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Communication’s milestones or how has the world become so small?

chen.jpg By Chen Hindi

chen.jpg By Chen Hindi

Imagine you’re driving to an important meeting, one that was scheduled a while ago. One of your kids is sick at home with a babysitter and you need to check up on what’s going on in the office once every two hours.

And then, your car brakes down in the middle of the highway. What do you do?

Well, you use caution with your car and signaling you’re stuck. You call the important meeting to say you’re running a bit late, call the car service to come pick up the car, call a taxi through a number you find online, call the babysitter to check up on your child, call the office and say you’ll probably won’t make it back to the office but you ask to be updated on WhatsApp/SMS in any matter. Also, you schedule a Skype with the office manager to synchronize on some issues that you were supposed to be synced on right after the meeting.

That was a bummer, but everything turned out well, you even made it home earlier to your child. You handled it very well, everything’s under control.

Now, imagine the same situation exactly, just take it back 50 years ago. What do you do now?

Ah… well, you don’t have a mobile to call anyone, you definitely don’t have Internet, and you’re in the middle of the highway… It’s even hard to start thinking about it… Mmmm, how do I get out of this mess?

You’d probably wait until someone stops for you, you’d take a ride to wherever they’d agree to take you, find a payphone or an office to call from and would try to reach all the people you need to reach. Most chances you wouldn’t make it to the meeting or back to the office. You’d need to reschedule the meeting, postpone all office work for tomorrow (no emails to work on from home…), and any calls to later when you’d get home.

Sounds complicated, ah?

The truth is that humanity handled with what it had at any time in history and managed to evolve and develop. Communication is one of the most interesting aspects looking in time axis.

We’ll skip the part where people didn’t even have a language, they had cave paintings and signs, smoke signals, carrier pigeons, morse code, type writer, telephone and we will even skip the radio & TV to get straight to the Internet, or shall we say, the EMAIL. Yes, you are reading correctly, the Email was invented before the WWW (world wide web), what we (mistakenly) call today, “the Internet”.

type writer We've come a long way since the typewriter

EMAIL (60s)

The email was the first biggest sign of how the world is going to change in its communication. In one of the first version of the email, both sides had to be online in order to send-receive the messages. It came a long way to a point where you can communicate with people in distance (no matter the distance), at any time of the day, send a message to multiple recipients, and even connect with potential clients/buyers/partners.

Although the email has come along way since it started as text only messages, the way we use Internet didn’t change dramatically along the years. Of course that we can attach documents, videos, change fonts, colors, and even use emojis, but the basic use of sending mainly text has stayed the same. The email has already changed a lot the working environment. Email is your first and maybe most important asset in your work place.

We wrote about email’s penetration rate before, email is the most used communication way online today, 95% of Internet users use emails and 91% of them open it at least once a day.

These numbers are impressing and although it was predicted differently (due to social networks market penetration), the use in email is only growing with years.

THE INTERNET (late 60s-early 70s)

Computer networks, connected globally are what we call “the Internet” today. The internet carries not only the WorldWideWeb but also online games, email services, file transfers and more. The internet has changed more than anything, the way we communicate not only for the past few decades, but also it will be safe to say, forever.

WWW (started 1969 but came to the public’s use in the 90s)

The World Wide Web is an information system of linked documents. It is accessed via browsers through the Internet. The WWW has started as CERN internal project and the first ever website was born (online) on December 1990. In August 1991 the internal project became accessible to the whole Internet and the rest is more or less, history.

Since then, and until today we can shortly say that the world’s existing information is accessible to anyone with an Internet connection in a distance of one search, using the World Wide Web.


INSTANT MESSAGING (started mid 60s, took off mid 90s)

Online chats, messenger, ICQ or today’s WhatsApp, Facebook’s Messenger, Gmail’s online chat and many more are the examples of what we call Instant Messaging or in its more common use IM. With IM you create an immediate communication with the recipient, no matter the distance and the time. This person can be someone you know or not. For the purpose of work, personal matters and any purpose possible to think of. If you wanted to say "Happy Birthday" to a friend in France from Mauritius in the 50s, you needed to send your letter long weeks before, paying a good amount of money for the stamps, not knowing for sure when and if he will get it. Today you can congratulate your friend over a Skype video call,a viber voice call, a WhatsApp, a Facebook post and even send a flower bouquet which you will order in 15 minutes online. And these are only a FEW ideas

VoIP (developed mid 70s, took off in 2004)

Mentioning Skype, VoIP, Voice over Internet Protocol, is the general name for technologies transferring voice and multimedia over IP networks. In a way, from a "distant" communication (text only) the VoIP brought us back to be more “personal”, as much as online communication can be personal.

WIKIS (started in 94, took off in 2007)

Wiki is an open system allowing users (internet users mainly) to edit, delete or add content to it. There are many Wikis websites, the most well known one nowadays is the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia. Wikis are also commonly used internally in organizations, giving the ability to all participants (usually employees) to change, add their knowledge, share and combine information.

Wikipedia's home page, main languages and volume of articles for each language Wikipedia's home page, main languages and volume of articles for each language

FORUMS (started late 70s, took off mid 90s), BLOGS (started became popular end 90s) AND MICROBLOGGING (took off 2006-7)

If to keep this article’s line, we’d say that a forum is somewhere in the middle between emails and online chats. Forum is a messages board, taking place over the Internet. Forums are used for discussions, sharing information. Each post on the “thread” (a new discussion) is being organized chronological to the time of the post.

Blogs is what you’d call an online diary. Its broad use - personal, promotional, business oriented has gained a lot of popularity during the years to an extent where some people make a living out of writing a blog and selling content over it. The increasing popularity is also explained by the evolvement of content marketing and the mass information online, which creates the need in sub-sub-sub categorized information online.

Microblogging is a form of communication that was developed from blogs, the main difference is that microblogging uses its users to send short small pieces of information. You’d find microblogging sites like Twitter and Tmblr, and you’d find in other social networks (Facebook, Google+, Linkedin and others) microblogging in the form of “status updates”.


After WorldWideWeb & the Internet, social networks are definitely the biggest revolution in communication in the past few decades. Social networks started from “online communities” (mid 90s), people who shared interests, hobbies, ideas and more. In late 90's these online communities became more personal in the sense of sharing information about your self (photo, details such as birthdate, home town, etc.) and having friends list. Between mid 90s and beginning of 2000 there were more than 10 popular social networks, the most successful one was MySpace (in 2005 reached higher traffic than Google). It was only Facebook that had huge impact on the world. Facebook was launched in 2004 and in one decade became the most populous country in the world with 1.39 billion users (today).

FB active users monthly, taken from end of year reports by FB FB active users monthly, taken from end of year reports by FB

Here in Mauritius, there are nearly 400,000 Facebook users. The majority of them open it at least once a day and a smaller percentage of them open it 4-5 times a day. Actually, it’s very hard to imagine our daily life without Facebook – sharing, commenting, uploading, debating, connecting and reconnecting with people from the past, present and future.

You meet a new person and want to know some (maybe a lot, depending on his privacy settings) details about him? You review his Facebook profile.

Someone you don’t know started a conversation with you on Facebook? Friend request him and in 3 minutes you’ll know his political views, his marital status, where he went to school, where he lives, where has he been travelling to, who are his friends and where was he just 2-3 hours ago (by his check in).

When you think about it like this, it’s a bit threatening – one big company has SO much information about SO many people. This endless world of personal information about private people is the main explanation for why Facebook is for free.

The reason why social networks are so popular is because we, the people, love it. We love sharing our personal life, we love, more than anything to get feedback on the things we experience and/or opinions. In a way, social networks have similar social codes like in reality. We need "acknowledgement" for who we are and what we do. The main difference is that like mentioned above, you can easily find people who are like YOU, that you can share the same life experience with, that you can even consult with. Social networks have also helped the world to become a better place.

So Facebook, like many other social networks are here to stay. We better learn how to use it safely and maybe more mildly but also enjoy it, learn from it, and maybe try to trigger our minds with how will our communication will keep changing for the years to come and how will the world look like in 10-15 years and then in 30-40 years.

Smart Phone and our Small World

The cellular phones in general and smart phones in particular made all of the above possible, in the PALM OF OUR HANDS. Australia is no longer 8,000 Km away from Mauritius and New York is not 15,000 km apart. It is only one email, one tweet, Facebook message, Skype call away, just with two fingers on a screen.

The world in the palm of your hand The world in the palm of your hand

When you come to think about it, this is a pretty amazing journey we’ve accomplished in just a few decades.

Did you know that...?

If you have some extra time, and you can read more than 500 words a minute, 24 hours around the clock, it will take you only more than 7 years to finish reading it. Problem is, by the time you'll be finished so many updates will occur that you will have to start all over again...