On the eve of 2020, video streaming at 4K is normal, shrink-wrapped software is gone and the internet is faster than ever - see how far we've come in a decade

internet cord cable ethernetphotosteve101 / Flickr, CC

You probably wouldn't notice much of a difference if you were casually browsing the internet in 2019 with the internet speeds we had back in 2009.

Internet speeds in the US in 2009 averaged about 5 megabits per second (Mbps), according to the FCC and various other reports. That's totally fine for a Google search, poking around on Amazon, or streaming a YouTube video at decent quality.

Even watching Netflix on your smart TV would be possible at 2009 speeds. Netflix recommends a 3 Mbps connection for "standard" quality video - easily-achievable in 2009 - and 5 Mpbs for "HD" quality video. Sure, you'd be pushing your home internet connection to the limit, but you could probably stream Netflix and have another family member browse the web at the same time using 2009-era bandwidth.

But, come on, it's the year two thousand nineteen. For many, the internet is the primary source of productivity and entertainment. Things need to be fast and seamless. Websites need to load instantaneously. 4K video is the standard now. That's where 2009's internet speeds start to feel dated.

If you want to stream video at 4K quality, Netflix recommends 25 Mbps internet speeds. On average, few people in 2009 - if any - would have been able to stream a 4K video on Netflix. Other internet-based services have also swelled in size since 2009, and most people today download apps and software rather than buy shrink-wrapped physical versions.

Red Dead Redemption 2? Please wait 48 hours.

A heavy internet user in 2019 would find internet speeds from 2009 pretty tough. Indeed, as more of us become heavy internet users, we sign up for faster internet services. Average internet speeds in American homes grew from around 5 Mbps in 2009 to 96.25 Mbps in 2018, according to Ookla, the company behind internet speed-testing site Speedtest.net. (The company didn't have a report for fixed home internet speeds in 2019 yet, but 2018's data should give you the idea that average internet speeds have dramatically increased over the last decade.)

Adobe Photoshop, a one-gigabyte download would take over 35 minutes to download with 2009 speeds. And Microsoft's Office at about three gigabytes would take about an hour and 25 minutes.

red dead redemption 2YouTube/DefendTheHouse

At 2018's average internet speeds, Photoshop takes under two minutes to download. And Office takes a little over four minutes. And as for Netflix, Americans can easily stream a 4K video on Netflix on at least three separate TVs with 2018's average speeds, and there's even some bandwidth left over for regular web browsing.

I just downloaded the video game "Red Dead Redemption 2" (RDR2) on my PC, which was a one hundred gigabyte download. It's an unusually large game, and it took an hour and a half with my 200 mbps internet speeds. With 2009 internet speeds at about 8 Mbps, it would have taken almost 48 hours to download "RDR2." So, I'm not complaining about the hour and a half download over the weekend.

Internet speeds have come a long way since a decade ago. Had they stagnated in 2009 and remained around 5 Mbps throughout the decade, we'd probably have never seen a 4K option for Netflix or YouTube, and we'd still be buying physical copies of the apps and software we use instead of downloading them. We'd be sharing lower quality photos and videos to friends and family. A lot of what we're used to today would simply not be possible.

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