Sunday, 30 January 2011

What makes the 21st century different from the 20th century?

What makes the 21st century different from the 20th century?

By Abhay K.

What makes the 21st century different from the 20th century? One word answer to this question is most likely to be Internet. Perhaps this is true to a great extent. From Google to WikiLeaks, Internet has made the difference in our everyday lives. But who are the people behind these novel and revolutionary websites which have come to define Internet itself? What's their background and inspiration? Let's look back at the movers and shakers of the 21st century as Wikipedia- World's free encyclopedia celebrated its 10th Birthday on 15th January this year.

Google began as a research project by Larry page & Sergey Brin in January 1996. Both aged 37 now, were just 23 when they started Google. The domain name 'Google' which was actually a misspelling of word 'Googol' -meaning a hundred zeros after one, was registered in September 1997. Its first server was located in a garage in California and it originally ran as a sub domain of Stanford University website. Since then Google has found a special niche is our lives living up to its motto of making the world's information universally accessible and useful.

Blog is abbreviated form of weblog (we blog). The term was first coined by Peter Merholz in 1999. The same year popular blog hosting websites such as Live-Journal as well as Blogger were founded. Blogger was founded by Evan Williams and Meg Hourihan. Evan Williams who later became the co-founder of Twitter was in his late twenties at the time he started Blogger.Blogs since then have revolutionized the publishing world with more than 110 million blogs active and alive in the blogosphere today.

Wiki is a Hawaiian word which means quick and in technological parlance stands for collaborative creation. Wikipedia was started in 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger. Both of them were in their thirties at the time of launching of wikipedia website. Since then it has never looked back. It has 17 million articles written by millions of volunteers. This is the greatest collaborative project in human history. As Wikipedia turned 10 on 15th January this year, its 10th birthday was celebrated in several cities across India and the world over.

Facebook is a social networking site with more than 500 million registered users and this number is growing viral everyday. It was started by Mark Zuckerburg at the Harvard University in February 2004 when he was just 20. The name Facebook originates from the colloquial name of the book given to university students in their first year by the university administrators so that they get to know each other better. In the beginning it was only started for the Harvard students but since its launch in 2004 it has gone viral.The movie 'Social Network' tells the story of how the idea of Facebook came to Mark's mind and developed further.

Flickr is a popular website for posting photographs. Flickr was founded in February 2004 by a Vancouver based company Ludicorp and now is believed to have 5 billion images. Images uploaded on Flickr are widely used in the blogs and in social media sites.

You Tube made it possible for anyone with Internet connection to post videos to a worldwide audience within minutes. It has become the third most visited website after Google and Facebook since its creation in February 2005 by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim. All the three now in their early thirties, were in their twenties when they started one of the most innovative companies on Internet. 'Me at the Zoo' was the first You Tube video uploaded on 23rd April 2005 which featured Jawed Karim- one of the founders of the website. Millions of users upload and share videos on You Tube everyday.

Twitter was started in March 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams and Biz Stone. All of them were in their early thirties when they started Twitter. It has close to 200 million subscribers and generates 65 million tweets a day. Twitter has changed the way top statesmen as well as organizations share information. It has added to democratization of information distribution. Within a short span Twitter users include several Presidents, Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers as well as several Government Organizations.

WikiLeaks was launched in 2007 by a number of dissidents, mathematicians and technologists. WilkiLeaks has nothing to do with wikipedia or wikimedia foundation as most of us would think. It derives its inspiration from article 19 of Universal declaration of human rights i.e. freedom of opinion and expression regardless of frontiers. WikiLeaks publishes news leaks from unidentified and anonymous news sources. It offers a new model of journalism which works without profit motives. It has become controversial lately because of the cablegate and activities of its director Julian Assange.

Looking at these innovative initiatives in the cyber world which are changing our lifestyles in an unprecedented manner it becomes clear that our world is being shaped by the young and the innovative at a pace unknown in human history. Facebook, founded in 2004 with more than 500 million registered users and Twitter, founded in 2006 with close to 200 million users are classic examples. This is just the first decade of the 21st century, we have ahead of us nine decades of innovative zeal and entrepreneurship.

Views expresses are personal.


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