Thursday, March 10, 2011

Life before the internet - how much has changed?

Author: Daniel Collins

There's little doubt that the internet has been the single most influential development of recent times, permeating many aspects of peoples' lives. Although the technology often comes under fire or criticism, the improvements it's made to countless people greatly outweigh the drawbacks.

Billions of people around the world now have more convenient and timely access to information than ever before, from the latest news developments to academic resources. But the growth of the internet was fuelled by more than just a thirst for knowledge - with everything from entertainment to peoples' social lives being irrevocably transformed by the technology.

The music industry is just one example, with downloadable MP3s and other file types gradually usurping CDs as the most popular way music is consumed today. However, the major area to have benefited from the growth of the internet is arguably that of communications - from email to instant messaging services and voice calls.

Thanks to email, people can now send and share correspondence without the time delays of traditional postal services, while internet calls can be a much cheaper and more convenient alternative to using landlines and mobiles. Internet calls can also be made using webcams, allowing you to see and better interact with the people you're talking to - something that was previously consigned to the realm of science fiction.

The internet hasn't only improved on existing technologies, of course. Services such as instant messaging and social networks are new developments that couldn't have existed without the internet, and make it easier for people to connect and socialise without having to leave their front door. The world of video games has also been transformed from a solitary and often antisocial activity to a way people can extend their friendships and meet people online.

People who were previously introverted and shy in social environments have flourished on the internet, with forums allowing users to meet like-minded people who share their interests or lifestyles, and dating sites making it easier for people to find their perfect partners. By making it easier to compare prices and find the best deals with a few clicks of a mouse button, the internet has also helped people save money on everything from their weekly grocery shop to serious investments such as cars and property.

While stubborn traditionalists may despair at the prospect, the internet is here to stay - clearly defining the 21st century as a new information age.