The Top 10 Internet Moments of the Decade

The Webby Awards' most influential moments of since 2000.

November 18, 2009, 12:09 PM

Nov. 19, 2009— -- Remember when we had to flip through the Sunday classifieds to find an apartment or used car? Or use an encyclopedia to look up the capital of an Eastern European country?

Thanks to the Internet, we now have Craigslist, Google, Wikipedia and more to help us find and organize the information we need to live our daily lives. But 10 years ago, nobody knew just how powerful they would become.

The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, which gives out the Webby Awards, has now announced its list of the 10 most influential Internet moments of the decade.

Usually, the awards, which were founded in 1996, recognize individual Web sites, online ads or film and video. But now the academy, hailing the Internet as "the story of the decade," has recognized the milestones that most contributed to cultural change.

"We were looking at events that reshaped the Internet, that actually reshaped people's lives," said David Michel Davies, executive director of the Webby Awards. "These are really things that touch regular people's lives in a day-to-day way."

These 10 events, he said, most demonstrate the Internet's ability to upend old systems and distribute more power to everyday people.

Here they are:

1. Craiglist Expands Outside San Francisco (2000)

Although Craig Newmark started Craigslist in 1995 as an e-mail list for friends and co-workers about San Francisco Bay Area events, it became a true Internet force in 2000.

In that year, the free classifieds site expanded to nine additional U.S. cities, threatening local newspapers' longtime monopoly on classified advertising.

Now Craigslist serves more than 700 cities in 70 countries, providing free listings for jobs, apartments and nearly everything else under the sun.

2. Google AdWords Launches (2000)

Larry Page and Sergey Brin incorporated Google in 1998, but it was in 2000 that it found its main source of revenue: Google AdWords, which lets businesses of all sizes post ads on Google.

The pay-per-click system "turned advertising on its head," the Webby Awards said in a statement. "The self-service ad program opened up the marketplace to any business, no matter how big or small, and allowed advertisers to target their customers with laser-sharp precision."

3. Wikipedia Launches (2001)

Launched in 2001, the free user-generated online encyclopedia quickly became the reference site of choice for Internet users.

By the end of its first year, it had 20,000 articles in 18 languages. It reached its one millionth article in 2006. Today, it has more than 14 million articles in 271 languages.

4. Napster Shutdown (2001)

The popular music-sharing Web site was shut down in 2001, but according to the Webby Awards, it "opened the file-sharing floodgates." From Hulu to iTunes, Napster led to myriad new ways to get music and video.

5. Google's IPO (2004)

In 2004, Google sold shares to the public for the very first time, turning the company's earliest employees into millionaires. Since then, the company has become one of the most influential companies on the planet, changing people's lives with its search engine, Gmail, Google Earth, Google Maps, YouTube and Google Android smart-phone software.

Online Video, Facebook, iPhone Change the Way We Communicate

6. Online Video Revolution (2006)

What happens when you combine faster bandwidth, cheaper camcorders and YouTube's video player? According to the Webby Awards, that "perfect storm" in 2006 launched the online video revolution.

From lonelygirl15 to Obama Girl to British singing sensation Susan Boyle, online videos have changed the way we see politics and pop culture and everything in between.

7. Facebook Opens to Noncollege Students and Twitter Takes Off (2006)

Mark Zuckerberg started the popular social network when he was a Harvard student in 2004. Facebook's big moment came in September 2006.

That's when it opened its doors to anyone over 13 who had a valid e-mail address. Now it has about 300 million members around the world, about half of whom check in daily, Davies said.

In the same month, the founders of a little company called Twitter reacquired the struggling Web site from their investors.

Sound like a dry business transaction? Davies said it was a turning point.

"The founders who actually created it realized the potential and brought it back that fall. They recognized what it was, and had they not done that, I don't know if it would have become what it is today."

8. Apple's iPhone Debuts (2007)

On June 29, 2007, Apple's smart phone went on sale, making wireless Internet access accessible to millions of people. In 74 days, Apple sold a million phones. Now more than 40 million users access the Internet from iPhone and iPod touch models. Millions of others go online with BlackBerries and other mobile devices.

"The mobile Internet is becoming a much more important part of the world today," said Davies. "The iPhone debut in 2007 is the beginning of that. You could look at the launch of the iPhone as a precursor of what's to come."

Internet Plays Key Role in Political Events

9. The U.S. Presidential Campaign (2008)

The 2008 election was one for the history books -- and the Internet played a starring role.

Voters were energized through social networks. Political ads migrated from traditional media to YouTube. Candidates funded their campaigns with online fundraising from small donors.

"The Internet altered presidential politicking in 2008 as television had 40 years earlier during the Kennedy-Nixon race," The Webby Awards said in a statement. "Every facet of the way campaigns are run was permanently transformed."

10. Iranian Election Protests (2009)

When hundreds of thousands of Iranians poured into the streets this summer to protest their election results, it was quickly called the Twitter revolution.

Iranians by the thousands Tweeted, Facebooked, blogged, video-streamed and posted on scores of Web sites to share the events with the rest of the world, thwarting government attempts to censor coverage of postelection violence.

Twitter in particular appeared so powerful that the U.S. State Department even asked the micro-blogging service to delay a scheduled network upgrade to ensure Tweeting Iranians wouldn't lose access.

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