Many end-of-year articles tagged the “Ought” decade as “The Internet Decade”, citing the emergence of Google, FaceBook, YouTube, etc. I have too much love for the Internet to wedge it into a decade. The Internet is an era, an epoch, a revolution. The Internet began in the 60s. The web, as many people use synonymously as the Internet, technically started in the early 90s and began to push into commercial consciousness before 2000. Even Google itself actually began in 1998, though its stock value did not go meteoric until after 2002.

And while the Internet undoubtedly played a huge role in all those retrospective choices, many of the other catalysts attributed to the Internet actually had a lot to do with the telephone, and  more specifically, the cellphone. This might make the 2000s more appropriately “The Telephony Decade”.

Recent technical and social evolutions – the iPhone (and indeed, BlackBerries and other smartphones), texting (and “sexting”), VoIP, Netbooks with “3G”, Skype, etc – were all signatures of “The Telephony Decade”. No single industry underwent more significant change, specifically within the last 10yr period, as telecom.

Think about this: in the 90s of the previous millennium…

  • Pagers were popular.
  • Not everyone had cellphones, but most everyone had a land line.
  • People chose their cellphone plan carefully, knowing whether they wanted a national plan, or a cheaper regional plan.
  • Minutes were guarded like gold, and everyone had to choose the right plan level to avoid expensive overage charges.
  • BlackBerry had just begun, and it was almost exclusively used for business.
  • Nobody gave much credence to putting “broadband” and “wireless” together in the same sentence.
  • Carriers were charging for the government-mandated “number portability” even though they hadn’t yet figured out how they could support the idea.

These days,

  • Pagers are passe. Text messages have supplanted the old pager alerts.
  • Most people have cellphones, and some have given up their home phones to just use their cells.
  • Flat-rate “Anything” cell plans eliminate the worry over long distance and overage minutes. (Side note: POTS lines still have “zone calling charges”?!? When are the switched network carriers going to get with the program?)
  • The BlackBerry is hugely popular in business, and also making inroads for personal use. On the opposite end, the iPhone was revolutionary for consumers and is now gaining traction in the business world.
  • “2G” digital data services were leapfrogged by “3G” and now “4G”/LTE, far exceeding the 1.5Mb/s threshold.
  • Number portability is no longer a big deal, and 10-digit phone numbers are going to become more like personal identifiers rather than regional indicators. (Even though I am in CA, my own Google Voice number is actually somewhere in OK.)

In particular, smartphone adoption is off the charts according to sales figures, and only promises to continue in the coming years. These (plus netbooks) have become the mobile Internet terminals that helped to further drive YouTube and FaceBook usage, those supposed signatures of “The Internet Decade”.

The Internet is the revolution, but mobility has become its most ardent driving force. Maybe we acknowledge the symbiotic relationship and just call it for what it was: “The Anytime/Anywhere Mobile Internet Decade”. But then that sounds like the tag line from a telecom/carrier commercial, which I suppose just underscores my point about “The Telephony Decade”.