When I first hopped online, it was 1995. I had yet to turn 8 years old and my parents had just purchased our first desktop computer, an IBM Aptiva. Life was fairly exciting for several reasons: First, I could surf Microsoft Encarta to absorb all the encyclopaedic knowledge there was to gain and second, I could access the Internet. One of my earliest experiences was waiting for a video from a children’s television show to load — back then, a 3-minute video took about 15 minutes (or more) to fully buffer.
Patience, as you can imagine was absolutely a virtue.
In 1995, the Internet was still very nascent. Just four years old, it was already proving its staying power with the launch of online properties including Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, and the forthcoming record initial public offering (IPO) of Netscape. Holdovers from the ’80s including bulletin-board systems were popular as well, offering “netizens” the opportunity to connect with people around the world to discuss everything from the latest video games to politics to travel. If one was even lucky or interested, they could have themselves an email address.
Two decades on, the evolution of the web comes across as both astounding and breathtaking. Amazon, eBay, and Yahoo are now iconic websites that continue to flourish while the legacy of Netscape lives on in various modern browsers. Bulletin board systems remain though many have chosen to take to Facebook to connect with others and YouTube is now the world’s second largest search engines with 3-minute videos loading in mere seconds. With so many changes, it led me to ask how web content had changed over the past few years.
Change #1: The Rise of the Citizen Journalist
One of my first websites was built on GeoCities. Though a relic of the past now, GeoCities was one of the earliest places where one could build a fully functioning website hosted by Yahoo. While users had to trudge through a sea of GIFs and music-laden backgrounds, the opportunity to create a website, learn HTML, and place a piece of oneself online was in itself, groundbreaking. With my own website, I had the opportunity to be creative while exploring what technology had to offer — I, after all, did grow up in Silicon Valley. Several years later in high school, I would migrate to Xanga, then LiveJournal, and finally WordPress.
What I and millions of others were partaking in was the rise of the citizen journalist. While the mainstream media has long been considered the bellwether for content, the advent of blogging really created the opportunity for everyday people to share their thoughts, provide alternative thoughts, and influence others around the world. Combined now with social media platforms and portal software, the power of the citizen journalist will only grow.
Change #2: The Post-Literacy Era
Two decades ago, video content was not only difficult to create but also costly to store. While the cost of a 1 GB USB stick costs 10 cents today, the same ran for $1,600 back in 1995. As a result, many stuck to the basics: images and text.
The creation of YouTube in 2005 combined with the subsequent popularity of smartphones and mobile devices has changed how individuals consume content online. Recent data shows that adults spend as much as 5.5 hours a day on video content, suggesting that people would rather watch than read. From time to time, I will even start my day by watching video summaries of news stories, versus reading long-form articles.
Change #3: The Connected Experience
I remember when I sat with my mother on her trips to run errands as a child. Alongside our trips would be paper maps and printed directions to get from point A to point B. If we wanted to see something online, it would all be done at home or at a local library, if they were lucky enough to had hooked their computers to the web. In essence, the analog life worked, but if things changed, would also be very inconvenient.
In the new age of web content, experiences are now connected. I am now connected to the web 24/7 if I want, and can now leave my maps and printouts at home in favor of Google Maps and Waze. With a connected experience unifying my online and offline experience, I’m able to engage, discover, and consume content in different bite-sized pieces with not only web browser-based experiences but also mobile applications.
How have your web experiences changed over the years? Share your thoughts in the comments below and join us at Liferay NA Symposium this September 26-27 in Chicago. Details of the event can be found at: https://web.liferay.com/web/events2016/northamerica/
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