2001 in review by NUA

by Kathy Foley, © 1995-2001 ComputerScope Ltd. All rights reserved

Monday, 7th January 2002 - It can be difficult to get back into the swing of things at work after a vacation. When I settled down at my desk to write a review of last year, nothing happened. I sat and I sat, and I racked my brain, scratched my head, and furrowed my brow and still I couldn't think of anything much exciting that happened on the Net last year.

I tried asking a few colleagues in the office and about the most helpful answer I got was "Nothing really happened last year except a load of silly companies went out of business". This was true in a way, but not terribly helpful.

So I sat some more and browsed the Web and rather accidentally happened upon the Year-End Google Zeitgeist page. Suddenly it all came flooding back. How could I have forgotten the launch of Windows XP, the fall of Napster, and all the hype over that Ginger thingie? Not to mention the explosion of SMS or 'texting', the battle between Playstation 2 and the Xbox, and all your bloody base are belong to us. Remember back in April when the Ellis Island immigration records went online or the pernicious spread of the Sircam and Code Red viruses in the summer?

Of course, 2001 was the year when the whole world changed in just one day, and the Google Zeitgeist page accurately reflects that. Of the top 15 gaining queries on Google in 2001, eight related in some way to September 11 and subsequent events: Nostradamus, the World Trade Center, Anthrax, Osama Bin Laden, Taliban, Afghanistan, American Airlines, and the American Flag.

Just as terrorism suddenly concerned everyone in the offline world, so cyberterrorism became an issue online in 2001. Although site defacements by hackers fell in September, according to mi2g, overall they increased fourfold in 2001. In particular, attacks by Chinese and US hackers on sites in each other's countries grew dramatically, as did attacks by hackers in the Middle East.

Cyberterrorism of a different sort also grabbed the headline as a plethora of vicious email viruses and worms did the rounds this year. Apart from Sircam and Code Red, we also had to put up with Badtrans and Nimda and Melissa and of course, the good old Anna Kournikova virus.

Even if they didn't have to do battle with assorted nasty viruses and worms, plenty of companies will be happy to leave 2001 behind. According to the recruitment firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, over 100,000 tech workers lost their jobs in 2001, two and a half times more than in the previous year. Among those were thousands of workers at industry giants Cisco, Lucent and Nortel. Not to mention all of the employees of Enron, once the eighth largest company in the world but now just another casualty of the economic slowdown.

It wasn't all bad news for the corporate giants of the Internet and technology world. eBay was profitable all of last year, something many companies can only dream of. Microsoft got the better of the US government and kept itself in one piece, thrusting Windows XP on the world at the same time. The launch went well and the new operating system had 2.36 of the global market within a fortnight of its release, according to StatMarket.

Despite my conviction this time last year that all us Europeans would be fiddling with I-Mode devices and surfing the 3G wireless Web by now, it didn't quite work out like that. Instead, we're just texting each other until our fingers go numb and fiddling with our new currency instead. Maybe this will be the year of 3G. We live in hope and look to the tiny Isle of Man off the British coast for inspiration. Manx Telecom, the local telco, very, very nearly got a 3G network up and running last year.

SMS wasn't the only wireless success story of last year, however. The plummeting cost of the wireless local area networking (LAN) technology known in the US as 802.11b meant that wireless LANs became available all over the place in the US. Suddenly businesspeople, students, hotel guests, and travelers were all able to access networks from the wireless connections built in to their laptops. 2002 should see the spread of this technology in Europe, too.

This time last year, I forecast that the number of Internet users in the world would have reached 550 million by now. While we haven't calculated the year-end figures as of yet, we are certainly on track for that total, as the figure for the end of August was 513.41 million. We are also on track to reach 1 billion Internet users by the end of 2005. Of course, by then, our readers might be more interested in the figures for How Many On Ginger as opposed to How Many Online.

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