One of my first emails 11 years ago was to a friend seated right next to me. I had no one else's id to shoot a mail to. Id’s gradually trickled in and I soon had so many that I often couldn’t remember the faces behind them. The address book came to my rescue. Inboxes were fun, SPAM was a scourge though. I learned to live with the menace, it wasn’t easy. Reminiscence would often loom around those nostalgic years when my prayers to see an impregnated mailbox each time I logged in went unanswered. Personal letters had become a thing of the past.
That’s when IM and IRC happened. I would find more people chatting with acquaintances using instant messengers like ICQ or with strangers using the then-ubiquitous mIRC than browsing the web. A/S/L (Age/Sex/Location) was the de-facto way to initiate chat with strangers. ICQ was a craze amongst geeks. I somehow managed to crack ICQ and even made friends with a Hong-Kong teen, though my contact list remained mostly blank since most of my friends preferred to stay with Yahoo! or MSN Messenger.
Skype came along and all of a sudden you could voice chat with hitherto unheard-of clarity. Bandwidth had grown substantially and a lucky few even managed to squeeze in a video chat. Blogs entered the arena and changed the landscape forever. Everyone blogged, substance was very limited though. Some folks even won book contracts while others fought social injustice. Chinese dissidents found a new way to leak China’s heavily guarded secrets, Iranians began breaking the shackles of an ultra-conservative society, atheists discovered they weren’t as isolated as initially thought and one brave Iraqi gentleman even gave first hand reports of the US invasion of Iraq during the 2nd Gulf War to defeat local government propaganda. Even Indian politicians used it as a way to reach out to subjects they had long forsaken.
Finally came the explosion of social networks like Orkut and Facebook. Personal emails were too much of an ask and people started preferring posting little broadcasts to those who cared enough to listen. Itinerary plans, daily gossips, lunch menus, pictures and videos were shared with elan. Multiple social networks began to compete against each other for traffic and many people had to open accounts in more than one. Aggregators like FriendFeed and MyBlogLog came to the rescue of the despairing end user. Tweets became so loud, NASA personified rovers through them.
How dramatically have things changed over the last decade!