There is a world before the Internet and a world after. In Italy everything was consumed in 5 years, from 1996 to 2001. A moment before everyone with those heavy cordless phones, a moment later everyone chatting and downloading on Napster.
Is the Internet among the technologies that have changed the world? In a certain way, yes. Our days, our way of seeing life, of socializing, our habits.
The end of this decade is also approaching, and since then there has not yet been an invention with such a significant impact on our lives. Nonetheless, over the past 10 years, mass factors have emerged that have also significantly changed our habits.
Here are at least three technologies that have changed the world over the past decade, plus a look at how things could change as we move on to the next.
Netflix and streaming services
I'll say it right away: OK, Netflix is technically ten years older, but its rise to glory is the kind of service they've come in this decade.
Netflix was founded in 1997, when the idea of streaming a full-length movie over the Internet was just a pipe dream. At the time, it offered DVD mail-order rentals, a fairly new and affordable concept by XNUMXs standards.
Blockbuster is known to have had the option of acquiring the company at first, for $ 50 million, but turned down the offer. It sounds ridiculous now, but at the time a giant like Blockbuster, with stores all over the country, didn't perceive Netflix as a threat at all, with only 300.000 customers.
Today, of course, Blockbuster is practically annihilated with a handful of stores in the US alone, while Netflix has approximately 60 million subscribers nationwide and 140 million worldwide.
The now infamous Netflix streaming service was launched in 2007: progress has been slow and only since 2010 has the service started to walk on its own legs. It took 6 years to catch on and only in 2013 did it implement the service more or less as we know it now.
Directly created content, such as House of Cards and Orange is the new Black (stuff for the boys of Serious things except Toni who can't write), self-produced films with Hollywood talent including Will Smith and Sandra Bullock, a broader offering. Today the original contents make up more than half of its library. And in the meantime it has seen the birth of many "little brothers": Hulu, Amazon, Apple, Disney and others.
With thousands of hours of content just a click away, the walk to the video rental shop is prehistoric.
Siri & Company
Who among us doesn't have an AI voice assistant somewhere, be it Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana, Alexa Amazon, Google's nameless assistant, or Samsung's… er… Bixby? Siri was undoubtedly the first love. It arrived on the iPhone in 2010 as a standalone app. Apple subsequently bought the technology and integrated it into its phones, starting with the iPhone 4.
Today of course we consider it obvious to squawk the commands on our devices to get an immediate response. With the ability to control music, lighting, TVs and ovens with one simple sentence, it's easy to feel like you're in a science fiction show. We also have smart speakers, which means many of us have virtual assistants who are always listening and ready to answer our requests.
Of course, this has led to some problems. Privacy concerns have haunted smart assistants, with revelations that companies do they are using human workers to listen to some recordings.
In the future, voice assistants will be added to even more devices, becoming even more popular, smarter and more grounded in our daily lives. Unfortunately, many will talk to Siri and Alexa more than their family members. And companies know it, for this (copying past experiences that ended badly) prepare new generations of more empathic assistants. Or rather, that they seem more empathetic. If this is not counted among the technologies that have changed the world, even for the worse, we are really close to it.
Uber and Driving Services
Until the decade 2000-2010, taking a taxi meant calling a taxi company and speaking with a voice in the reservations office, or waving in the street and hoping that a driver would have mercy on you and let you get on board. If you were having trouble with the driver, your options were limited: hail the cab, get out and hope you can find another one, or stay silent until you reach your destination.
In this decade, the industry has been turned upside down by the likes of Uber and Lyft offering low-cost, app-driven services that have brutally cut traditional rates for commuting on private vehicles. Now you can call a car with just a few clicks and watch in real time as the car drives to your location. You can also rate a driver by contributing to his reputation (and therefore to his business). He can do the same thing with you.
It's not all roses, of course: The rise of this new generation of companies hasn't been easy. Complaints about low pay, few (or no) employee rights and the fight against authorities around the world (just this month, for example, Uber's license to operate was revoked in London). In short, for some it is a problem, in Italy for the same taxi drivers who complain (in many cases even rightly) of unfair competition.
The next ten years will be a real test for Uber & C, which continue to crush the old taxi companies. Whether their business model is sustainable and can survive the threat of self-driving cars remains to be seen.
It might not seem like it, but among the technologies that have changed the world, the changes in the way things are paid over the past decade are likely to have the greatest impact on the financial world. Contactless cards have accelerated in-store payments, banking apps have made it easy to transfer money, and cryptocurrency has upset traditional financial institutions, coming to question (as in the Libra case of Facebook) also traditional monetary institutions.
The marriage of technology and banks has also threatened the ancient wisdom of "Cash is king". Small POS systems now allow even the smallest businesses to easily accept card payments, even hawkers or street performers. In Italy "it would also be mandatory", right? Suddenly the playing field has been leveled, which is good news for consumers who don't want to bring in money and small business owners who don't want to turn people away.