While the origins of the Internet can be traced back to research that was commissioned by the federal government in the 1960s, it is only in the last two decades that this concept has begun to achieve its full potential. In this time, it has evolved from a disorganized collection of largely specialist academic pages into a global pool of diverse and carefully categorized information, which can be accessed by a network of billions.
Search engine giant Google have played a huge role in overseeing the development of the Internet, especially with regards to how data is categorized and the ease with which it can be accessed. The end result is that the Internet has undergone a number of changes since the start of the 1990s, which have broadened its appeal and the range of tasks that it can be used to undertake on a daily basis.
So what changes have had the most significant impact on the World Wide Web, and how have they influenced business owners, consumers and personal users throughout the world? Consider the following10 innovations that have changed the online realm:
Arguably one of the most high-impact developments of the last fifteen years, e-commerce has revolutionized the way in which consumers shop, reference goods and purchase products. Despite ongoing concerns regarding cyber theft and the ability of online thieves to compromise your security while shopping online, the annual spend in this sector is continuing to rise substantially and reached an estimated $370 billion globally in 2013. The impact has gone far beyond monetary value alone, however, as it has also delivered the ultimate convenience to consumers while also enabling small business owners to diversify their income stream.
2. Local Search and Real-time Marketing
While online marketing is certainly not a new concept, its constantly changing nature means that businesses must be willing to revise their strategies and what constitutes best practice. One of the most significant developments of recent times is the popularization of local search and real-time marketing trends, which encourage brands to target local customers through a series of promotions that are delivered to digital media and mobile devices. This has not only benefited consumers, but it has also afforded business owners an opportunity to develop a loyal and motivated customer base.
3. Organic Online Marketing Trends
While Google’s most recent Panda update may have caused considerable consternation among marketers and webmasters alike, it is the latest in a long line of algorithm changes that have been designed to cultivate organic online marketing trends. Although this resulted in some businesses and commercial websites being penalized for using supposedly ‘black-hat’ SEO techniques, it has at least begun to improve the quality and relevance of content that can be found on specific web pages.
4. Social Media and Professional Networking
While it is well known that the advent of social media has made remote communication more accessible than it has ever been before, it is only recently that it has emerged as a professional networking and marketing tool. This should come as no surprise, however, especially when you consider the vast of global nature of social media’s user base and its potential as a vehicle for driving customer engagement. With business owners now able to strategically market their brand and network through sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, they have an opportunity to broaden their customer base and boost profitability on a global scale.
Historically, funding a business venture was one of the hardest aspects of bringing a creative vision to life. While it remains a challenge for the majority of small business owners, the Great Recession has altered the nature of the lending industry and helped to create a series of flexible financing options. Technology has also been a key driver of this evolution, with crowdfunding a key example of how businesses can seek out finance remotely without offering an equity share to investors.
6. Online Dating
Moving away from the worlds of commerce and business, it is worth noting that the changing nature of the Internet has also had an impact on recreational activities and pastimes. Take the concept of dating, for example, which can now be conducted online through a number of reputable networking sites. Designed to enable busy professionals to find love, they provide a medium through which members can interact and connect with compatible matches. Online dating has become exceedingly popular, and has emerged as a stand-alone industry worth billions.
7. Skype and Real-time Communication for the Modern Age
Long-distance communication used to pose many difficulties, whether people chose to exchange letters or invest in expensive international calls. The enhancement of remote communication skills has helped to negate these issues, however, and this drive culminated in the development of freemium voice-over-IP services such as Skype. Capable of delivering video phone technology and instant messaging, these services have drastically reduced the cost of making international calls and also the hassle of communicating with traveling friends and loved ones.
8. Electronic Payment Methods
While credit and debit cards have been around for a substantial period of time, they embody the most prominent trends in online and electronic payment methods. Cash is no longer the only currency with which products can be purchased, and this offers considerable convenience to customers while also enabling businesses to boost and diversify their existing income streams. The increased capabilities of mobile technology means that modern-day consumers can even pay for items using their smartphones, negating the need to carry around a wallet or excessive credit cards.
9. Online Trading and Investment
For generations, the fast-paced and often harsh world of financial trading has relied on the communication skills of brokers and international service providers. The advent of online trading has changed this, however, with the result that today’s demographic of investors can execute orders remotely using advanced software programs and free to access accounts. This makes it easier than ever to complete real-time transactions and capitalize on breaking economic trends, which should theoretically enable investors to boost their income levels. Although advanced online trading concepts such as HFT (high frequency trading) have caused controversy and been accused of destabilizing the financial markets, this shouldn’t deflect from the fact that investors have been empowered by the evolution of the World Wide Web.
10. Online Gaming
Not only has online gaming begun to rival video game platforms in terms of revenue in recent times, but it has also opened up the entire market to a wider social demographic. This is reflected in the fact that women now account for 47% of all gamers in the U.S., while there are also statistics to suggest that online gaming is playing a pivotal role in modern family life.