In many of my presentations, I have pointed out that the Internet is still very much in its early stages. There are tremendous gaps in the availability of high speed, low latency Internet everywhere. It will only be at some point in the future that we could truly expect to have a visual conversation with almost anyone, almost anywhere on the globe.
Beyond expanding connectivity, there are other factors standing in the way of ubiquitous high quality visual communications.
First, the software – the interface that users have to deal with – is quite awkward. There are still too many instances where software, like Skype, just doesn’t work well or freezes or otherwise discourages people from everyday use.
Second, more important, the mindset or culture of users seems not to have changed yet to readily accommodate visual conversations over the Internet everywhere. You surely know someone who just doesn’t want to communicate this way. There used to be many people who thought the telephone shouldn’t replace face-to-face meetings and trying to do so was rude and/or too expensive.
Indeed, I use a rough parallel that we are today with the Internet about where we were with the telephone at the end of the 1920s. That was more than fifty years after the telephone had been invented. Of course, we’re not even fifty years into the life of the Internet.
Although the parallel between phone network and Internet is fairly obvious, it is enlightening or amusing to see history repeat itself. Here is a 1916 advertisement that hails how the telephone is “annihilating both time and space” – what we’ve also heard in more recent years about the Internet.
While there were many articles written at the time about the impact of telephones on society, the economy and life, even in the 1920s (or 30s or 40s or 50s …), telephone usage was not taken for granted. Among other things, long distance calling was not widely considered something most people would do.
Mobile telephony was discussed but not really in existence yet.
There was even a product that anticipated today’s Twitter and similar feeds – or maybe it was just a concept for a product, since vaporware was around even a hundred years ago.
The chart below shows the pattern of historical adoption of telephones in the US from 1876 until 1981.
From the perspective of 1981, never mind 2016, the first fifty years of telephony were the early age.
And since 1981? We’ve seen mobile phones overtake land lines in worldwide usage and become much more than devices for just talking to people.
So imagine what the next 100 years of Internet development will bring.
© 2016 Norman Jacknis, All Rights Reserved
[note this is an updated version of an earlier post in the beginning of 2014]