Top 10 Most Influential Projects in Technology
1 World Wide Web
Though the internet may have already existed, it took the first web browser and first web language to allow everyday people to plug in and connect. Made public in 1993, the project remains the basis for how billions of users interact on the internet, reshaping how we think, work, play—and pretty much everything else.
2 Intel 4004
Just the size of a fingernail, Intel's revolutionary microprocessor delivered the same computing power when it debuted in 1971 as the first electronic computer built in 1946—and that thing filled an entire room. Without chips like the 4004, devices like laptops and cellphones simply could not exist.
3 DynaTAC 8000X
When Motorola unveiled the world's first commercial cellphone to the public in 1983, it weighed nearly 2 pounds (1 kilogram), took almost 10 hours to charge and cost US$3,995. It was an instant hit—and laid the groundwork for today's smartphone industry—by connecting phones to people, not places. (Sorry, car phones.)
4 Google Search
Google wasn't the first internet search engine. But when it beta launched in 1998, it quickly outpaced the competition to become the best and most widely used, reordering what people think is important and putting access to information at their fingertips. Today Google owns more than 90 percent of the internet search market with 3.5 billion searches via the site daily.
So much more than an MP3 player, Apple's iPod reshaped how consumers think about product design and user experience across all industries. It revolutionized how people listen to music, and it turned a pair of white headphones into a fashion statement. Its October 2001 release also marked Apple's first successful foray outside of computers, establishing a blueprint for the juggernaut that is the iPhone.
When IBM Watson beat human champions at Jeopardy! in 2011, it made more than a PR splash. The project ushered artificial intelligence and machine learning into the mainstream.
Alexa, how did you become so popular? Amazon's 2014 release of Alexa—in tandem with its Echo smart speaker—took voice assistant technology from virtually unknown to nearly ubiquitous. Today, more than 100 million Alexa-enabled devices are perched on countertops and nightstands worldwide, with thousands of third-party integrations available.
United Airlines’ mobile ticketing platform, UPS’ overnight delivery system, the Mayo Clinic's eCheck-in system, Toyota's Kanban manufacturing process and Walmart's supply chain logistics. Each of these processes, products and systems wouldn't be possible without the bar code, which was first used to scan a pack of Wrigley's Juicy Fruit gum in 1974.
Skype heralded the end of costly international phone calls and helped usher in our era of always-on connectivity. Launched in 2003, the app made voice calls over the internet free while bringing web-based video calls to everyday users—technology that has inspired everything from Apple FaceTime to Google Hangouts.
Love it or hate it, there's no denying the influence of Facebook and its 2.4 billion active monthly users. Built by Harvard dropout Mark Zuckerberg and launched in 2004, the world's largest social media platform has changed how people connect with friends and family members, transformed how they consume news—and sparked a global debate around data and user privacy.
LEFT PHOTO BY SAI AUNG MAIN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES. RIGHT PHOTO, ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS
50 Most Influential Projects 1969-2019 Written by Alexander Jacobs, Carrie Goerne, Sarah Fister Gale, Ambreen Ali, Novid Parsi, Matt Schur, Tessa D'Agosta, Michael Wasney, Steve Hendershot, Emily Brooks and Hayley Grgurich