10 ways the web and internet have transformed our lives

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10 ways the web and internet have transformed our lives

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As years go, 1989 had its fair share of seminal moments. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the death of Japan's Emperor Hirohito and the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan were some of the landmark events that took place in the final months of the eighties.

It was also in 1989 that a British computer scientist, Tim Berners-Lee, submitted a proposal for a "distributed information system" at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, near Geneva, Switzerland. A year later, the world's first website and server went live at CERN.

Here's 10 ways that both the World Wide Web and internet have transformed the way we live.

  • Search engines

    From AltaVista — which was launched in the mid 1990s and shut down in 2013 — to Google, Yahoo, Baidu and Bing, search engines allow users to enter keywords and sift through billions of websites to find the information they need.

    The number of queries being processed by search engines is huge and Google.com is the web's number one website, with Baidu.com ranking fourth, according to rankings site Alexa.com, a subsidiary of Amazon.

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  • E-commerce

    Websites such as Amazon, eBay and China's Alibaba have helped hasten the transition from street shopping to making purchases from the comfort of your home.

    Today, with the click of a mouse or a simple voice command, a host of items — from oven gloves to groceries and computers to cell phones — can be ordered for home delivery, often on the same day.

  • Social Media

    MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, Flickr… the list of social media sites people use is vast.

    In just a few years, these websites have become many people's medium of choice for sharing their musings, photos, videos and a whole lot more.

    The scale of these organizations is impressive. As of December 31 last year, for example, Facebook had 2.13 billion monthly active users and employed 25,105 people.

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  • Connected homes

    The Internet of Things is starting to have an increasingly important influence over our homes.

    The European Commission describes the internet of things as merging "physical and virtual worlds, creating smart environments."

    Think of devices that are connected to the internet and able to "talk" to one another. One example would be a thermostat in your home that you are able to control with your smartphone from your office.

    More and more homes are also making use of 'virtual assistants' such as Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri and Google's Assistant.

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  • The office

    Today's offices are a world away from the workplaces of 15 or 20 years ago. High-speed internet connections mean that workers have almost instant access to the information they need to do their jobs, while video conference calls and presentations with colleagues on the other side of the world are commonplace.

    Additionally, computers are used for a range of other tasks including sending emails, scheduling meetings and writing memos.

    In some industries, computers are used to carry out complicated and time-consuming tasks such as designing buildings and processing large amounts of data.

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  • Love

    The web and internet have helped revolutionize the way people look for and find love. Algorithms, rather than serendipity, are increasingly being used by people searching for "the one."

    Whether this is a good thing or not is open for a debate. Traditionalists argue that the instantaneous nature of apps and websites devalues relationships. On the other side, advocates of online dating say that, in an increasingly fragmented world, apps and websites make it easier to meet people.

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  • Streaming

    The use of DVDs, CDs and other physical media is in decline as the streaming of content through TVs, tablets and smartphones has become increasingly popular.

    Netflix, for example, now has more than 100 million subscribers, while music streaming service Spotify had more than 70 million subscribers as of January 2018.

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  • Email

    Gone are the days when you would have to wait days, weeks or even months for a letter from a loved one, business partner or friend. Thanks to electronic mail, or email, people can compose a message and send it to their desired recipient in an instant, with billions of messages sent every single day.

    In the U.K., 82 percent of adults sent or received emails in 2017. This made it the "most popular internet activity," according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

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  • Smartphones

    Smartphones have become a crucial part of 21st century life. We use them to carry out a host of tasks, from making phone calls, streaming music and sending emails to watching entire films.

    Our hunger for these devices shows no sign of abating. According to analysis released by IHS Markit in 2017, there will be over 6 billion smartphones in use by 2020.

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  • Online banking

    People all over the world can now make money transfers, pay bills and set up regular payments online. In the U.K., the popularity of internet banking is increasing, with 63 percent of adults using it in 2017, according to the ONS.

    A report published by U.K. Finance in partnership with EY found that 19.6 million people in the U.K. made use of banking apps in 2016, with a staggering 159 logins per second.

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