20 years of the internet: 10 sites that changed my life

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The internet is 20 years old today, and that fact made me start thinking about what the internet has given me over the years. I’m not going to get too gushy on you, I promise, but here’s ten websites that have completely changed my life.

What are the internet applications that have changed your life? Our comments box isn’t working at the moment, but you can drop us an email or a Tweet sharing your favourite sites, past and present. Please do, I’d love to hear your stories. Now, without further ado, let’s begin the in-no-particular-order list. Click on the big Hotmail logo to begin.

OPINION: Here's what I want from Google Latitude

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I don’t really care about privacy. I recognise the fact that other people do, but I don’t have anything to hide. Add that to the fact that I’m not especially interesting, and that I’ve been on the internet so long, and have such a unique name, that there’s a lot of me out there already.

That’s why I’m not bothered by commenters saying that Latitude is a massive privacy invasion. For me, the social proprioception offered by Latitude far outweighs the downsides of having my location available to my friends.

COLUMN: Facebook – will it still be around in five years?

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Facebook’s now been around for five years, but will it still be around in five years’ time? There’s a long and a short answer to that question. The short answer is yes. A website, operating at www.facebook.com, will still be going in five years. That, assuming the internet survives the next five years, is a given.

But will it still be the cultural force that it is today – 150 million users worldwide, twice the size of its nearest competitor, leading to academic misconduct, arrests, multiple lawsuits, house-trashings and viruses? I suspect the answer might be no. Click over the jump to find out why.

O'Malley's Mashup: Synchronise your browsers

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As you’re reading a tech blog, I’d say that the chances are that you use more than one computer regularly – perhaps you have a desktop and a laptop. Or if you’re me, a desktop, two laptops and access to yet more computers all over the place.

As you probably know, this can be a frustrating experience – if you bookmark something on one computer and you need it on another, do you really want to spend all of the time Googling for it again, or logging into your e-mails on each machine every time? How about having to update all of your saved passwords when you change them? Well the good news is, as luck would have it, there’s a few solutions to these irritating problems, and that’s what I’m going to be talking about in today’s mash-up: how to make your browsers sickeningly consistent.

O'Malley's Mashup: Location-based services overview

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Speculating about the future is always a silly idea – because the futurologist who is speculating is invariably always wrong. You only have to look at the insane ramblings of the fundamentalist Christians in America who predict the “end times” every new year or the deluded announcer who introduces John McCain as “the next President of the United States” to see this. The technology sector isn’t exempt from this either – there’s the famous old quotes of IBM executives saying in the 1960s that they think there’s demand for maybe four computers in the world, or poor old Sir Clive Sinclair, who genuinely thought that the C5 was a good idea, or poor old Sony, who thought that people might actually want a PS3.

So with this in mind, I’m going to set myself up for a gigantic fall, and go ahead and claim that location-based web services are going to be the next big thing. Feel free to e-mail me a link to this column with a wry note in the future when I have been proven wrong.

OPINION: Embrace the spam

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So after yesterday’s rubbish McAfee scare-mongering attempt to get us all to sign up for one of its products, us lot here at Tech Digest thought it might be good to take a look at a sample of genuine spam.

You never know, one of those lottery emails just might be the real deal. And what if, one fortunate evening, you find yourself in the company of a willing lady and could actually really do with some herbal Viagra and a winky that’s five times its original size?

Spam could be a life saver. And if nothing else, it’s always very entertaining…

Richard Gilzene: My favourite wastes of time…

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I thought making a list of my favourite websites would be incredibly easy. I’ve spent exactly half my life on the Internet. Part of the first generation raised on it. I use it everyday.

Opinion: Genuine Apple fan seeks exciting Apple Keynote

I was hoping to write a glowing report of Steve Jobs’ Macworld 2008 keynote presentation yesterday, but (even as an ardent Apple fan) I have found myself disappointed.

Granted, it was always going to be difficult for Apple to eclipse last year’s iPhone announcement, but I felt myself wanting more.

Maybe I’m getting too old, but I find myself desiring function much more than form. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that the product announcement I was most impressed with was the Time Capsule. That’s pretty sad in itself, because it amounts to not much more than an upgraded Airport Extreme with a large hard drive in it, and existing software built in to OS X Leopard.

Opinion: 2007: The year your data went AWOL

gareth_keenan_office.jpgWe’ve been talking about data security, phishing, and online scams for years, but it feels like 2007 was the year that everything went completely pear-shaped.

With visions of Nicky Campbell rummaging through the litter bins of major high street banks fresh in the mind, it seems that every Government agency, and even a few private companies, have had a go at losing our personal data this year.

The Inland Revenue (sorry, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs), the Driver and Vehicle Agency, Fasthosts, the Diabetic Retinopathy Screening Service, Leeds Building Society, the Citizens Advice Bureau… I could go on, but it’s too depressing.

Yes, despite all the warnings about how vigilant we, the innocent members of the public, should be — shredding bank statements, having decent security on our PCs, securing our home wireless networks, and so on — it seems the “big boys” still aren’t getting it right.