Could You Imagine a World Without the Internet?

Posted on: 18 March 2021

Obviously, the world survived without the internet for eons. However, society is so used to being able to go online now that imagining today's world if the internet and World Wide Web had never been developed is hard to do. Even for older people who were adults before the advent of email and online shopping, it's become jarring to think about society now and back when typewriters and snail-mail were completely normal because these two ways of life are so drastically different.

The internet was created through government- and education-based research. Email was invented at MIT in 1971 and ARPANET connecting university and government computers in 1973. Several predictions were made early on, and some of them were right on the money about how the internet would evolve and life would change. Read on to learn more about internet commercialization history. 

Public Use Predicted Back in the Early 1960s

Both Marshall McLuhan and Isaac Asimov predicted that technology and society would merge in the field of communications. McLuhan predicted back in 1962 in his book The Gutenberg Galaxy that the flow of information would be constant, and everyone would have constant access to this constant flow. In 1983, Asimov was asked by the Toronto Star about what he thought 2019 would be like, and he predicted that people would have a "mobile computerized object" that was almost necessary for everyday life.

Public Use vs. Commerce

Public use of the internet became more common in the late 1980s when Barry Shein, a former student who still had internet access, started the first internet service provider to connect other alumni who no longer had access to the internet. At that time, the National Science Foundation's NSFNet, which was providing universities with internet access, was not yet commercialized, but Shein's venture was a factor in the NSF eventually letting the network go commercial. In the early- to mid-1990s, web browsers were introduced, allowing companies to set up individual websites. Some of these included rudimentary shopping carts for products.

The Future Didn't Always Look so Bright

As the internet grew, more predictions came out about where it might go. Jeff Bezos had some pretty spot-on predictions in the late 1990s, including predicting that people would shift to buying most things online. But in 1995, astronomer Clifford Stoll made some negative predictions about what the web would be like that, well, didn't turn out the way he thought it would.

Stoll didn't think the web would really go anywhere in terms of commerce, claiming that companies made promises of one day having instant shopping, online deals, and online ordering for just about everything. But when Stoll looked around, in-person commerce was doing better business. If you're a company looking to do online business, it's wise to study these predictions and stay ahead of the curve.