Pew Research Wishes the Internet a Happy Anniversary With New Report

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Despite the meme, Al Gore did not invent the Internet; it existed in the form of bulletin board systems and email. The Internet as we know it has its origins in a 1989 concept paper written by Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist who was working at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory. That concept paper contained a new system for organizing and accessing the Internet using link-related content with hypertext, a system for organizing related documents. A year later, he developed the first web client and server. The WorldWideWeb — the first web browser — was born. Berners-Lee was knighted for this pioneering work in 2004.

Pew Research’s Internet Project has released a report, “The Web at 25 in the U.S.” to mark the upcoming 25th anniversary. The results show that the Internet has wormed its way into the average American’s life in a big way. Twenty-five years after that initial paper, the Internet is a major telecommunications platform — in case anyone missed that memo. The results show that approximately 87 percent of Americans use the Internet. A growing number of them are connecting to the Internet using a cell phone in place of a computer, too.

The report shows that 81 percent of Americans use a computer. A higher percentage, 90 percent, use a cell phone. The Internet is seen as a good thing; about 76 percent say the Internet is good for society. Another 90 percent say that the Internet has been good for them personally.

Indeed, the Internet is starting to become essential. Even a German court ruled last year that the online service is imperative when a man sued for compensation after lacking it for two months. Across the pond, it’s definitely considered more essential than a television or phone, whether landline or cellular, according to the Pew report.

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Ironically, the most connected users are the ones who live closest to other people. City dwellers are most likely to use the Internet; they are also the most likely to use a smartphone and to access the Internet using a cell phone. Suburbanites are a close second. Rural residents are also surfing the net in similarly high numbers. Overall Internet use has increased since Pew’s last report. Long story short, no matter where we live, we’re going online.

The future of the Internet is hard to predict. Social media is still growing. Facebook has more than a billion users, meaning the average user and his or her grandparents can connect online. Whether the Internet grows into a Simpsons-style Ultranet or some other pop culture prediction is still unclear. What we do know is that the Internet continues to grow and change — even how we access it has changed. A computer is no longer necessary to get online, as a cell phone will do the job, albeit a little slower. A tablet will at speeds comparable to a traditional computer. Viva la interwebs.

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