This month the web is 15 years old and in that short time it has revolutionised the way we live, from shopping to booking flights, writing blogs to listening to music. John Naughton lists what he considers are the 15 most influential websites to date in today's Observer: Websites that changed the world
Top of his list is eBay.com, followed by online encyclopaedia wikipedia.com. Third comes napster.com, the music file sharing website, followed by the video-sharing network, youtube.com. Weblog publishing system blogger.com, comes in fifth. As Naughton puts it:
The strangest thing is how casually we have come to take it for granted. We buy books from Amazon, airline tickets from Easyjet and Ryanair, tickets for theatres and cinemas online, as if doing so were the most natural thing in the world. We check the opening times at the Louvre in Paris or the Museum of Modern Art in New York (or browse their collections) online. We check definitions (and spellings) in online dictionaries, look up stuff in Wikipedia, search for apartments to rent on Craigslist or a host of local lookalikes such as Daft.ie in Ireland.
You can buy and sell just about anything (excluding body parts) on eBay. Children seeking pictures for school projects search for them on Google Images (and download them without undue concern for intellectual property rights). Holiday snaps escape from their shoeboxes and are published to the world on Flickr. Home movies likewise on YouTube. And of course anyone with doubts about a prospective blind date can do an exploratory check on Google before committing to an evening out with a total stranger.
Note: Sites mentioned above without links are not in the top 15, while six that were listed are not mentioned: friendsreunited.com, drudgereport.com, myspace.com, slashdot.org, salon.com and yahoo.com
I recall surfing with Mosaic on my university terminal in the early 1990s. Back then it was mainly about email, finding information and fun sites. Web design was appalling, finding things was hit and miss (even with Yahoo), and surfing the net from home meant long waits. Sometimes if I'd opened up a few new pages I'd go and make a cup of tea while they loaded.
These days I research trips and book most of my travel and accommodation online. I order most of my books and some CDs online. I use the internet intermittently throughout my working day - looking up papers, academics, events, news releases... I listen to streaming radio and music on my laptop. I check newspaper and magazine sites. I email. And I blog, of course. i cannot imagine life without the internet.
In another 15 years time I expect there will be plenty more to interest, excite, entertain and shock us.