As the clock struck midnight on the 31st December 1999, there was much to be hopeful for in the world. A period of relative international calm, a variety of innovations on the cusp of breakthroughs (the widely feared Y2K bug showing little impact as the clocks rolled over), and strong economic indicators from the industrial power houses offered a warm, optimistic glow for the new millennium.
The five year period that followed would provide the technological foundations that we rely on today, and the catalyst for growth for nations and companies that have come to define the world. The nascence of social networks would emerge in the form of the collaborative, free encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, in 2001, then with the likes of Friendster and MySpace that had early traction, before being overtaken by Facebook that was founded in 2004. The era would also see email become the de rigueur form of write communication, as well as the rise of such technologies as WiFi, GPS and open source software that have become key building blocks for apps that we rely on today.
Apple presented the iPod in 2001 followed by other great innovations, including the iTunes store and its groundbreaking physical retail locations, that formed the building blocks for the integrated ecosystem that it is known for today, all under the watchful eyes of its celebrated founder Steve Jobs and design visionary Jony Ive. This period saw Microsoft launch Windows XP, a landmark operating system, but more importantly the company added video games to its portfolio with the release of the Xbox that was immensely successful and has become a key pillar for the organisation. 2000 to 2005 would not be all smooth sailing for the technology industry though, with the dot-com bubble bursting early in the start of the new millennium, causing the demise of many companies in the sector, but those that made it through would go on to become titans, such as Amazon, Google, and eBay.
Globalisation would be the dominant force of the era post-2000, fostered by reduced trade barriers (the Euro was introduced in 2001 as the member nations’ prime currency), fast communications with the adoption of high-speed internet, and a delta in labour costs across markets, resulted in increased offshoring. This would bolster a manufacturing supply chain and logistics that was already gravitating towards Asia and would be constantly increasing in efficiency, all of which would form the foundation for the rise of China as an economic powerhouse.
It would be an exciting period for the world of science, seeing full genome sequencing, a more complete understanding of dark energy, the continuous habitation of the International Space Station providing some early forms of space tourism, and the landing of the Mars Exploration rovers Spirit and Opportunity on the Martian surface. Against this background, it is easy to see why the beginnings of the 21st century really did feel like the a significant step into the future.