On Google's 20th birthday, here are 20 things that didn’t exist when the website was born

On Google's 20th birthday, here are 20 things that didn’t exist when the website was born

What was life like before the internet ran it for us?


Google has become essential to modern life since its creation 20 years ago. So much so google is more than a name, it's a verb.
Photo: Reuters

Happy birthday, Google! The search engine powerhouse turns 20 years old today. That’s 20 years of helping students find information for their essays, of giving lost people directions, and of answering important questions like “What is the best way to retrieve an anchor?”. We can’t imagine what life was like without this powerhouse of a search engine. In light of Google’s birthday, here are 20 other things that exist now but did not two decades ago.

Smartphone wars

Don’t deny it - you probably make a split-second judgment of a person based on the sort of phone they have. If they have the same phone as you, they’re probably all right. If they don’t, there’s probably something wrong with them.

Look, 20 years ago you would have been popping down to the local video rental store to pick up a boxset - and it would have been on VHS or VCD. (Google them.) Now, you pay a small fee (or you borrow your friend’s account) each month to access more shows than you could possibly watch, ever.

Playlists as far as the eye can see - one for every possible mood that you could be in. While we’re sure there’s something immeasurably satisfying about having a shelf full of your favourite albums on , you can’t carry all of them with you on the MTR, can you?

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Did you even really do it/eat it/see it, if you didn’t Instagram it? Forget Facebook and Twitter; the only way to keep up with what your besties and fave celebs are doing, is to scroll through their stories. Two decades ago, you’d need to call up your mates to tell them what you'd eaten, and wait for the latest celebrity magazine to read their exploits.

Imagine having to decide between carrying a heavy bag full of books with you onto a plane for a 12-hour journey (and two-week break), and being completely bored out of your mind for a literal half-day but luggage-free. Now, you can can carry thousands of books with you in one tiny piece of electronic wizardry.

Who knew, 20 years ago, that in 2018 we’d all be watching the rise and fall of a digital currency so obsessively, that entire countries (we’re looking at you, China) would move to ban its trading? Thanks to cryptocurrency, words like blockchain, digital wallets, and Dogecoin actually have very real meanings.


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… or any car-sharing service, really. Twenty years ago, your parents would have been telling you to NOT get into the car of a stranger unless it wasn a legitimate taxi. Now, it’s a legit option when you can’t get a train, or bus, or taxi.

The Kardashians
Kylie lip kits. KimK-Kanye-TayTay drama. Lip fillers (or lack thereof). Horrendously tone-deaf Pepsi advertisements. Like it or not, the collective drama from the Kardashian-Jenner family has made for some seriously juicy celeb gossip in the past decade, and provided us with some seriously iconic memes and quotes.

Can you imagine a world without Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark, or Chris Hemsworth’s Thor? The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been pumping out superpowered films since 2008, and we honestly can’t imagine life without one action-packed, potentially world-ending summer blockbuster each year.


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Twenty years ago, if you had a really cool idea but not the money to make it a reality, you would go from potential investor to potential investor in the hopes of finding someone who believed in your vision enough to support you financially. Now, thousands of strangers online can contribute a little bit of their own cash to make your Super Awesome Invention a reality.

If you were on your computer in 1998, and your mum wanted to use the phone, then chances are you would have had to tell your friends you were going AFK (away from keyboard). Going on the internet involved hooking up your desktop to the telephone line. Unplugging it meant you’d be disconnected from the internet. Sounds like a total nightmare, tbh.

Google Maps
Lost in a strange city in a foreign country? Twenty years ago, you would have had to use an actual fold-out map, or ask the locals to point you in the right direction. Now, you can pull up Google Maps and find out the quickest, cheapest, or easiest way to get from A to B.


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Who would have thought that YouTube would have such an impact on our lives? We have the site to thank for EVERYTHING, from learning how to apply the perfect winged eyeliner to finding out what exactly a dog with a GoPro attached to its collar gets up to when left alone at home.

Probably not a day goes by when you aren’t tagging a friend in a super-relatable meme, or being tagged in one because “this is us”. Memes are constantly referenced in daily life now, in a way that would have seemed impossible in the late 90s.

Hong Kong Disneyland
Our city’s Disney theme park only opened in 2005. Before that, the closest House of Mouse fix for Mickey fans was in Tokyo, Japan. The idea that you’d have to travel overseas to go to Disneyland now seems almost ludicrous.


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Shawn Mendes
Okay, so this one is a bit of a stretch, but the Canadian pop singer was born 20 years ago. (Call us fangirls, but we think this deserves a mention.) Mendes began posting cover songs on Vine in 2013, where he gained millions of followers and was eventually picked up by a record label.

Before smartphones, photos were pretty simple. Someone would hold up a camera, and you would smile. Then you’d get the film developed - but only after the entire film roll had been used up. Now, you can take a photo of yourself with a front-facing phone camera, and decide right there and then if you want to keep it or not.

Pumpkin Spice Lattes
Leave it to Starbucks to make a limited-edition, autumnal drink the (unofficial) herald of the changing of the seasons! The coffee company popularised the drink in 2003, starting a wave of pumpkin-themed dishes and drinks all over the world that still ongoing today.


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Two hands put together in prayer. A girl in a red dress, salsa-ing. A thinking face with a hand under its chin. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a wealth of meaning can be found in a single emoji. What did we ever do without them?

Virtual assistants
Siri, Alexa, and Cortana are virtual assistants created by Apple, Amazon, and Google respectively to do all the things you’re too lazy to do - such as lowering the volume on your TV, or putting on some music while you cook, or making an appointment to visit the dentist next week. (Which reminds us... Alexa, call the dentist.)

All gifs via GIPHY


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