 230 million websites are online to date and the publication of new websites is still climbing exponentially. Just imagine, it would take 7.3 years if you looked at each of these websites after the other only for one second!

Further milestones for the growing impact and influence of the Internet on the masses were the search engine Google (founded 1998), the reformation of the “old” web into Web 2.0 (in 2004) and applications such as YouTube (in 2005), Facebook (in 2006), Twitter (in 2006), just to name a few. Web 3.0 (i.e. the semantic web) and Web 4.0 (i.e. the intelligent Metaweb or “global brain”) are considered as emerging trends.

The Internet and especially the WWW have made many tasks in our lives much simpler and quicker (e.g. data exchange, access to information, tele-banking, online booking) but on the other hand the complexity of the tools, applications, organisation structures and business processes has increased simultaneously. The Internet and the WWW have changed the world dramatically and the changes will continue.
There are still many challenges and unsolved issues which can have far-reaching social and economic consequences as for instance the digital divide which can increase the knowledge gap between technologically less developed countries and the modern world. Human beings will have to adapt new strategies for dealing efficiently with the increasing information flood and communication overkill.
Companies need to identify and exploit the strategic and competitive advantages of information and communication technologies without overwhelming their customers. The quantity of information and communication keeps growing exponentially and an end of this trend is not yet in sight. But what about the quality? Further examples of superlatives are summarized in the interesting video "Did you know?"

So, what does this all mean?

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