10 People Who Changed The Internet

With the birth of the internet came great possibilities for many entrepreneurs, and few people have had such a great influence as the people in this list. They went beyond the invention of the internet, email and websites, and changed the way that we live our lives with just a few very significant websites.

Searching – Larry Page & Sergey Brin – Google

I couldn’t even count the amount of times I use Google in a day, it’s become so accurate and intuitive that it’s the only search engine that I need, but of course that’s not all it does. It makes me money with AdSense, helps people to find my website, search for my own images on the internet, powers people’s phones, hosts a social network, and so much more. Google keeps growing and buying other companies to add to their portfolio and improve their service; on the internet, Google is king.

By the looks of things, these two are the richest, and most successful internet entrepreneurs in history, and that doesn’t look like it’s going to be changing anytime soon. They were introduced by their professor at Stanford and started working on Google, went live in 1997 as part of Standford University’s website at google.stanford.edu and the rest, as they say, is history.

Social Networking – Tom Anderson – Myspace

I can see the comments coming already ‘what about Facebook?’, ‘what about Friendster’, but Tom is on the list because he made social networking what it it today – he brought it to the masses. It may not be the best social networking platform on the internet, but there was a time when we were all using it, because everyone else was using it as well. You could add bands as friends, and browse through music, way before Facebook allowed you to listen on their site, but best of all, it laid out the blueprint of how we network with friends on the internet.

Myspace isn’t really what it used to be, with a large number of users having switched to Facebook for good, many of whom (myself included), have closed their accounts. It was at one time the largest social network on the planet though, and for that Tom deserves a mention. Tom sold Myspace in early 2008 and left in 2009, not liking the direction the website had taken, he’s even got a Facebook page now.

“People seem very confused why I’m on Facebook. I’ve had a profile since 2005 and a “fan page” since 2009…Why am I not on MySpace? Because, I left the company in early 2009, and like most of you, I don’t like using it anymore.. not a fan of what the new folks have done with MySpace.”

Music Sharing – Shawn Fanning – Napster

Before Kazza and Limewire, there was the original, and largely illegal peer to peer network – Napster. Napster set the president for online music downloading, as well as a lot of the legal troubles back in the day before there were so many competitors. For the first time on the internet, it was possible for the masses to be able to share their music with each other and download music and videos for free.

As many of you probably know, Napster learnt their lesson the hard way and got slammed with masses of legal problems, and eventually had to be shut down. Nevertheless, it lead the way for similar services, and gave us all a taste of what it’s like to download music for free. It now runs a service similar to Spotify in that you pay a subscription and you can stream music from a library online. What’s interesting about this is that Sean Parker, who was one of the co founders, now owns a stake in Spotify, which is Napster’s biggest rival (now owned by Best Buy).

Learning – Jimmy Wales – Wikipedia

Many people have a love/hate relationship with Wikipedia, because of it’s ability to provide you with excellent and well referenced information, as well some complete nonsense. Jimmy Wales founded Wikipedia, which is a user generated internet encyclopedia, back in 2001. It currently indexes over 20 million articles and has helped hundreds of thousands of students world wide find ‘inspiration’ for essays and reports. If I’m looking for something on Wikipedia, I more often not just Google it, because the wiki I’m looking for is usually in the top 3 results.

Almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone with access to the site, and it has about 90,000 regularly active contributors. Wikipedia can be seen in 282 languages and is currently the largest encyclopedia on the internet… no surprises there. It’s currently ranking sixth globally among all websites on Alexa and having an estimated 365 million readers worldwide. It is estimated that Wikipedia receives 2.7 billion monthly pageviews from the United States alone. Just to keep in the spirit of things, this whole paragraph was made up from information on Wikipedia.

Jimmy Wales really had changed the way in which we learn on the internet, because even though there’s some bad information on there, a lot of it is well referenced and full of the facts we’re looking for.

Shopping – Jeff Bezos – Amazon

Amazon.com is the internet’s most popular and trusted online retailer, and has completely changed the way we shop. The death of the high street is all down to online shopping and there’s no better retailer than Amazon for finding the best deals with service you can trust. The website was one of the first of it’s kind and went live way back in 1995, when most of us were still trying to get to grips with a keyboard. It started as a bookstore to rival chains such as Barnes & Noble, but it soon diversified and spread to many more countries around the world in an effort to turn a profit. It survived the burst of the dot.com bubble and finally made a profit in 2001 on the sale of over 1 billion dollars worth of goods.

The growth was initially quite slow, and it took me a while to get into it too, but with free shipping, a huge selection of products and some of the best prices on the internet, it’s hard not to love them. Now as the world’s largest online retailers and Jeff Bezos being worth more than $19Billion, Amazon.com has made a permanent mark on how we use the internet.

Watching – Chad Hurley & Steve Chen – YouTube

The world of online video watching took a lot longer to get off the ground, due to internet speeds and hosting fees, but it’s well and truly here to stay now, with no website more popular than YouTube. Started by two former PayPal employees Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, YouTube was launched in 2005, and was sold less than 2 years later in November 2006 to Google for $1.65 billion – not bad for a couple years work. YouTube offer the ability to upload an unlimited amount of videos for people over the 18, so long as it didn’t include adult content.

The site made huge changes to viral media, with fun and short videos becoming much more easily accessible with YouTube’s fast loading time and unintrusive website. It also created the ‘YouTube Star’ where people could make their own regular videos and earn money through Google AdSense, which has provided full time careers to some users. YouTube seems to have gone downhill a bit recently, with their annoying adverts, but they’re still the market leader and name we think of when we think about online videos.

Blogging – Matt Mullenweg – WordPress

Again, I’m hearing cries of ‘what about David Bohnett, the creator of GeoCities’ and ‘what about blogger.com or Tumblr’, and the answer is simple, Matt Mullenweg did it right. GeoCities was a massively popular site back in the day, but the customizations made it look childish and usage went so far down that they’ve closed it all together. WordPress on the other hand is the most popular blogging platform on the internet because of its usability and easy to install plugins that can make every site look unique. No doubt that the majority of people reading this are using WordPress for their own site, and we recommend it as we use it for IncomeDiary and ExpertPhotography.

It’s not just changed the way we blog, because the capabilities of WordPress go far beyond that now, and they’re so easy to use, that just about anyone can do it. To say that the reach of WordPress is substantial would be an understatement, as it’s used by over 14.7% of Alexa Internet’s “top 1 million” websites and as of August 2011 powers 22% of all new websites. Matt has made a big change to the way we use the internet, because we’re not just spectators anymore, we’re now a part of it.

Gaming – Mike Morhaime – Blizzard

Mike is currently worth nearly $2billion because of the way that he managed to revolutionize the way that online gaming is done, with one of the most popular games of all time – World of Warcraft. WoW alone has over 10 million online gamers, all of which have to pay a monthly subscription to play. I’m not trying to say that he changed the internet because he managed to make so much money out of it, I’m saying that he’s created a game so popular, that 10 million people happily pay for it and spend their time on the internet, using it. There are of course other games on the internet, such as Runescape, or simple games you may find on sites such as Miniclip, but no game seems to rank higher with gamers than WoW.

Matt has helped online gamers realize that there are some things that are just worth paying for, and that’s set a president for other online gaming sites too. His community is vast and virtual world, huge.

Communicating – Niklas Zennström & Janus Friis – Skype

Niklas and Janus have had a pretty interesting career so far, with their part in the online music peer to peer network Kazaa (which was the most downloaded program in 2003), and more famously, Skype, an online telephone based on the same principals. Within just five years of it’s launch, it already had over 300 million users, proving itself to have a place in business and pleasure. I personally use it to talk to friends who live abroad, as well as Skyping in when I work from home.

Zennström and Friis have had a bit of an on again, off again relationship with Skype, selling it to eBay for €2.1 billion in 2005, as well as being a part of the investment team that bought it back in 2009, where they re-joined the Skype board, before selling it to Microsoft for $8.5 billion, in May of 2011, netting them approximately $1 billion. International calling is almost a thing of the past these days, and even if you did want to make a phone call, it’s cheaper to use Skype credit. With mobile phone apps, you can now take it with you anywhere, it’s truly become a part of the way we use the internet, and it seems to be here to stay.

File Sharing – Bram Cohen – BitTorrent

Yes, there are of course plenty of legal uses for torrenting, but that’s not typically what we think of when we hear the name BitTorrent. The BitTorrent network revolutionized the peer to peer network by breaking up much bigger files into parts and sharing them with multiple users to download from, which was a distinct advantage over the traditional p2p network. The BitTorrent network has many illegal implications, where you can download and share files such as music, movies, software and TV shows in just a couple hours, although Cohen himself claims to have never violated copyright law.

The program launched in the 2004, and now there’s thousands of websites and programs dedicated to the sharing of files, for whatever the use may be. Whether you’re using it for legal or illegal purposes, you can’t deny the fact that torrenting has changed the way we share large files on the internet and Bram Cohen has been a huge part of that.

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