#10YearChallenge: A look back at 2009, when Facebook was innocent and Donald Trump joined Twitter
A #10YearChallenge for streaming, smartphones, and Google, which was looked at as the ultimate Silicon Valley success story in 2009
Ten years ago, ‘Pages’ weren’t a thing on Facebook. Today, its net income is close to $16 billion.
In 2009, Google was still the Silicon Valley success story everyone looked up to. In the present day, well over 90 percent of searches are via Google.
While most people downloaded pirated torrents to listen to music, today, streaming music is default.
You’ve probably been inundated by the #10YearChallenge on Facebook, where your friends juxtapose photographs of themselves when young, wild, carefree (and, if male, with questionable facial hair choices) alongside a more recent photo of theirs — one with the wisdom of the years behind them. Well and good for a bit of nostalgia, 'how we’ve changed!' and 'I miss that t-shirt!' but the real world itself has changed considerably over the last 10 years too. Let’s see what the #10YearChallenge would look like, for…
Gosh, what a different era it was in 2009, when Mark Zuckerberg’s biggest headache might have been what colour the foosball table at the headquarters should be. Seriously though, ten years ago, ‘Pages’ weren’t even a thing — meaning brands were yet to infest the platform with their ‘topical messages’ on Mother’s Day, let alone mine your data to sell to you. 2009 was the year the company turned cash flow positive for the first time, and today, its net income is close to $16 billion. A decade ago, it had ~200 million users, now it has 2.2 billion who check in monthly. 10 years ago, it was something hidden on the back pages of tech magazines, and today, it’s playing a crucial role in elections, brand strategies, and indeed, the future of our planet. Not bad for a site that was literally born out of wanting to “rank women”.
A natural segue from Facebook is Donald Trump. Trump always shifted affiliations, and was even a member of the Democratic Party from 2001 till 2009. While 2009 held no significance as such, he considered running in 2000 and 2012 and was largely considered a joke candidate (well, as he was till it was too late). In 2009, his biggest headaches would have been the second bankruptcy restructuring of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts (as opposed to 2019, where he’s morally bankrupting America). Additionally, in 2009 he was more famous for The Apprentice and Miss Universe. He also briefly supported climate change action.
Fans of WWE though, might remember 2009 as the year where Trump bought the famed show Monday Night RAW, and in a taunting video, he shows a lot of the characteristic bluster which we are all sadly so accustomed to now. Perhaps most significantly, he joined Twitter in May 2009. His first tweet was to promote himself (well, some things don’t change), and has since used the medium to spread vitriol and rumours, for gaslighting and displaying bad spellings.
In 2009, Google was still the Silicon Valley success story everyone looked up to — after all, it made runaway profits while still “not being evil”. And what an innocent time it was; Android was still taking baby steps to fight the iPhone monolith, Chrome just made extensions available, Google Wave was launched (remember that?), and GMail stopped being “beta” (whatever that meant). And even though Google’s done more things since, its share of search has just gotten larger: In 2009, 63.5 percent of all searches were via Google, and in end 2018, well over 90 percent (significant was the runner-up in 2009 — Yahoo!, with 20 percent). Today, Google is into way more things and technologies, and controversies have sort of covered the ‘Don’t Be Evil’ poster. Still, it’s at the forefront of a lot of the best of tech and thankfully isn’t as tainted as Facebook. If you’re in doubt, just do an OK Google.
How were you listening to music in 2009? Chances are — pirated torrents, native music on an MP3 player copied from a diligent friend’s hard disk, or perhaps you still had a CD player! You probably also realised your new smartphone was a decent enough player to ditch your unidimensional iPod or Cowon (or if you were unfortunate enough, the Microsoft Zune). All that changed with streaming, and its biggest icon — Spotify. While technically launched in 2008, the Swedish company rose to international fame after opening in the UK in 2009, and two years later in the US. Today, streaming music is default. In fact, record companies who resisted streaming like the tech luddites they are, draw most of their revenue from streaming now. And as for video streaming? The shift was just around the corner, thanks to increasingly better devices, data plans and apathy for traditional television. Oh, and also, thanks to a young upstart company of whom VentureBeat in February 2009 innocently asked in a headline, 'Netflix streams already rushing past DVDs in 2009?' Aw.
2009 might not seem that long in the longer span of things, but just looking back at smartphones then shows that at least when it comes to our digital friends (masters?), we’re in a different world. The top smartphones (you needed this classification back then) in 2009 were the Nokia N900, Motorola Droid, Nokia’s E72, and of course, the Blackberry, and all of these had physical keyboards. Symbian OS was still a thing. Apple continued making the best-in-industry/most-drooled-over devices with the iPhone 3GS, which was the first one to have video recording. Software-wise, the most popular apps were mostly entertainment-led: Uber, for instance, was still a couple of years away, but the revolution was around the corner. In Feb 2009, two friends realised the potential of messaging through apps and founded a small company called Whatsapp, which, over the next decade would transform communications and how we receive good morning wishes. Hari Om.
So, there you have it — if you think you’ve changed a lot in 10 years because you finally ditched that Nirvana t-shirt, keep in mind there are several other things that have changed as well.
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