If you were to make a list of the ten most life-changing technological achievements in human history, it would be very difficult not to include the Internet on that list. The World Wide Web has changed so much of how we interact with one another and conduct business that it might well be the single most significant development in human history, or at the very least one of them.
Sometimes, though, it can be tricky to boil down exactly how the Internet and the World Wide Web have shaped the way we live our lives, and how they continue to do so on a daily basis. Any exhaustive list would run into the millions of words, so we’ve tried to be brief. Here’s a handy list of 8 ways in which the Internet has changed the way we live.
Finance and banking
Prior to the Internet’s arrival, banking was done face-to-face or over the phone with a human. Nowadays, a huge amount of the banking we do is automated, with browser-based and app-based banking dominating personal and business transactions, as well as advice services. Internet-only banks now exist, with high-street branches simply containing tablets and desktop PCs through which customers can conduct business. That’s not even scratching the surface of Internet-based cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and the dissolution of paper money. The Internet has fundamentally changed the financial landscape forever.
With the advent of the Internet, more and more people have been forsaking the traditional 9 to 5 job in favour of self-employment. There are plenty of ways to make a tidy packet online, whether that be through selling crafts online or blogging with affiliate marketing. One landscape that has been forever altered by the Internet is trading, with excellent services like Forex Trading Expert offering customers easy ways to start foreign exchange trading and Wall Street stock trading. It’s never been easier to start your own business venture.
Communication and social media
Where once we called each other on actual phones (yes, we know) or sent letters, now we email one another or chat via instant messenger services provided by Facebook and the like. Social media has made communication between human beings instantaneous; we can now talk to one another around the globe at the drop of a hat. We can even make new friends using video chat apps and establish connections with others without having to leave our home! Our lives and the essence of what we are can now be digitised and presented via online social media profiles, and services like Twitter make debate and conversation more lively and stimulating than it’s ever been.
Although the single-player gaming experience is still alive and well, the prospect of online multiplayer has completely transformed the gaming landscape. Then you have the heavy hitters like Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2, which takes open world to new heights. Titles like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft take full advantage of the possibilities which online gaming offers; Call of Duty allows players around the world to compete with one another for prestige and dominance, while World of Warcraft presents a living, breathing world which changes holistically based on the collective actions of its players. Throw in digital-only storefronts and it’s impossible to deny the impact of the Internet on gaming. Speaking of which…
When was the last time you physically visited a High Street store? Your answer to that might well be “recently”, but our bet is that you do most of your shopping online now. While retail emporia like UK clothing store Primark and US supermarket chain Wal-Mart still thrive thanks to having High Street-friendly merchandise, sites like eBay and Amazon offer low-cost marketplaces which connect people directly and cut out the corporate middleman (in theory, at least). Amazon has become the go-to place for obscure paraphernalia, while eBay is still the last word in peer-to-peer shopping for many people. Getting quick cash isn’t totally reliant on services such as online lenders, since certain online stores provide credit from where you can pay your shopping off gradually at a low rate, one such example is Very.
It’s definitely possible to argue that memes existed prior to the invention of the Internet; there are shared-consciousness cartoons and phrases which have been graffitied on walls since time immemorial. The birth of the Internet, though, saw the widespread proliferation of memes, which are difficult to quantify but definitely “a thing” (they’ve even influenced political elections). Many moments in popular culture exist only because the Internet does, and public figures are now turning to the Internet in order to win influence and market products.
Services such as Spotify, YouTube and Amazon’s Kindle ebook repository have completely changed the game when it comes to the way we consume media. Music video TV channels still exist, but they’ve been almost completely replaced in most people’s lives by YouTube and similar video streaming services, while music streaming apps like Spotify are now the norm when it comes to listening to music. Physical book sales remain fairly robust, but the accessibility and convenience of an ebook reader are hard to deny.
It might be difficult to envision how a solely sedentary medium like the Internet has revolutionised travel, but think about every time you’ve turned to Google Maps when you need to figure out where you’re going, or every time you’ve utilised Airbnb for cheap accommodation when travelling abroad. Think, too, about every restaurant and attraction which proudly displays a TripAdvisor label of excellence, and you’ll understand the myriad ways in which the Internet has influenced the way we visit other countries (and places within our own countries).