Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Top 25 Things That Changed the Desktop

Twenty-five years ago the Internet as we now know it was in the process of being birthed by the National Science Foundation. Since then it's been an information explosion. From e-mail to eBay, communication and shopping have forever changed.

By Barrett Lyon,

1 World Wide Web

Tim Berners-Lee created user-friendly “Web pages” that could travel over the Internet, a network built to shuttle research between universities. The world logged on: 747 million adults in January.

2 E-mail

Tech’s answer to the Pony Express . Programs such as 1988’s Eudora made it easy to use. In-boxes have been filling up ever since. Nearly 97 billion e-mails are sent each day.

3 Graphical user interface (GUI)

Most computer displays were blinking lines of text until Apple featured clickable icons and other graphic tools in its 1984 Mac. Microsoft’s Windows took GUI — pronounced “gooey” — to the masses.

By Mark Lennihan, AP


AOL turned people on to Web portals, chat rooms and instant messaging. Early subscribers paid by the hour. AOL once boasted 35 million subscribers. It bought Time Warner for $106 billion in 2001.

5 Broadband

The answer to the drip-drip-drip of dial-up, high-speed Internet service fuels online entertainment. About 78% of home Internet users in the U.S. have broadband, up from less than 1% in 1998.

6 Google

So popular it’s a verb. The search powerhouse, with a market capitalization of nearly $149 billion, perfected how we find info on the Web. Google sites had nearly 500 million visitors in December.

7 Mosaic/Netscape

Created by Marc Andreessen and others, Mosaic was the first widely-used multimedia Web browser. Spin-off Netscape Navigator ruled the ‘90s until Microsoft’s Internet Explorer took off around ‘98.

8 eBay

Thanks to eBay, we can all now buy and sell almost anything (skip the body parts). eBay has 230 million customers worldwide who engage in 100 million auctions at any given time.



Jeff Bezos’ baby began as an always-in-stock book seller. It survived the tech bubble and now is the definitive big box online store. It was the second most-visited online retailer in December, after eBay.

10 Wi-fi

Have coffee shop, will compute: Wireless fidelity lets us lug our laptops out of the office and connect to the Net on the fly. More than 200 million Wi-Fi equipped products sold last year.

11 Instant Messaging

LOL! Web surfers began to “laugh out loud” and BRB (“be right back”) in the mid-‘90s, with the launch of ICQ and AOL Instant Messenger. Millions use it to swap messages and photos, even telephone pals.

By John Makely, AP

12 Yahoo!

Stanford University graduate students Jerry Yang and David Filo created this popular Web portal in 1994. It remains a favorite for email, photo sharing (it owns Flickr) and other services.


13 Compuserve/Prodigy

In the 1980s, they became the first mainstream companies to offer consumer Internet access. CompuServe was more for the geek set; Prodigy was more for the masses.

14 The Well

The precursor for social networking, the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link, founded in 1985, was the original (now longest-running) virtual community. It gained popularity for its forums.

15 Vices

Regulators scrapped plans for a .xxx domain, but vice remains one of the Net’s biggest businesses. Online gambling, illegal in the U.S., topped $12 billion last year; online porn was $2.84 billion. Searches for “Paris Hilton video” return about a million hits.

By David Rae Morris, USA TODAY

16 Spam/Spyware

Unsolicited e-mail, and software that watches your Web habits, mushroomed from annoyance to menace. Junk e-mail now accounts for more than 9 of every 10 messages sent over the Internet.

17 Flash

Adobe’s Flash player is on 98% of all computers. Seen a video on YouTube or MySpace? Then you’ve probably used Flash. It animated the Web, spawning zillions of online cartoons and videos.

18 Online mapping tools

MapQuest started saving marriages in 1996 by offering turn-by-turn directions. Followers such as Yahoo and Google beam directions to cellphones and offer satellite images of neighborhoods.

19 Napster

Created in Shawn Fanning’s dorm room, Napster let more than 26 million people tap into a free database of music. Record companies shut it down. In its wake emerged legitimate download sites, such as Apple’s iTunes.


20 YouTube

The video-sharing site, bought by Google in 2006 for $1.65 billion, ignited a user-generated revolution online and introduced millions to the delights of Stephen Colbert, Chad Vader and Lonelygirl15.

21 The Drudge Report

Matt Drudge’s news site helped break the Monica Lewinsky story in 1998, paving the way for politically-minded bloggers everywhere. He claims to have about 500 million visitors a month.

22 Bloggers

The more than 75 million Web logs have changed how the world gets its news. Bloggers have challenged the traditional media, lobbied for and against wars, started debates, and posted far too many pictures of their pets.

23 Craigslist

Craig Newmark’s gathering place for (mostly) free classified ads changed the way we find apartments, cars and dates. The site relies on users who supply friendly neighborhood information—about 14 million ads a month.

24 MySpace

This online hangout has replaced the mall as a home away from home for teenagers. The site has more than 173 million personalized pages. News Corp paid $580 million for it in 2005.


25 Gaming and virtual worlds

More than 19 million globally pay to explore three-dimensional Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games such as World of Warcraft and virtual communities such as Second Life, which let players do business or just hang out. Both use the easy connections fostered by the Web to build communities.