The 2000s were a time of tremendous technological advancement. With the rise of smartphones, social media, and e-readers, the world had changed for good. Back in 1995, we saw the beginning of what would become known as the dot com boom, or the dot com bubble. While this period technically only lasted until around 2001, the renewed focus on technology set the world on a path that few could have predicted.
Today, with the internet being used for everything imaginable, and technology forging ahead in leaps and bounds with products like AI and smart home assistants, why don’t we take a look back at where it all began? Here are some of the best technologies invented in the 2000s.
Portable music has always been a focus of tech companies, particularly Sony who had previously been responsible for the two biggest innovations in this area – the Walkman and Discman. However, with the rise of digital music files and people’s reluctance to carry around chunky portable music players, Apple released a product in 2001 that would change the way we see music and even music ownership. The iPod.
The iPod allowed users to store digital music files on a tiny device that would fit in their pocket. It’s interesting to note that Napster, the music file-sharing service, began in 1999. It’s another technology that made music more accessible to people, and the similar timing of the iPod’s release perhaps helped both to reach huge popularity.
What can we say about smartphones that hasn’t already been said? Those who were around when mobile phones become more available to the mainstream public would remember two major players – Nokia and Eriksson. You could also count Blackberry, but that was a slightly different technology. So, it’s a little surprising that when smartphones were introduced, those two big brands weren’t leading the charge.
The first iPhone went on sale in 2007, and Android technology went public in 2008. Since then, the iOS and Android operating systems have set the standard for smartphones. Today, we use our phones for everything – calling, texting, entertainment, web browsing, shopping, social media and so much more. To say this was a game-changing technology is an understatement.
It’s worth noting that when it comes to smartphones, and indeed many of the technologies we discuss here, the ones with the greatest mainstream popularity weren’t always first. Technology evolves and builds upon prior tech. So, while many of us think about iPhones changing the world, we also need to remember that there was always an early version that started it. In fact, way back in 1994, IBM made available the Simon Personal Communicator, which is considered the earliest form of smartphone.
When we think about technology, it’s easy to focus on electrical devices and software. But what about some of the companies that use modern technology to create other products and services that changed the world? One of those is AirBNB which launched back in 2008. The accommodation-sharing and booking service turned the travel industry on its head, with people now able to find an alternative to hotels in most parts of the world. It has also changed the way people generate wealth, with many people preferring to use rental properties as Airbnb accommodations instead of long-term rentals.
In many ways, you could argue that Airbnb kickstarted the sharing economy, which now encompasses services like Uber and many more.
Today, there are numerous streaming services available, but it wasn’t too long ago that people were still hitting the local Blockbuster to hire DVDs when they wanted something to watch. The brand was founded in 1997 but it took until 2007 for Netflix to start offering a ‘rental by-mail service for DVDs.
While Netflix didn’t begin its streaming service until 2010, the initial service it offered changed the way people consumed watchable content. The rest is history, with technology advancing to the point that streaming has become the most common way to view content in most homes.
It’s worth noting that the huge prevalence of streaming in today’s world is only possible thanks to great internet connectivity. Netflix wouldn’t have been viable in the early days of dial-up or even low-range ADSL, so the fact that people can now compare NBN plans and get lightning-fast internet has made the streaming revolution possible.
While traditionalists may lament this one as ‘the death of the paperback’, there’s no arguing that electronic readers were a huge technological advancement. In the 2000s, products like Kindle, Nook and Kobo took the written word from paperback pages and thrust it into the modern age.
With an electronic reader, a user could now store multiple books on one electronic device and read them at their leisure. While physical books aren’t completely gone, it’s fair to say that many avid readers have made the switch to electronic readers. Many even just use apps on their tablet or phone to read books now.
3D printing machines
3D printing is a process used to make three-dimensional solid objects from a digital model. It works by adding layer upon layer of material until the object is created. The first 3D printer was invented in 1984 by Charles Hull, who went on to found 3D Systems Corporation. However, it was in the 2000s that the technology really took off.
Like many innovations, the groundwork is laid many years before, but most people only remember the time that a technology is pushed into mainstream availability. For 3D printers, that time was definitely the 2000s. And while the technology hasn’t gone on to be as readily available for mass consumption as others on this list, 3D printing technology continues to advance today and forms the basis of so much production around the world.
Perhaps not as world-changing as some of the others mentioned here, Fitbit is still a cool technology that was developed in 2007. Fitbit, of course, is a brand rather than a technology, but its fitness trackers helped to spawn a renewed interest in health and wellbeing.
Fitbit trackers allow users to monitor their physical activity, as well as other metrics such as heart rate, sleep quality, and much more. Apple Watches now use this technology, and there are even smartphone apps that perform a similar function.
Fitbit may not have been the first to use this technology, but it was certainly an innovator and pushed fitness tracking into the mainstream consciousness.
Where would we be without USB drives? Well, if we’re talking about today, in 2023, we’d probably be fine because of the advent of cloud technology. There’s less need to carry digital files around today. But back in the 2000s when you couldn’t email large files due to their size, USB drives were all the rage.
Even today, they’re very useful devices for storing personal information, movies and music, and any other files you want to keep safe and easily accessible. Even if USB drives aren’t quite as common now, the technology is still used for so many things, such as charging other devices.
Facebook and the social media revolution
Here’s another one that perhaps can’t be fairly accredited to Facebook alone. Internet users may remember many forms of online communication that came before, notably MSN Messenger and MySpace, but Facebook took the social media revolution to the next level.
Most people know the story of how Facebook came to exist, but today it is one of the most widely used social media platforms in the world. It has evolved from a fun way to keep in contact with friends to being a business and marketing tool, while still maintaining many of the great features that made it so popular.
YouTube is primarily known as the world’s largest source of video content. And while it’s technically not a search engine, it is still often referred to as the second-largest search engine in the world due to its sheer size.
YouTube isn’t just about sharing funny cat videos anymore, though. It’s a place where people can access all sorts of content, both paid and free. Music artists use it to promote their music. Studios use it to promote movies. Businesses use it to promote anything and everything. Basically, if it’s in video format, it will likely be on YouTube.
We’ve seen so much incredible technology in the last 30 years, and the 2000s were as big a part of the digital revolution as any decade. It’s nice to reflect back on where some of today’s incredible technology got its grounding, and we’re certain that in 2050 we’ll be looking back on the 2020s as an equally important decade of change.