January 1, 2010 doesn’t just mark the beginning of another year. It marks the passing of a decade. A decade in which the internet technology really came into its own.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest tech events and trends that changed the world in the past ten years.

The .com bust

Internet startups were going to take over the world. Untold billions were going to be made. But as is evident in retrospect, it was too good to be true. The NASDAQ peaked in March 2000, and soon thereafter the bubble started to deflate. In 2001, it became clear that the good times were over and many of those on the verge of .com millionairedom soon found themselves broke or sitting on worthless stock options from companies that disappeared almost overnight.

Of course, the .com bust didn’t really signal the end of the incredible opportunities the internet created. Out of the ashes of the collapse would emerge mega-brands like Google, eBay and Amazon.com. Many of the markets that were overhyped at the time, such as ecommerce, are today the billion dollar industries that everyone expected them to be. It just took a little bit longer than expected.

Mobile maturity

A lot of crazy predictions have been made about the mobile industry and many of them didn’t come to fruition or were slow to be realized. But consider this: in China alone, there are now more than 150m mobile internet users. In the United States, which had lagged much of the developed world in the adoption of advanced mobile technology, over 20m mobile users access the internet daily.

In short, the mobile internet is a reality. And thanks to broadband mobile networks, increasingly sophisticated internet-friendly smart phones like the iPhone and developer platforms like Android, infastructure, hardware and software capabilities have aligned to put in place a foundation for a golden era of mobile computing.

The PPC economy

The bursting of the .com bubble was a huge setback for online advertising, which up until that point was dominated by display. But thanks to Google’s success in taking the pay-per-click concept originally pioneered by Bill Gross at Idealab, a ‘new economy‘ really did develop: the pay-per-click economy.

Google launched its self-serve pay-per-click service, AdWords, in 2000. Since then, it has arguably done more than any other service to bring advertisers of all sizes online. AdSense, which enables online publishers to monetize their properties by syndicating AdWords ads, launched in 2003 and quickly gave established publishers and startups a quick and easy way to monetize their websites.

Today, Google’s pay-per-click economy generates over $20bn in revenue each year and is, in many ways, the barometer of the internet economy at large.

Media mayhem

From Napster to YouTube, pioneering services that take advantage of the internet’s capabilities to help consumers discover, consume and create  various forms of media have disrupted traditional media companies, and presented them with huge new challenges and opportunities in the process. Old business models have been marginalized or destroyed, and new ones have been developed. Significant battles over intellectual property have been won and lost, and many are still going on.

Successes and failures have been realized by both established businesses and new businesses alike, and through it all the internet has cemented an influential, if still growing, role in the world of media.

Here, there, everywhere

As the .com bubble inflated, a lot of people envisioned a world in which ‘pure play‘ internet companies would come to dominate various industries. But a funny thing happened: many of the stodgy old companies that have cashed in on the internet over the past decade are established businesses. Many were slow to embrace the internet but had the financial wherewithal to outlive the high-flying startups that couldn’t survive the .com carnage.

Nowhere better is this seen than in the world of ecommerce, where strategies that make it possible for companies to reach consumers wherever they are have blossomed. From mail order retailers who have brought their catalogs online to brick-and-mortar stalwarts who now let you click-and collect, the past decade has seen savvy businesses in a wide range of industries embrace multichannel marketing strategies and use them to grow and profit.

The rise of social media

It’s hard to believe that the social networking craze started over six years ago when Friendster launched. Since then, we’ve seen the rise of a broad range of services that enable you and me to connect and share online. ‘Social media‘ in all of its forms has impacted the internet like few phenomena before it. And its potential reach extends far beyond the internet to things like search, media, retail, marketing, PR and customer service.

Where will it all lead, or end? Only the next decade knows.

Photo credit: smemon87 via Flickr.