The folks at OpenSite.org recently wrote, "Where were you when news of the tsunami hit Japan in 2011? How about when Michael Jackson died? Probably online, according to many experts who claim that social media has become the main media source for hundreds of millions of people. Not just in the U.S., either; Facebook alone has more than 900 million users spread across the globe as of 2012." ["Power to the Online People," 23 August 2012] Despite the financial woes associated with Facebook's IPO, the company remains a powerful source of influence and connectivity around the globe. The OpenSite comment continues:
"Other social media giants like Twitter have facilitated revolution against unjust leaders and warned people of impending natural disaster. In fact, so many people regularly interact online that if the Internet were a nation, it would exceed the Americas, Europe and the Middle East combined in population. No wonder more than 13 million members of the online community used Reddit and other media platforms to protest SOPA, a proposed Internet censorship bill."
Perhaps the clearest indication that social media sites are here to stay (and have changed the world) is the fact that "the 2012 US presidential race has been called the first true social media election, with both candidates tweeting their Spotify playlists and Ann Romney taking to Pinterest, a photo-clipping site." ["Romney and Obama ignite social media war," Financial Times, by Tim Bradshaw, 30 August 2012] As the folks at OpenSite note, it is not just people in the developed world that exploiting access to social media sites. Quentin Hardy writes that "the most dramatic changes [brought about by social media] may be in places most of us do not now see." ["Cloud Computing for the Poorest Countries," New York Times, 29 August 2012] He explains:
"Already, places without clean water, decent sanitation or steady electricity are using supercomputers. Cheki is a used car classifieds business that serves up about a billion page views a month, mostly in Kenya and Nigeria. Most of the one million people using the site are looking at it with Android-based smartphones that cost about $70, according to Thomas Shaw, the company's information technology manager. Imagine things in a few years, when Huawei, which makes most of the devices, gets those phone prices even lower. This appears to be changing markets in several other countries as well. 'There are people in Malawi, Rwanda and Ethiopia looking at the cars, too,' he says. Tariffs on cars are often high in these places, and a big market in another country may be a better way for them to buy. Unlike the developed world, where speed, agility and cost are factors that make Amazon Web Services attractive, in the developing world it's good to be on battery-powered phones and servers in California, instead of relying on an often-brittle electric grid."
Hardy goes on to report that everything from job sites to mobile payment services all use access to the cloud to make life better for those in the developing world. In fact, he reports, "Mobile money has become so big that the Africa Development Bank says the new money may be causing inflation." To visually demonstrate how important the World Wide Web has become, Sarah Wenger of OpenSite created the following infographic. As the introduction to the infographic states, "Keep this graphic in mind next time you log on, because knowledge is power — and a little knowledge goes a long way in the Internet Age."
Love it or hate it, you have to admit that the Internet age has changed the world.