It's a small world since the World Wide Web was spun around it 15 years ago. Everyday life goes through a constant revolution. One of the victims: TV. But does the net make us different people?
Has the Internet Revolution really altered our everyday lives?
These days, you can find just about anything on the Internet: airplane tickets and Christmas trees, George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden, aerial and satellite images, dark corners, live news, Second Life – maybe even the love of your life.
Not quite 15 years after the world got its Web, everyday life is hardly recognizable.
"Something Mad Like That"
Moore’s law that computing power will reduplicate every two years -- an unbelievable feat of physics and industry -- has been holding true for over 30 years.
“No generation before, if I’m allowed to go back in time till Homer, has seen something mad like that,” said media theoretician Friedrich A. Kittler, born in 1943 -- the year in which the future IBM boss appraised the worldwide need of computers at “maybe five.”
Four percent of Internet users are addicted
Similar to the Industrial Revolution 200 years before, the Digital Revolution has changed every area of life faster than anybody would have imagined.
In the beginning of the 1990s when people struggled with phone books, dictionaries and maps and wrote post cards from overseas, many things that are self-evident today sounded like science fiction.
According to Christiane Funken, a communication scientist from the Technical University of Berlin, the speed and force of the revolution was unforeseeable.
“The development we have gone through is a continuous, radical one – and it’s still in progress,” she said.
The Future of Man and Machine
So much of everyday life is changing that nobody seriously dares to forecast how the coexistence of man and machine is going to develop. However, many IT specialists consider it rather unlikely that -- for the foreseeable future -- humans and computers will be able to communicate via voice.
“It’s hard to say what comes next,” said communication scientist Funken. “The only thing that’s for sure is that we’ll rather spend more time online than less.”
The kind of people that are using the Internet are changing as well.
“A few years ago we could say the Internet user was young and male -- but this time is over,” Funken said.
Today every social group has a home on the Internet. The difference concerning gender and generation is increasingly fading as many elderly people begin to go online. The biggest difference remains between the sexes.
“We know that the much discussed run and gun games are played almost exclusively by boys, girls on the other hand prefer chatting,” Funken said.
Pianist Lang Lang gives a concert in Second Life
According to a survey by Microsoft and MTV, e-mails are considered slow and old-fashioned and as a means of communication used by parents and teachers. The digital youth definitely prefers instant massaging and live chatting.
Ten years ago Andy Grove, boss of chip giant Intel, declared the “war of the eyeballs” between computer and TV. Now the outcome seems to have been decided by the next generation: the computer has already overtaken the television in many kids’ rooms.
“The TV set will disappear,” Kiddler said.
Some studies claim that Americans already surf the Web for an hour more than they spend in front of the television.
Even with all the advances of Internet radio and TV, communication is still by far the most important function of the Internet.
Users today interact via chat, instant messaging, e-mail and in forums. According to other surveys done in highly-developed Asian countries, 60 to 80 percent of real-life social contact is initiated online.
When Second Life Becomes Life
So is the Internet a backup world, a parallel universe with different rules or simply a digital reflection of the offline world?
“From a sociological point of view, I would agree to that,” Funken said.
But to some this mirror seems to be more pleasant than the original. A 2006 survey by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that four percent of all Internet users are addicts.
That means that out of the 35 million Germans online, 1.5 million are addicted -- spending more than five hours a day on the Internet in private live.
These addicts may have already said good-bye to their real life. For them the Internet is no more second life, but the first.