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An important decade for the Web

As web usage has sky rocketed and the ability for people to create and post different kinds of content quickly and easily, this decade has arguably been one of the most important. You will know about the sites that have taken off this decade, as you will undoubtedly use them, but many things have happened that will change the way we use the Internet for ever and how companies and governments use us. Here are my top ten:

Google AdWords

Google AdWords was launched in 2000 and allowed any person or business to access a new advertising space. By creating a self-service advertisement platform companies could target their customers very precisely and tweak and update adverts as and when they see fit along with an easy way to manage their advertising expenditure to boot.

Files sharing copy written materials

This issue seems to be as old as the Internet itself but Napster was sued in December 1999 by the RIAA for technically allowing the transfer of copy written material between its users and it shut down in July 2001.

In the years following many file sharing sites have gone a similar way, one of the most controversial being The Pirate Bay. The servers that run the site have been raided and in recent months, former owners have appeared in court and told to remove links, even though they no longer own the site after selling it in 2006. Prior to this the owners were found guilty of breaking copyright law and given a prison sentence along with a hefty fine. The site however has gathered much support and now a political party named after the site is the third-largest in Sweden.

Blogger Fired

Heather Armstrong was working as a Web designer in Los Angeles when she started writing about her company and co-workers in her blog, Dooce.com. When discovered by her bosses she was fired in 2002, possibly the first person to be fired for blogging.

You would think that people would learn from the mistake made by one person, but apparently not.

The Great Firewall of China

Many countries have been accused of censoring Internet content, the latest being Australia. However, it is China who have perhaps been the most notorious with Barack Obama openly criticising the so called “Great Firewall of China”.

Much of the censorship was uncovered around the time of the 2008 Summer Olympics and banned content includes news sources that include articles about police brutality and freedom of speech. The political and cultural debates are, as you would expect, for too vast to go into here but there is plenty of information on the subject and I would urge you to find out more:

Google Street View

Google Street View allows users to see a 360 degree photo of streets and they can navigate along them within the Google Maps functionality – but this caused worries over privacy.

In order to collect the images various cars with mounted cameras were driven around taking pictures, I even saw one in Scarborough! Within just two days it was alleged that many shady goings on were captured (not in Scarborough I must add) including “pedestrians picking their noses, police attending a fatality, a man climbing into an apartment block and a possible drug deal”.

Google tried to subdue concerns by explaining they have made it easy to flag inappropriate content and stated that they approached organisation such as drug treatment facilities and shelters before taking the images.

It must be noted that Google can remove or edit images though – as detailed in this article. Can’t think why though ;-)

Net Neutrality debate

Again another issue that we haven’t got the opportunity to go fully into here but Net Neutrality basically “prevents Internet providers from blocking, speeding up or slowing down Web content based on its source, ownership or destination”.

It will affect everyday users as ISPs could effectively give preferential treatment to one website or service over another. For instance, people who regularly use bandwidth hungry websites such as YouTube could suffer as their bandwidth is reduced to service other customers. This ability to restrict traffic could also arguably hit competition as ISPs limit sites and services offered by competitors in order to promote their own.

For more information please visit – savetheinternet.com

Rage Against The Machine score Christmas number one

Social media prevails! Fed-up with X Factor’s dominance in the Christmas charts Rage Factor was set-up in order to get Rage Against The Machine’s track “Killing in the name of” to the top-spot at Christmas. On one level it was refreshing to see a genuine race for the top spot and see some original and controversial music prevail but I think it does much more than that. Various Social Media campaigns were set-up, firstly Facebook and then Twitter where people campaigned tirelessly and ultimately made it happen. It shows that the Web is truly staring to take on traditional media. Also don’t forget it was the first download-only number one…..hopefully the CD isn’t dead.

Google Books indexes copy written material

Sure as eggs is eggs every time a new medium starts to take off copyright rears its head as Google found out when it tied to index books and publications that were still under copyright. In 2005 a group of publishers and authors , including giants such as Penguin, tried to sue Google. Finally an agreement was reached that allows out of print books to be accessed digitally through Google or selected universities and libraries.

Facebook change Privacy Policy

For those of us who view such sites with suspicion and understand the damage they can do it was interesting to learn that early in 2009 Facebook updated their “Terms of Service”. The Terms of Service effectively allowed them to retain any content posted by users and ultimately claim ownership of it once it was posted – even if the account and content was deleted. After an outcry from their users, Facebook elected to revert back to their original Terms of Service but they have started to face fresh criticism. They are facing allegations of tricking users into sharing information with the wider web and search engines.

Iran and Twitter

There are more and more examples of social media sites such as Twitter enabling people to promote or change issues they feel strongly about. The internet users of Iran turned to the likes of Twitter to organise themselves and gather support for their views after the 2009 election.

The campaign reached beyond their supporters and moved into mainstream media all over the world – promoting the US Government to ask Twitter to put off a system upgrade to keep the service running.

In summary then it has been an interesting decade with plenty of talking points. As the Internet comes more and more into our everyday lives privacy and freedom of speech will continue to play a major role.

Oh and you can bank on Google to be at the centre of more storms in the next decade.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from everyone at Save9!

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