The Internet, Then And Now

Mathieu Yuill

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The Internet has come a long way since it became a part of our day-to-day lives. Gone are the days of the Information Superhighway and - uh-oh - ICQ. Now we can ingest an entire series of a primetime drama in a single weekend (thanks, Amazon and Netflix) and video chat in real time with our family across the country (hello, Skype and FaceTime). GEICO knows this evolution intimately-we were the first to offer 24-hour phone service, and now we have the number one rated mobile app in the industry.

Here are some of the best of today's and the worst of yesteryear's Internet.

Then - AOL CDs:

It felt as if these CDs were mailed out every week when everyone was scrambling to get on the Internet in the '90s. If the amount of free Internet each disc promised was actually true, our grandchildren's grandchildren should never have to pay for Internet access.

Now - Tabbed browsing:
Remember using multiple browser windows for comparison-shopping? No longer, thanks to tabbed browsing. If I don't have 30 tabs open by the end of the day, it means work got more of my productivity than it actually deserves. #AMIRIGHT?

Then - The long, long wait for one photo to load:
"Hey, check out this picture of my kids."
*click*
Waiting...
Waiting...
"Oh, it's a kitten hanging on to a branch with the words 'Hang in there' written in Comic Sans. Cute."
There's no getting that half hour of your life back.

Now - Watching, in real time, as your pizza order is prepared and delivered:
You never have to talk to an actual human being to order a pizza ever again. Now you can watch a status bar progress from preparation through to delivery on a pizza-maker's website. (They just need to enhance it to include the status of your inevitable indigestion.)

Then - Making your own website with Geocities or Angelfire:
Did you want to publish your own movie reviews or share your Beanie Babies collection? The late-'90s Internet was the place for you. Just as long as the text was centered on a starscape background with horizontal rainbow bars between every other paragraph.

Now - The Internet in your hand:
The phone in your pocket (or on your belt, if you're super cool) is more powerful than your desktop from six years ago with that 21-inch CRT monitor that somehow never fell off your desk. And it helps you avoid annoying tasks like leaving your home to find a date.

Then - Email:
A colleague once told me, "There's no way the post office will let you send a letter around the world for free." Well, email didn't deliver CDs from my latest Columbia House order, but it did (somehow) send my message-and it got it right most of the time.

Now - Email:
I've got nothing. While tweaked and given an aesthetic overhaul, email is such a killer idea that it hasn't really changed much since AskJeeves was selling search results to the highest bidder.

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