The Internet is now a source of everything from pure entertainment to up to the minute news for the private citizen, but it hasn’t always been that way. In fact, in the early days of the Internet (before it even carried that name), it was strictly limited in its use and no one would have dared suggest it be used for any frivolous. The Internet was originally conceived of in the early 1960’s as a way to enable multiple computers to access information for research and development purposes in the scientific and military communities.
By 1970, several major universities had super computers sharing information between research groups and libraries as well as exchanging an early form of email. The increase in information necessitated a way of indexing and organizing the information that eventually led to simpler codes, hypertext and ease of use in the 1980’s. Initially, the government funded the development of the Internet, so commercial use was prohibited unless it was directly linked to research or education.
Everything changed in the late 1980’s and early 1990s, when independent commercial networks sprang up in response to the ease of use and smaller, less expensive computers for office and home use. Since these independent commercial networks could pay for their own Internet connections, they could route to each other and bypass the government’s “backbone.” By 1995, the World Wide Web was in full swing and the government was out of the Internet business.
Predictably, as soon as the Internet was open to the public, individuals changed its look. Individuals wanted more than just a way to conduct business or do their banking, although such practical applications were certainly popular. Today’s Internet provides information, ease and more than anything else, entertainment to home users.
The entertainment industry quickly jumped on the Internet bandwagon by distributing movie trailers, early release teaser chapters from new books and lots of press photos for always-interested fans. They created entire websites dedicated not only to networks, but also to movies, particular televisions shows and even particular fictional characters. Today, many televisions shows have mirror websites with special features that add to the viewer experience. For instance, if you love the show “Monk” on the USA Network, you can play games relating to the character’s peculiarities, take quizzes about past episodes and enter contests to win prizes or learn more about the characters to enhance enjoyment of the show. That’s savvy marketing.
In an entirely different vein, the Internet brought entertainment of other kinds right into the home that people previously had to go to, not the other way around. Video poker, arcade games, and downloadable streaming video all mean that you can be entertained 24/7 without ever leaving home. Users can play a few hands of cards or enter a tournament. There are tournaments going on around the world at any given time. It’s even possible to play a classic pinball game by downloading it to your computer.
In fact, the face of entertainment has changed considerably by allowing individuals to upload their own photos and videos for the world to see and even script and edit their own films. The Internet has made us all into amateur photographers and videographers with a potential audience of millions thanks to YouTube, Flickr and other programs. Not only does the Internet provide us with 24/7 entertainment, it allows us to provide the world with entertainment that we’ve made. Upload a clip of that amazing wipe-out you made on the slopes during your last ski trip and you’ll be amazed how fast you become entertainment for millions of viewers.
Some of the most popular sites on the Internet are celebrity gossip sites. It’s human nature in today’s hectic world, when we’re all hunkered over our computers hours every day working to earn a living, to want to click over to a gossip site for a few minutes and check out how “the other half” lives. It’s harmless entertainment news that reassures us that are lives aren’t so bad, and we get the guilty thrill of checking out the photos.