Thursday, September 30, 2010

10 reasons you've got to love the internet

It's funny how it was only after the Dot Com bubble that the internet really took off for ordinary people. Lots of crumby online businesses came and went (bankrupt) and we were mainly left with Amazon, eBay and online travel booking. A lot of the good stuff has only really become ingrained since broadband became ubiquitous in the last 5 years. I couldn't believe it when I read YouTube was only 5 years old the other day; it seems to have been around forever. That site is one of my top ten reasons why the net is now ingrained into my life and doing without a connection would be unthinkable, like losing water or electricity. Here's my list (in no particular order) of 10 reasons the internet has made life better:

1. TV on demand
A really recent one this because it was unthinkable just a couple of years ago when there wasn't enough bandwidth to contemplate everybody streaming TV shows over the internet, but now with 4OD, iPlayer and countless others, it is routine to get almost any viewing you want, when you want. Now that these services are being improved and built into TV sets (Virgin already do it) you can never complain again that "there's nothing on". Annoyingly much of the UK material is not streamable in Spain.

2. Settling arguments
There used to be a time when petty arguments over silly things could fester unresolved indefinitely but now the ultimate resolver of disputes is on hand to hand out judgement. I once had a passionate dispute with someone who was convinced that 9/11 occurred in the 90s and it was only when I brought up (several) news reports that they backed down. I have lost plent of arguments in a similar way.

3. Travel
When did you last go to a travel agents? How about checking in online? How much do you think flights would cost today if the internet hadn't happened.

4. Business
The 1980s and Mrs Thatcher did a great deal for small business and entrepreneurs. The internet has done a lot more.

5. Music
The reason I love YouTube so much is purely for music. Think of any song by any artist in any era and it will be there. You can save your favourites and use it like a radio. There's also a ton of music you can download legally and freely. It used to be to discover new music you had to listen to the radio; now you can browse countless sites and see your favourites as well as hear them. And you can listen to any radio station you want.

6. Shopping
My sister has just published a book. It is fantastic and full of recipes for the sort of (mainly) British favourites that I used to enjoy as a kid. I thought I would buy several copies to give away. Problem - the list price is 20£ (it's a big glossy hardback) and the discounted price on Amazon around 13£ I think. But a quick search using Google's Shopping results section and a 7.99£ offer inlcuding delivery popped up. I bought three and they threw in a free book because of a special offer. The book is called Ramblers Rewards and the cheap bookseller TheBookPeople.

7. Blogging
Writing and reading other non-professional opinions is one of the ways the internet has made life more democratic.

8. Reviews
You never have to take a chance on anything these days, be it book, film, product, holiday destination etc. They are all exhaustively reviewed online.

9. Facebook
Say what you like about social networking but it is amazingly easy to keep in touch and make new connections using sites like Facebook.

10. Information for life
Well, of course, I couldn't go without mentioning sites like our's which provide the information you need for doing anything from paying your taxes to fixing your computer to diagnosing that funny pain you've been feeling in your big toe.

That's my list but I am sure everyone will have their own particular ways that the internet works for them.

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