2006: A Look Back at the Biggest Tech from 10 Years Ago

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2006: A Look Back at the Biggest Tech from 10 Years Ago

The more things change, the more they stay the same is a fine way to look back at the rapidly developing technological world. Ten years ago, the landscape was significantly different than it is now, but in a way, it set us up perfectly for how things are in 2016.

We take a look back at 10 of the biggest tech trends and developments from 2006, and track how different things once were.

Modern social media was born


We certainly had social media before 2006, but this was the year we can look back and see the birth of the social media platforms we’ve been using ever since. In 2006, Facebook opened up its social network to the world. No longer did you need to be a student at a specific University, anyone over the age of 13 could sign up with a valid email address.

That led to an increasingly substantial number of users. At the end of 2006, 12 million people had an account, with that number increasing to 50 million by October 2007;. 1.59 billion users now access the site each month, cementing Facebook’s place as the biggest social network out there. Such success even led to a movie being made about its creation—The Social Network— winning 3 Academy Awards in 2011.

Described as the ‘SMS of the internet’, Twitter was launched in July 2006. With its focus on short messages that could be exchanged openly between users, it was a far cry from Facebook’s more all-round approach.

It wasn’t until 2008 that Twitter truly saw significant growth. It went from having 400,000 tweets posted per quarter in 2007 to 100 million in that same period of time in 2008. Boasting 310 million active users, about 500 million tweets are sent every day; with that number increasing significantly during key world events.

The pieces set for the current console war

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Today we’re familiar with things like motion controls and HD technology, but before 2006, competition in the video game console world looked very different.

The PlayStation 3 was launched at the end of 2006. Besides offering strong gaming competition for the Xbox 360, it was the first games console to use BluRays as its primary storage medium. That made it a relatively inexpensive (at the time) option for movie buffs keen to embrace HD technology.

The console went on to offer remote connectivity via the PSP and PS Vita, and it was the first PlayStation to provide social gaming services in the form of PlayStation Network. The system has since been superseded by the PlayStation 4, launched in November 2013.

The PlayStation 3 wasn’t the only console launched in 2006. It was the year of the Wii. As quirky as it sounded, having a console with a handheld motion controller—the Wii remote—was a big hit. Wii Sports was bundled alongside each console, with Wii Bowling being the standout hit. Spending hours trying to play the perfect game was an ideal way to spend the holiday period. Even if warnings about throwing Wii remotes through TVs were widespread.

In recent times, it’s easy to forget what a big deal the Wii was, given the lackluster performance of the Wii U. It was quite the revolution at the time—that word being particularly appropriate as its original name was the Nintendo Revolution.

Macs using Intel chips

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2006 marked a significant transition for Apple’s Mac computers. Deviating from the PowerPC processors of old, Macs built in 2006 and onwards utilized Intel x86 CPUs. That meant that emulation of Windows based software got a lot easier, with the likes of Boot Camp also being introduced this year.

PowerPC processors made sense when compared to Intel chips of the 1990s, but a significant improvement to the architecture ensured that its more power efficient ways were an ideal solution for Apple’s urge to keep ahead of the curve.

While there were some teething issues at first, it’s been a change that has ensured that Macs have gone from strength to strength in the past 10 years.

Google bought YouTube

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Photo courtesy of Flickr user Rego Korosi.

In October 2006, Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion in shares, cementing the two firms’ relationship forever more.

At the time, YouTube had an estimated 72 million individual visitors each month, with 100 million videos viewed every day. YouTube now boasts over a billion users with growth in watch time improving year on year.

The site now offers a plentiful supply of original content, TV shows, and YouTube personalities providing enough vlogs to last a lifetime. The service even won a technical Emmy in 2013 for its personalized video recommendation system.

Widgets were a big deal


Remember Widgets? No—not the ones on your Android phone. In 2006, they seemed like they were going to be the next big thing.

Widgets were small additions to your desktop, showing you things like what the weather was currently like, stock market updates, and how many emails you had waiting for you. In many ways, such features have been fully integrated elsewhere, such as macOS’s Notification Center, but Widgets were a tad quirkier back then. Some would throw in image slideshows or picture puzzles.

Ultimately, developers found more effective and less garish ways of including useful information on your desktop. Often simply through the status bar.

The one billionth song was purchased from Apple iTunes


In 2006, we were still two years away from Spotify’s arrival and the complete disruption of how music was not only sold, but listened to in general. But in 2006, iTunes dominated the marketplace.

On February 23 2006, Apple announced that one billion songs had been downloaded from iTunes since its launch in mid 2003. That song was Speed of Sound by Coldplay, as part of a purchase of the band’s album, X&Y. Alex Ostrovsky of Michigan made that purchase. As a reward, he received a 20-inch iMac, 10 iPods, a $10,000 iTunes gift card, and a scholarship was established in his name at the Juilliard School of Music.

Although Apple’s focus has since shifted from iTunes to Apple Music, the service reached 35 billion songs back in 2014 and 100 billion app sales reached in 2015.

Internet Explorer still dominated


It’s increasingly hard to imagine, but Internet Explorer was still the dominant web browser in 2006. It was slowly losing its hold a little, in favor of Mozilla Firefox, but nearly 2/3 of internet users were running Internet Explorer at the end of 2006;.

Microsoft officially gave up on Internet Explorer as of 2016, with that figure being now only 5.7% and Google Chrome’s share being 71.4% of users. Not bad for a browser that was a mere thought back in 2006.

Pluto was downgraded

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In August 2006, Pluto lost its right to be a full-sized planet. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) determined that it didn’t meet the three criteria used to define a full-sized planet. The crucial one it misses is that it ‘has not cleared its neighbouring region of other objects’.

Instead, Pluto was classified as a ‘dwarf planet’—a celestial body in direct orbit of the Sun with its shape controlled by gravitational forces rather than mechanical forces, but without that all important third criteria for being a full planet.

Cue a flurry of textbooks being updated, and all of us having to try to get used to one fewer ‘planet’ in our solar system.