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How 25 Years of the World Wide Web Have Transformed the Ways We Interact With Technologies and Each Other

spider web

March 12 marks the 25th anniversary of the day Sir Tim Berners-Lee released a paper on what would become the structure of the World Wide Web. After Berners-Lee released the code for his system of linking computers in a user-friendly way, and Web browsers became more sophisticated, the Web as we know it today began to take form. Since then the Web has become one of the most important and easiest to use parts of the internet, adopted by hundreds of millions of people around the world.

To celebrate the advancements that the Web has brought to our lives, the Pew Research Center has released a report on the way Americans’ feelings toward the Web and the internet in general have progressed over time. The Center’s data documents sentiments starting in 1995 and paint a picture of general love of and appreciation for the connectivity the internet and the Web have brought us. Recent data is based on telephone interviews conducted from January 9-12, 2014, among a sample of 1,006 adults.

 

Internet Adoption, 1995-2014

Internet use chart, 1995-2014

87% of American adults now use the internet, compared to 14% in 1995. This number is higher among certain social groups, reaching near-full penetration among those living in households earning $75,000 or more (99%), young adults ages 18-29 (97%) and those with college degrees (97%). Additionally 68% of all adults use mobile devices like smartphones or tablet computers to connect to the internet. Perhaps this is because 90% of adults in the U.S. now own a smartphone!

 

Impact of the Internet

internet: good or bad? chart

In general Pew found that adults view the internet in a positive light. 90% of users said the internet has been a good thing for them personally and 76% said the internet has been a good thing for society.

 

Digital Technologies Becoming Increasingly More Important

hard would it be to give up these technologies

To determine which technologies people value most today, Pew asked survey respondents which basic technologies would be “very hard” to give up. Newer digital technologies seem to be gaining traction while older technologies appear to be falling away.

53% of internet users said the internet would be very hard to give up compared to just 38% in 2006. In total, 46% of all adults said the internet would be very hard to give up. When it came to cell phones, numbers were almost as high. 49% of cell phone owners said their phone would be very difficult to give up, compared to 43% in 2006. 44% of all adults said it’d be very hard to part with their cell phone.

harder to give up digital technologies

Older technologies seem to be losing traction. 35% of adults said it’d be very difficult to part with their television, compared to 44% who said the same in 2006. 28% of landline telephone owners said their phone would be very hard to give up, a close to 50% drop from 48% in 2006. 17% of all adults in 2014 said that their landline phones would be very hard to give up.

 

How the Internet Affects Personal Relationships

impact of online communications on personal relationships

As we all know, online communications like email and social media have greatly changed the way we communicate with friends and family. While knocking on each other’s doors, unexpectedly calling friends to catch up and meeting for a bite to eat used to be the norm, it’s now considered proper to email before visiting, text before calling and meet for a Google+ Hangout instead of meeting at a coffee shop. Given these abrupt changes, do adults feel that online communications have strengthened or weakened their relationships with family and friends?

In general adults seem to agree that online communications have been good for them; 67% say that email, online chatting and the like have strengthened their relationships with family and friends. Interestingly, when Pew broke down responses to this question by demographic, the general proportions remained the same. Regardless of whether a person was a man or a woman, young or old, rich or poor, highly educated or not, they responded that online communications enhanced their personal relationships in a 3-to-1 ratio.

Online social climate: mostly kind chart

When it comes to interpersonal relationships outside of a person’s family or friends, internet users generally find other internet users to be kind. While 76% of internet users said the people they encountered online were mostly kind, only 13% said people were mostly unkind online. Additionally, 56% of internet users report seeing an online group of people come together to help others solve a problem, compared to 25% who report having left an online group because interactions became heated or members were unpleasant to each other.

 
Over the last 25 years the World Wide Web has prompted us to accept the internet into our lives and view it as an indispensable technology. It’s changed not only the way we interact with older technologies like television and landline phones but also the way we interact with strangers, family and friends. I can’t help but wonder what other changes the Web will bring us in the future.

What do you think the next 25 years of the World Wide Web will bring?

Featured image by Anders Ljungberg

 
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