The World Wide Web is a quarter of century old this month – but what might life be like had it not been invented?
March marks a quarter of a century - yes, 25 years since the genesis of the World Wide Web's conversion from an idea presented on paper by British scientist Tim Berners-Lee to what it is today, the fastest-growing communication medium of all times.
But what might life - from business, employment, politics, the pricing of goods through to the look of high street and how we shop and more, be like, had it not come into existence?
Business-wise, one key area would be the price of goods. Prices would be higher for consumers as the Internet has created price transparency - it's very easy and very quick to determine who has the cheapest price for a product with access to the Internet and if that's 1,000 miles away you can still order it and have it delivered.
Without the Internet, prices would be perfectly competitive almost exclusively in micro-economies, e.g. Tottenham Court Road with the historic electronics shops one after the other all competing on price and keeping prices low. But in the main, consumers would have to pay higher prices. The balance of power without the Internet would favour the seller far more than we are now used to in the Internet economy where, for the most part, the consumer has all the knowledge and all the power.
The costs of products would also be higher as without the Internet it would be much harder to trade internationally and source suppliers in other markets. The degrees of separation in the world is said to be 6, but with the Internet it is 3.75. This makes the world feel much smaller, with the associated impact on international trade, speed of action, and the advantages around supplier research and selection.
Where people buy their products would be markedly different too. The High Street would look very different and would be a bustling centre of activity. Streets and real estate would be dominated by libraries, HMV's, Comets's, bigger banks, large Post Offices, more bookmakers and bookshops. In addition, without the likes of eBay, there would likely be far more car boot sales.
Moreover, many of the people buying these products would have starkly different profiles to what they have today. For instance, 1.2 million people in the US are employed by the Internet - they would need new jobs if it didn't exist.
Each Internet job supports a further 1.54 additional jobs in the US too, which means that almost 2% of the US working population would have unrecognisably different profiles. What jobs would they do? How would that impact people's' way of life, the urban/rural balance, wages, education levels, immigration patterns, wealth distribution, GDP, etc? The knock-on affect economically, socially and culturally could be incredibly far reaching - far beyond what most people would initially assume.
Finally, if people can't afford to buy anything and blame their governments, then a revolution would be harder without the Internet as without the likes of Twitter there is a much slower 'network effect' of snowballing support - with the Internet, a revolution can kick-off within just days and weeks, that would have typically taken years without that immediacy of the Internet communication channels.