Top 7 ways the internet changed the world

What’s the ultimate internet innovation? Who’s responsible for the best broadband brainwave? We scrape through the darkest recesses of the internet to find out seven ways it made the world a better place.

It's been just over 20 years since the world's first website went live on the internet. You'd expect a bit of change over two decades - my waistline's increased dramatically for example - but few people could have predicted how much the web would change the world in that time.

But it's a change for the better, we think. Not convinced? Here are our top seven ways the internet has made the world a better place...

It's turned strangers into friends

There's an old saying: there are no strangers here; only friends you haven't met yet. These days it should read: there are no strangers here; only people someone you haven't friended yet. like Facebook and Twitter have made it easier than ever before to meet and connect with people - friends and strangers alike.

And it's not just social networks. Online dating helps people find love, music services like make it easy for us to share and compare the songs we love - it even makes it possible to connect with our ancestors.

None of this would be possible without the internet.

It's given us control over what we watch

I'm no psychologist, but if there's one thing I do know about people, it's that they like choice. It's why all-you-can-eat buffets are so successful. Well, that and we're greedy.

It's also the reason are so great. No longer are we restricted by what's on TV, and who needs DVDs anymore? Thanks to services like Netflix, LOVEFiLM Instant and Now TV we have instant access to hundreds of TV shows and movies. It's completely changing the way we watch stuff, to which we say viva la revolution!

It gave us control over WHEN we watch

In ye olden days of the 20th century, we were slaves to our televisions. If we wanted to keep up to-date with the latest shouty shenanigans in Albert Square, for example, we had to be sitting in front of our TV sets on the right days, and at the right time - if we weren't, we missed our chance forever.

Well, technically there was also the Sunday omnibus, but anyone who can sit through three solid hours of cockney misery has a stronger constitution than me.

These days, catch-up services like BBC iPlayer, 4oD and Sky Go mean we can catch our shows when it suits us. And with catch-up available in so many different ways - via everything from digital set-top boxes like YouView to - we're unlikely to ever miss Dot Cotton spark up a cigarette again.

It's given power to the people

The internet has changed the way we interact with companies. Before broadband, communication between businesses and their customers was very one-sided, with the former firmly in control. Sure, we may have thought it was us in the driver's seat, but we didn't have a licence, weren't sure how gears worked and were swerving wildly towards a ditch at the side of the road.

Things are different now. The rise of the internet, and social media in particular, has given us more of a voice, and means the customer is not just always right, but also able to have their say. If people are unhappy with a company, for example, they can make themselves heard. It's all too easy for a company to get burned by social media if they're not careful - as Virgin Media, McDonalds and HMV have all discovered to their detriment.

It's given us an eye for bargains

Thanks to the internet, it's never been easier to get a bargain. Shopping is typically much cheaper online, which would partly explain why my DVD collection is now taller than I am. Price comparison sites in particular have made a real difference when it comes to finding what you want at the price you want without having to traipse around a trillion shops.

It may be rather self-serving for a price comparison site to wax lyrical about the brilliance of price comparison sites, but that doesn't change the fact they're one of the best developments of the internet age. Whatever important service you want, be it energy, car insurance, air travel or - yes - broadband, there's a service online that'll save you both time and money.

It's made geeks heroes instead of zeroes

Before the internet exploded into significance, geeks were typically portrayed as the lowest of the low. The Schwarzeneggers and Stallones of the world were celebrated, while the humble nerd was isolated and ignored.

Oh how things have changed. Steve Jobs, Berners-Lee, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates - these are the names that have defined the modern age. Computer nerds, technological wizards and scientists are the heroes of today. Being uncool has never been so trendy - all thanks to the internet.

It's turned cats into an obsession

One thing above all else has come to define the internet: cats. Not since the days of ancient Egypt have our feline friends been so beloved. Whether they're getting trapped in balls, breaking our routers or just fed up with it all, the internet has taken cats from simple felines to a global infatuation.

Those are our picks, but what do you think is the best thing the internet's given us? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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