We’re now in the 21st year of the 21st century.
The following are 21 of the most significant contributions (so far) of the 21st century. The list includes a few items that may have actually originated a few years before we entered 2000, but did not come into prominence until some point in century No. 21.
1. COVID-19 vaccine: The vaccine rollout is finally underway and is guaranteed to have a major impact for years to come.
2. iPhone: According to the late Steve Jobs, the former CEO and co-founder of Apple Inc., the “i” word in “iMac,” “iPod,” “iPhone” and “iPad” stands for internet, individual, instruct, inform, and inspire. It’s hard to argue that.
The 2000s have, for the most part, been recognized as the era of mobile computers and social networking, which have both changed the shape of our cultural, political and social climates. One account of Jobs’ contributions reads: “All of those changes, for better or worse, are bound up in that tiny phone” we all carry with us.
At the start of the 2000s, there were 740 million cellphone subscriptions worldwide. Two decades later, that number has has surpassed 8 billion — meaning there are now more cellphones in the world than people.
3. Google: Google’s search engine actually premiered in the late 1990s, but the company did not go public until 2004, leading to its colossal growth. Google revolutionized the way that people search for information online. Every hour there are more than 228 million Google searches.
4. Facebook: There are 2.7 billion active monthly users for the social media outlet that allows us to not only post sentimental family pictures but argue with complete strangers.
5. Amazon: The company started as an online marketplace for books, but expanded to sell electronics, software, video games, apparel, furniture, food, toys, jewelry and much more. In 2015, Amazon surpassed Walmart as the most valuable retailer in the United States by market capitalization (or how much a company is worth as determined by the stock market).
6. YouTube: Even though to many it may seem like this little treasure has been around forever, it was not launched until 2005.
7. Alexa: More and more homes are becoming equipped with Alexa, called by writer Anthony Cuthbertson “the leading light of the smart home and voice assistant revolution.” Personally, I became a firm believer in Alexa’s abilities — after my wife set it up. All I have to do is give Alexa the necessary verbal commands.
8. Wikipedia: One of the early promises of the internet was to provide the world with free and easily accessible information. With the possible exception of Google, nothing has fulfilled this quite like Wikipedia.
9. HD television: Although a reality in the late 1990s, HD did not begin to have a significant impact on U.S. viewing habits until about 15 years ago.
10. Always-available maps: Perhaps the most underrated technological development of the 2000s is that the idea of getting lost has been made obsolete. Services like Google and Apple’s maps made every part of the world viewable and navigable from above. This is all dependent, of course, on adequate cell reception.
11. Touch screens: “Smartphones, tablets, and even Smartwatches ... are all game changers,” writes Tuan C. Nguyen for thoughtco.com. “However, there’s one underlying technological advance without which these devices could not have succeeded. Their ease of use and popularity is largely due to advances in touch-screen technology achieved in the 21st century.”
12. Flash drives: First sold by IBM in 2000, the USB flash drive allows you to easily store files, photos or videos with a storage capacity so large that it would be unfathomable just a few decades ago. Today, a 128GB flash drive, available for about $20 on Amazon, has more than 80,000 times the storage capacity of a 1.44MB floppy disk, which was the most popular type of storage disk in the 1990s.
13-14. Zoom and Skype: Zoom and Skype allow participants to hold video meetings and record them for later review. Zoom can accommodate more participants, which has been important during the pandemic.
15. E-readers: In November 2007, Amazon released the Kindle. Since then, a plethora of e-readers has changed the way millions of people read. Thanks to e-readers, people don’t need to carry around heavy stacks of books, and independent authors can get their publications to an audience of millions of people without going through a publisher.
16. Bluetooth: An innovation that allows users to exchange data from fixed and mobile devices, Bluetooth technology has evolved greatly in the past 20 years. It enables electronic devices to communicate wirelessly and has changed the way people are able to share data.
17. Driverless and electric cars: Thanks to the advent of two new vehicular revolutions in the early 21st century, electric-powered cars and self-driving technology, the next step in the advancement of road transportation continues to evolve. In the coming years, these two entities will continue to work their way toward the top of this list.
18. Drone technology: Drones are useful and popular for capturing quality aerial photos and videos. Drone technology has revolutionized the film and photography industries.
19. 3-D printing: Today, 3D printers are still in the relatively early stages ofbeing used to print spare parts, whole houses, medicines, bionic limbs, and even entire human organs.
20. Air fryer: The air fryer is a small countertop convection oven designed to simulate deep frying without submerging the food in oil. A fan circulates hot air at a high speed.
21. Roomba: The Roomba robot vacuum cleaner might not have changed our world significantly, but it definitely made our life just a little bit easier.