Since 2002, the number of internet users has quadrupled to 2.3 billion people worldwide. The internet has revolutionized our ability to connect with virtually anyone and has granted us access to an infinite amount of information, including over 550 million websites. However, proposed bills like CISPA, SOPA, ACTA, and PIPA threaten the state of the internet, with 300 million sites added just in 2011.
Imagine a world without the internet. The cost of a complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica would be $1200.00. In the US, the cost of sending emails, if replaced by paying for stamps, would amount to $6.3 trillion. The cost of online content, which is currently free, contrasts starkly with the collective cost of internet service.
Many of our favorite internet companies, such as Twitter, Google, eBay, Groupon, Amazon, and Valve, would never have existed. The internet job market, including 450,000 US jobs created by Facebook alone, would be non-existent. The internet creates 2.6 jobs for every job it makes obsolete, contributing $2.3 trillion to G-20 nations, equivalent to Italy's entire GDP.
Without the internet, we would be living in a vastly different world. The concept of degrees of separation would change dramatically, from 3.74 without the internet to 6 with it, making the world feel much smaller. The spread of information would be drastically slowed. For instance, one minute of Twitter generates 100,000 tweets, and 65% of people get their news online. In just one month on Facebook, 30 billion pieces of content are shared.
Revolutions and social movements would take much longer to organize. For example, it took only one week for 90,000 Egyptians to organize a revolution via the internet, compared to four months for the fall of the Berlin Wall and 18 days of protest to overthrow 30 years of dictatorship. Movements like Occupy, with tens of thousands of demonstrators in 900 cities, would not have been possible.
In summary, the internet has not only transformed how we communicate and access information but also significantly impacted global politics and economics. Our world would be vastly different and arguably not better without it.