Since 2009, the internet has slowly but surely changed everything. Explore this global shift from the perspective of Annabel, CMO and Co-Founder of AE.

When AE was in its early days, privacy wasn’t really on most people’s radar. We were just happy to have access to content and excited about all the possibilities the Internet promised us.

In 2009 there were a lot of geographic restrictions in New Zealand, where we were living at the time. But even there, online forums were buzzing and people from all over the world were discussing films, TV shows and music in ways you just didn’t before.

I never thought much about what I was sharing. Obviously I wasn’t sharing my credit card number through email or transferring funds to a Nigerian Prince — but data privacy didn’t even cross my mind. I mostly remember just feeling grateful to have a world of content.

I don’t believe most major brands, back then, even understood how important data and privacy would become. Little by little, companies have seen the potential value of data, and Internet users have seen the potential concerns. But back in those early days, here’s what it looked like.


Way back in 2009 — Here’s what our online world looked like back then

Lets travel back to the dawn of data privacy

We Surfed The Net

Google’s Chrome browser had just launched in 2008. I was still using Firefox but testing work projects on Chrome. Chrome had a new password manager and I suspect that’s ultimately what made me switch. Two-factor authentication was only used by “nerds;” I certainly wasn’t concerned about it! 


Communicated By Email

I was using my domain’s webserver for my personal and work emails. It was annoying when it fell over. 


Apps Were A New Thing

The Apple App Store launched in 2008 – this totally changed the way people consumed content. Privacy rules weren’t terribly strict – all sorts of companies got in trouble for the type of information they requested from end-users. Getting approved on the app store took almost no time at all.


Got Our Toes Wet In Social Media

Memes were kicking off. Thank you Kanye. Imma Let You Finish. The world of internet hoaxes was just beginning. Everyone watched the video of a 6-year old boy flying in a weather balloon over Colorado.

Twitter was only 2 years old and seemed to mostly be used by journalists and writers. The “fail whale” was a fairly common occurrence.

Facebook famously changed its Terms of Service in 2009 without informing its users that Facebook now had the ability to use your content in any way it chose, even if you quit Facebook. As you can imagine, there was quite the push back! This may have been the earliest large-scale privacy scandal.

the twitter fail whale

Started Playing Massively Multi-Player Online Role-Playing Games

World of Warcraft was the biggest MMORPG. It started it all. Lots of people, kids and adults alike were banding together to complete quests. And yes, I was one of those folks.


Some Of Us Were Even Downloading Music Illegally

A lot of people were listening to music on MySpace and YouTube. There was still a lot of illegal downloading happening because you just couldn’t get access to what you wanted. Bandcamp was still in infancy but a lot of indie and emerging artists were populating the service with their EPs and albums. And while I couldn’t listen to Spotify from NZ there was a brilliant site called Grooveshark that let me stream tracks – it was a revelation!

Governments all over the world were pledging to crack down on illegal file-sharing. Teenage music fans were being sued and the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) was on a rampage.


New Ideas Were Sprouted

AirBnB had just launched (2008) and was still a risky new idea. Amazon had just acquired Audible, realizing the growing impact of audiobook listeners. Podcasts were picking up a bit of traction — listeners could use their iPhone 3G to hear them. And the concept of the Sharing Economy was soon to hit the mainstream, starting with Rachel Botsman’s book entitled, “What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption.“

fast forward to the internet in 2019

Fast Forward to 2021…


We Create A LOT Of Data

In 2020 every person created 1.7MB of data every second and it continues to grow. By 2025, 463 exabytes of data will be generated each day by humans.

Global industries have realized the power of data. Large companies that leverage data have become truly powerful in the business world.

People on the Internet have seen a few data scandals, and are increasingly concerned about their privacy rights. As data legislation struggles to catch up with the big tech companies that collect data, it’s time to re-think what type of Internet we want to have in the future.

The new age of consumer data can be a positive one. Data can help brands be more useful and innovative. Think about movie suggestions on Netflix, or useful product suggestions on Amazon. The right products can be offered to the right buyers — even more so, the right products can actually be invented and refined to anticipate the buyers’ needs and serve them perfectly.


Moving To The Cloud

I still use Chrome for browsing and I’ve moved to a paid Gmail account for email. I know it tracks me, but I have a committed relationship with Google. I use Google for almost everything: email, documents, photos, music, and my Google Home personal assistant. Why? Because Google makes my life easier and presents me with useful information, like when I should leave for a meeting or if my flight has been delayed. And all my services are synchronized so that I’m not logging out and logging into different apps and services all the time. See more of my thoughts on the Dark and the Light Side of Data.


Apps Run Our Lives

How did we ever live without apps? I use 10 apps every day on my phone from Slack to Podcasts to AirBnB. I am also careful about removing Apps from my phone I don’t actually use and I never download an App from the Play Store that doesn’t have at least 1,000 reviews. Being safe about the Apps I have means I’m being safe about my personal data they have access to.


We’re Committed To Social

Maintaining a profile on social media is an expected part of life for many people around the world.

I recently removed myself from my committed relationship with Instagram and my beloved sewing community. I’ve paid to be a member of a private sewing community where my data is safe. I’ve also removed What’s App from my phone due to their privacy changes and now use Signal. (Read more about my desire to leave Facebook.)

committed to social media

Games Are A Major Industry

Meanwhile, the Games Industry has grown to a massive $152.1 billion per year with 2.5 billion gamers globally! The US is the world’s largest gaming market, with mobile gaming at #1, making up 45% of the market. (Check out this article more facts like these.)

I’m not WoWing anymore. In fact, I’ve gone back to board games and have a weekly board game night with friends. My co-founder and husband, plays a lot of games on Steam so there’s still a lot of gaming in our household, but I’ve decided to keep my games 3 dimensional. With so many platforms now available to choose from it’s important to join trusted communities, because after all they’ve got your credit card and understand how you spend your leisure time.


The Music Industry Adapted To Digital

In music, I’m completely digital. In fact, I don’t even have much music stored on my phone. I stream everything I need and could possibly want. There’s so much music available I almost find it difficult to find anything. The music industry has completely changed since 2009 with streaming becoming the main way people consume music and share their personal data.


Big Ideas Are Changing Everything

The Internet has connected people around the world and changed the balance of power in our global economy. It’s no surprise that the world’s top 10 most valuable companies now include Internet-based companies Amazon, Microsoft, Alphabet (Google), Apple, Facebook, TenCent, and Alibaba.

Big ideas have impacted the way we live in North America and much of the world. Ridesharing, co-working, food delivery, car and bike shares, home delivery, podcasts, connected homes, and on-demand services are all a part of this new tech-driven world. Recent news has shown that some of these ideas are losing money for investors — it will be interesting to see what they evolve into over the next decade…

how the internet has changed everything in the past 10 years

We Care About Digital Privacy at AE

Meet the team who are building the software that powers more conversions from online user data.