Remember the dark days of dial-up? The blue progress bar crawling imperceptibly across the screen? The stuttering apparition of an image, line-by-line, on a page? All this, remember, in the days before tabbed browsing.
It wasn’t all bad – those modems made some pretty funky noises (even if that did serve to remind you of their 56kbps shortcomings). But once you sampled the unbridled speed of 512kbps broadband, there was no going back.
There may be plans to get everyone in the country on broadband by 2012, but ten years ago UK internet users were getting their first sniff of the fast stuff. Here’s a potted (internet) history of what happened in between.
2000 – Telewest launched cable broadband in the UK with a maximum speed of 512kbps. A year later, only one in ten homes had signed up for faster page loads. Telewest became Virgin Media, which this year unveiled plans for 100Mbps. Over half of us now have broadband.
2001 – Wikipedia launched, and had 20,000 articles in 20 languages within a year. It now has over three million entries in 271 tongues, and gets over 100 billion page views a year. Another green shoot of gadgetland also strode on to the scene in 2001 – the nascent 5GB iPod.
2003 – It was a year for great software that connected people via the internet: Second Life and World of Warcraft both emerged in a froth of media attention, while Mark Zuckerberg quietly launched Facemash at Harvard. The latter, relaunched the following year as Facebook, did not stay quiet for long.
2004 – Singles sales had plummetted and the music industry couldn’t work out how to sell records to an online youth. Luckily, Apple’s UK launch of iTunes came along in 2004, and within a few years became the world’s biggest music vendor; it’s sold over 10 billion songs to date.
2005 – News Corp bought MySpace, and made it instantly uncool. But elsewhere three former PayPal employees started a video site by uploading a video called ‘Me at the Zoo’. YouTube – and animal videos – continue to flourish.
2006 – Facebook went public, Twitter launched and Google bought YouTube for $1.65million. There were over 100 million websites and nearly 70 per cent of all email was spam.
2007 – Radiohead released In Rainbows as an online download, with fans paying whatever they wanted for the record; everyone paid 1p (admit it). The BBC launched iPlayer, now thought to account for five per cent of all UK internet traffic. And the Queen joined the internet party by broadcasting her Christmas Speech on YouTube.
2008 – Spotify launched and instantly challenged established ideas about ownership of music. Atlantic Records admitted it made more from digital downloads than CD sales. And Virgin Media went big on broadband with a 50Mbps connection.
2009 – A million people followed Ashton Kutcher on Twitter. On the plus side, Britain bought more singles than ever before (152m), triple the number sold in 2000. Some of those sales helped Rage Against The Machine to a Christmas number one, fending off X Factor winner Joe McElderry thanks to a massive Facebook campaign.
2010 – UK broadband turns ten, and celebrates with a light installation (pictured, top) on London’s South Bank. ‘Speed of Light’, commissioned by Virgin Media, runs at the Barge House, Oxo Tower Wharf until Monday (April 19). Entry is free.