Today, as we approach half the world's citizens connected to each other, it's clear that the late 20th and early 21st centuries are going to mark a new era in the history books, the first time when all of humanity was connected to each other--and thanks to large scale social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and other regional networks, we can actually find each other.
The impact of the internet on my life is immense. It's like asking the impact of electricity. I'd even argue that I'd rather do without electricity than without the internet. By lowering the cost of communication, and unleashing the individual voice, the internet's impact is a unparalleled in all human history, and is giving rise to a new revolution that's rapidly changing human society.
I'd like to mention a word about internet culture, which can reasonably be seen as an extension of previously defined cyberculture. I believe the internet has had a number of huge impacts on how we exist on this planet: - Though language barriers exist, we can actually see "the other". That is, what had been a world filled by nationalistic, ethnocentric perspectives, well into the 20th century, we see, with rises in connectivity, greater degree of understanding, compassion, and recent geopolitical destabilizations aside, general reduction in interstate conflict. That national heads of state nations proclaiming their national will to the world on the same platform that Justin Bieber and Tila Tequila rant on is both, or for that matter, you or I, is quite amazing.
The successful scaling of the internet from tens of millions in the 90s to billions today, is an incredible achievement. This is even more so considering that instead of hypertext and simple GIFs, we're moving gigabytes a day. (I'm sure in a decade, this number will seem laughably small)
Thank you, Internet.
It was 1995 and I was 10, and via MSN, which back then was a decent dial-up internet service provider (and a PC-centric alternative to AOL, with more class than CompuServe). I had first gotten access to the internet and while living in South Korea, I became part of the 0.4% of the world population for whom national barriers had little meaning. Being connected to the then-named "information superhighway" meant that I could access information from anywhere in the world, at a pace and depth that I wanted.
Things were different then, MSN (like AOL) was mostly a top-down published experience, and I hadn't yet explored the world wide web. I actually remember once using the just launched Internet Explorer to see the "WWW" and being turned off by the bland pages and confusing navigation framework (there was none). I did however, find a good array of pages and sites on MSN devoted to interests of mine, and at that point, I was a budding PC gamer, and quickly connected with online communities for map making and save-game sharing. At the time, it was Doom, Sim City 2000, and later Warcraft II maps that I would share and publish. PC gamers were some of the first true devotees to internet culture, partly because of the nerd-level required to thoroughly maximize your gaming experience, but also because PC gaming generally is about tinkering and playing around in ways that encouraged experimentation and early adoption of technology.
Go check out the Way Back Machine and the nostalgic days of the 90s internet returns to me. Looking at the early internet is like looking back into childhood, remembering the days of buzzing dial-up models with speeds measured in kbps; where a 25 MB patch would take all night to download. Those were the days.