This year, 2009 and an entire digital decade is drawing to a close. It has been ten years of accelerated digital evolution - let's look back:
The millennium turned with the tremours of the dot-com bubble and a search engine called Google emerging.
Soon thereafter Napster rocked the world with its music sharing and, while it got rapped over the knuckles and shut down, it paved the way for Internet technology that turned the music industry on its head. Enter left stage: iTunes.
The commercialization of the web continued during this decade - who remembers that the culture of the web in the 90s was still collaborative and largely non-commercial? This past decade buying and spending online have made us fearless with booking our travel on the web. Boarding passes are now emailed to smart phones - no more paper.
Speaking of which - 2001 introduced the Blackberry, the first really small handheld device that received email. Adding wireless modems to most computing devices meant that desktop computers and laptops largely gave way to netbooks in Starbucks or anywhere a signal can be accessed. Today, the receiving device can be anything from an iPod, a smart phone, a TV game console or an ultra light notebook. I thought I was really futuristic when I predicted that any device that can have a screen, such as a fridge, will ultimately access the Internet - only to be told it already existed.
Today, with the iPhone an almost indispensable item, it is hard to imagine that the device that would revolutionize our digital consumption, the iPod digital music player, entered our worlds only in 2001. The introduction of multi-touch screen browsing perfected the experience to the all encompassing digital partner that the iPhone would become.
Netbooks and Cloud Computing
2005 started a new mission: One Child One Laptop. This initiative launched research into affordable technologies that in 2008 manifested it in smaller and smaller portable computers - netbooks. Of course offering less storage space, these netbooks encourage an increased movement to storing information "in the clouds" - a term used for remote storage of files that is who-knows-or-cares-where. What to do with my floppy disks and zip disks, when I can no longer find a disk drive to access them?
Search and Wikis
Search Engine algorithms changed the consumption of information - writing became all about keywords and phrases. The vast impact of search on our society is a topic for a blog post all on its own but let's suffice to say it introduced a whole new economic model - freeconomy. Online services became free to the consumer because search engine advertisers picked up the tab.
Microsoft recently announced the termination of its encyclopedia software, Encarta. This is just one more sign of change - wikis and search engines provide the information we look for, resulting in the death of the encyclopedia.
In 2007 Google officially took over from Microsoft as the world's most powerful brand. It continues its quest to deliver amazing tools online for free in exchange for advertiser dollars. Google's Adsense led the way with paid online search advertising, followed by competitors Yahoo and Microsoft's Bing.
VOIP or Voice-Over-IP was made available to the masses with the launch of Skype in 2003, changing how we use the telephone. People now had access to a free way of making online phone calls - via the Internet.
Social Media and Web 2.0: From Consumer to Co-Creator
When the decade reached its halfway mark, things started speeding up with a wave of innovation, broadly referred to as web 2.0.
The latter part of the 2000s accelerated a movement of sharing and exposing our lives online. Facebook and MySpace became the poster kids for social media and networking online. 2006 brought another milestone with the launch of YouTube, making online video accessible to the masses.
In 2000 web content was at the mercy of the webmaster. From 2007 onwards the user-experience increasingly became an experience of co-creating rather than merely consuming - starting with blogs, online photo albums, interactive maps, content management systems and social network sites. The new abbreviation was UGC - user-generated content.
This decade in review would not be complete without a look at how the delivery of news has been impacted. The unexpected unsuccessful 2001 marriage of AOL and Time Warner hinted at what was to come... Radio and TV moving online and traditional news producers such as BBC and CNN integrating the web in their news delivery. The jury is still out on how to make this pay. The demise of the printed news made space for media rich interactive online conversation.
The first generation born with a computer in their homes, starts entering the work force. Social media has become a lifestyle: creating content, sharing and creating mashups from content published by others and having online conversations.
Our vocabulary has been enriched with verbs such as googling, friending, tagging, trending, tweeting, flirtexting and facebooking.
Mobile marketing is becoming main stream through the use of "apps" - little miniature programs loaded onto smart phones that can do stuff for us - from recommending wine with our meal to playing games on our phones to shopping online.
This is the tip of the 2000 - 2009 digital iceberg - there is so much more. "What is coming for the next decade?" you may ask. Any answer would merely be a guess but, judging by trends these past years, the Internet would likely continue to become more accessible, smaller, faster, more innovative and participative.
So before we hit 1 January 2010 I am off to plan my digital party - hitting the surf on Google Wave and breaking new ground. That is just after posting this blog, checking my web stats, doing my daily tweet, checking for innovative new talks on ted.com and seeing who is on Facebook this morning. What a decade!