As you may know if you’re a regular reader of this blog, sometimes we like to take a trip down memory lane. It’s time for another one of those trips, to the murky past of the Internet and the dawning World Wide Web of 1995.
Let’s start first with the people who actually use the Internet. How many were there back then?
Worldwide Internet users in 1995
Today there are almost 2 billion Internet users worldwide. In 2000, there were 361 million worldwide. But go back even farther in time and you’ll find out that back in 1995, the Internet had a worldwide user base of less than 40 million.
- • The Internet user base of today is 50 times larger than it was in 1995.• Facebook today is 15 times larger than the entire Internet was in 1995.
Top Internet countries, 1995 and now
The top five Internet countries in 1995 (in terms of Internet users) were:
• United States (25 million)
• Japan (2 million)
• Germany (1.5 million)
• Canada (1.2 million)
• United Kingdom (1.1 million)
Now the top countries are:
• China (420 million)
• United States (239 million)
• Japan (99 million)
• India (81 million)
• Brazil (76 million)
A wee bit of a difference, as you can see. Both in which countries are in the top, and of course the actual number of Internet users per country.
What about the number of websites?
Today there are 298 million websites on the Internet (as of March 2011, according to Netcraft). Back in June of 1995 there were 23,500 websites. For those of you counting, that means there are 12,681 times as many websites now as there were in 1995.
So, if we were to make a similar chart as the one for Internet users above, the 1995 part would be just a tiny fraction of a pixel.
A few other things from 1995
To help you orient yourself in time, here are some other things that happened in 1995.
• Netscape Navigator completely dominated the web browser market.
• Microsoft launched Internet Explorer 1.
• Microsoft released Windows 95. Most people were using Win 3.1 or 3.11 at the time.
• Sun announced Java.
• Intel released their 133 MHz Pentium processor, and the Pentium Pro processor (running up to a mighty 200 MHz).
• Sony launched the first Playstation.
• Linus Torvalds released version 1.2.0 of the Linux kernel (a.k.a. Linux 95).
• And sadly enough: The final original strip of Calvin & Hobbes was published.
Oh, and some guy called Bill Clinton had recently been elected president of the United States, but that didn’t quite fit in with the geek level of this post.
Supposedly browsing the internet requires more brain power than watching television. Although judging from some of the websites we’ve come across that assumption is cast into doubt. Here’s some of the sites we like that might get your brain to sit up and listen.
Angry Birds, currently one of the most popular games for iOS, Android and other platforms has made the leap to the web. Rovio, the company behind the game, has unveiled a web-based version of Angry Birds at Google’s I/O conference in San Francisco.
You can install the new Angry Birds for the web as an app in Google’s Chrome browser, or just play from the URL, chrome.angrybirds.com, which works just fine in any modern web browser. Just don’t hit that link if you’re planning to get any work done today.
Behind the scenes, the web incarnation of Angry Birds is powered primarily by HTML5. However, if you happen to have ditched Flash, you’ll notice that Angry Birds on the web won’t work.
What’s interesting is that the offending code appears to use gwt-voices, a cross-browser audio shim from Google. In theory gwt-voice only falls back to Flash when needed, but using the Aurora release of Firefox brings up a “You need to install Flash Player” message for Angry Birds (most likely because Firefox does not ship with mp3 support).
Calling Angry Birds an HTML5 app, is, in that regard, somewhat of a stretch.
Still, the primary rendering and logic of the game does use HTML5 elements like canvas, and HTML5 APIs like localStorage. The latter is interesting because it makes Angry Birds on the web hackable.
Welcome to the web, Angry Birds, where everything is hackable.Auto, Draft
These days when a new music service launches itself, the sell is usually access to the latest cutting-edge content or classic pop genres. Count on the Library of Congress to offer something very different. The LOC’s just released online National Jukebox ( http://www.loc.gov/jukebox/ ) offers cutting-edge material for sure, but circa 1901 through 1925: 10,000 ready-to-audit recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company.
“Imagine your computer as a new Gramophone purchased for family and friends to enjoy in your home parlor,” the LOC’s announcement proclaims. “Audition popular recorded selections of the beginning of the 20th century years—band music, novelty tunes, humorous monologues, hits from the season’s new musical theater productions, the latest dance rhythms, and opera arias.”
I immediately went to the jukebox’s day-by-bay search option and found selections from my favorite early 20th century singer, the wonderful Irish-American tenor John McCormack. The first tunes available were his 1915 and 1916 hits ”The Cradle Song” and ”Then You’ll Remember Me.” A full search located his full orchestral performance of ”Come Into the Garden, Maude.”
Even if you’re not a devotee of fin de siècle stars like McCormack and Enrico Caruso, it’s well worth your spending a day exploring the Jukebox’s acoustic universe. The service offers a slew of Blues, Ragtime,country/folk, yodeling, and even whistling tunes (I definitely recommend the Dance of the Honey Bees).
But what the National Jukebox really offers is a deep glimpse into a world in which the categories that we’ve attached to genres—”classical,” “popular,” and “opera”—weren’t always so clear. This was an age when pop orchestra leaders played Berlioz, marching band conductors wrote operas, and opera divas sang “Home Sweet Home” for their often working class fans. It was a time when it wasn’t always so easy to tell a Ragtime tunefrom the scherzo of a symphony.
One of the best aspects of the Jukebox is that you can create your own playlists, adding selections and enjoying them on an ongoing basis as you search for more content.
The Victor Talking Machine Company and other outfits captured these masterpieces not with electronic microphones, but via wide coned horns that siphoned the sounds into a little diaphragm, the vibrations of which were etched into waxed cylinders. Devices with steel needles then played the records back into a smaller tone arm tube.
Dozens of LOC staff and volunteers spent most of 2010 selecting these recordings, digitizing them, and getting them into the database for use. Sony Entertainment owns most of this content, but gave the LOC a license to stream the tunes gratis.
“Jukebox content will be increased regularly,” the LOC promises, “with additional Victor recordings and acoustically recorded titles made by other Sony-owned U.S. labels, including Columbia, OKeh, and others.”
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Most of us spend more and more time each day in our browsers. We’ve dropped email clients for Gmail, write in Tumblr and WordPress more than Word, tweak pictures in Photoshop.com and Aviary, and more. YouTube and Netflix are the default place most people go to watch videos, and when you need to find something in a book, chances are you can find it in Google Books. The browser has taken over our computing life, and thanks to the recent speed improvements in browsers that was spearheaded by the Google Chrome team with V8, many web apps now feel nearly as fluid as native applications.
With all the advancements, though, are you ready to use just your browser with no other native apps? Google seems to think the computing world is ready to shift to using only web apps, and has turned their Chrome browser into a full Linux-powered operating system. The new Chromebooks will be ready to hit the shelves this summer, so let’s see what Chrome OS has to offer.
A Browser, and Only a Browser
Nearly 2 years ago, Google announced plans to turn Chrome into a full operating system that would let you use web apps, and nothing else. Then, last year, Google began test-driving Chrome OS with a pilot project that gave away their experimental Cr-48 netbooks to hundreds of users around the world. This week at the Google I/O Conference, the Chrome team finally announced the final result of their labors: Chromebooks. This is a somewhat radical concept for most consumers, so the Chrome team put together a great video to explain what Chromebooks are all about.
Chromebooks are specially designed netbooks will run Chrome OS, which will make them unique computing devices designed entirely around the browser. Instead of Chrome being yet another app on your computer, in Chromebooks, Chrome is the app to end all apps. You’ll boot the netbook in 8 seconds or less, sign in with your Google account, and all of your Chrome passwords and apps will be automatically synced.
Just like in Chrome on your computer, Chromebooks will automatically download and install updates to the browser. Chrome OS goes one step beyond that and verifies that your Chrome OS image hasn’t been tampered with, to ensure that your browsing experience is always secure. Best of all, it’ll work just like Chrome on your Mac or Windows computer, so if you’re already using Chrome, you’ll be ready to run in seconds.
Instant boot and long battery life are great upsides to Chromebooks
Netbooks With a Purpose
Netbooks have long been stigmatized as under-powered laptops that aren’t great for most tasks. Google’s upped the amp with Chromebooks, making them more powerful than many standard netbooks while shipping them with stripped down software that will run blindingly fast. Standard Chromebooks will ship with an 11-12? screen, dual-core Atom N570 processor, 2Gb ram, 8hr. battery, and a 16Gb SSD drive. Unfortunately, that also means they’ll cost around $400 like most netbooks, though Google is also offering them for around $30 per month to businesses and schools, depending on the model. Still, that’s not much cheaper than many computers today, so it may be hard to convince consumers of the value of a computer that only runs a browser.
Chromebooks will include standard WiFi as you’d expect, but some models will also include Verizon 3G wireless modems. Interestingly enough, Chromebooks will come with 100Mb of free cellular data per month, so you can use it online anytime similar to a Kindle. That’s one feature that might make some people find Chromebooks more interesting. If you’d like, you can already check out a full selection of Chromebooks on Amazon to see if there’s one you like. The build quality and design of Chromebooks look nice so far, and it will be very interesting to see the in real-life use.
The upcoming Chromebook likeup at Amazon.com
While you won’t be able to install Photoshop, Microsoft Office, or many popular games on your Chromebook, you can use Photoshop.com, Google Docs or Microsoft’s Office Live, and can play any online game you already play in your browser. Farmville fanatics won’t have to miss their farms for even a minute. Even the ever-popular Angry Birds is now a Chrome Webapp, available for free in the Chrome Web Store.
The Chrome Web Store: Open for business worldwide on all editions of Chrome
The biggest problem is, most web apps currently only work when you’re online. That is set to change now, thanks to new offline capabilities that have been added to HTML5 in Chrome and other modern browsers. Google and its partners announced that many popular web apps will work offline. Springpad and Angry Birds, along with many other games and apps, while Google will be adding offline features to Gmail, Google Docs, and more over the summer. This will make Chromebooks much more useful when you’re flying or somewhere else where you don’t have internet access.
So, is a Chromebook the computer for you? I personally use web apps all day long. Google Apps, Simplenote, Flow, Twitter, Campfire, Instapaper, CloudApp, and numerous WordPress installs are the main apps I use, and so it would seem like a Chromebook would be perfect for my workflow. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m ready to give up native apps, though. Even for those looking for a full computing experience change, it seems like today’s Android tablets and the iPad offer a more compelling computing experience.
That said, it always seems like web developers keep amazing us at what they can do. We’ve always been excited about web apps since they offer a cross-platform experience that you rarely get with native apps. Newer web apps like Flow feel almost like native desktop apps, and browser based games get better all the time. With that, it seems like Chromebooks could be a viable full computing option in the future. I’d still prefer to have a Windows, Ubuntu, or OS X computer today, but since 90% of my day is in Chrome on one of those already, a Chromebook could possibly make the cut.
What do you think? Are you ready to buy one on day-one? Let us know your thoughts on Chromebooks and the future of the browser as an OS in the comments!
In the past decade, billions of dollars have been spent building out facilities that support faster and bigger internet capabilities. As a result of this investment, we have all been able to enjoy ever speedier internet connections and greater bandwidth for downloads that include video, photos, even super high resolution services that support advanced health care applications. Whether these applications are being delivered via mobile devices or wired directly into your home or business, one fact is true – at some point they all rely on a wired broadband infrastructure.
Here, in the Upper Peninsula, we have invested millions of dollars in our networks in the past five years. This infrastructure supports wireless services, new educational resources, and the small businesses that we all see every day. These same small businesses are working hard now to grow by incorporating new technologies into their businesses.
This network deployment has been supported by a federal program called the Universal Service Fund. This is not a taxpayer funded program, but it is administered by the government. It’s not often that we hear about a government program that’s actually worked. But the Universal Service program has worked well. In a well-intentioned effort to modernize the program, the Federal Communications Commission is evaluating the rules that govern deployment of these broadband systems by companies like ours, both Hiawatha Communications, Inc. (HCI) and jamadots. The Universal Service fund has long ensured that customers who live in small towns and rural areas receive the same quality of communications service at rates that are similar to those charged to customers in more densely populated and thus, cheaper to serve, cities. It would be tragic if, in a rush to review and revise, the federal government harmed one of the programs whose utility is so obvious.
So, how can you help? First, recognize that the intricate array of communications services we’ve come to expect – mobile, texting, video, data, apps – all of these ride on a system of wired networks that we are busy upgrading as fast and cost-effectively as possible. Second, please let your Senators and Congressman know that you support the Universal Service system and the rights of customers in small towns like ours to continue to receive the same level of telecommunications services at the same price as our neighbors in urban communities. It’s vital to our future and our community that the federal government gets this one right. Thank you.Tags: Auto, Draft