2020 was unprecedented for a number of reasons, with perhaps the biggest disruption to normal life at a global level since the Second World War. The COVID-19 pandemic quickly raged through the entire world, and governments largely had to resort to lockdowns to try and control the spread of the virus. This meant that people were stuck inside their homes, and this quickly gave rise to a lot of boredom, and therefore a need for entertainment. It is here that the internet came to the rescue, as people turned to various forms of entertainment online to keep themselves occupied, while also using it to get essential work done. It is therefore interesting to look at some of the ways in which the internet was used to pass the time during the last 12 months or so, with some indications of how this may evolve in the future as well.
One of the most popular ways of passing the time was through video calls to family and friends while working from home meant that meetings were now virtual as well. This led to a little-known video calling software, Zoom, becoming the fifth-most downloaded app of 2020, with nearly 500 million downloads, and almost every person has heard of it and used it. Whether you were on a work call or chatting with your friends, it is extremely likely that you were doing so on Zoom. The fact that many businesses globally are now considering having a large part of their workforce working remotely on a permanent basis, due to the success of this practice during lockdown, means that Zoom is likely to remain one of the most popular video calling apps for quite some time.
Another way in which people spent time online was by playing games. Gaming saw a tremendous boost during 2020, both in terms of the number of people playing games, as well as viewership of esports. With live sports being impossible to conduct, at least for the first few months of the pandemic, many people turned to esports to provide an alternative. At the same time, people had a lot more time to themselves due to being stuck at home, and so gaming became extremely popular, with many game developers helping out by offering games for free or at huge discounts during this time. Another related development was the rise of online gambling. Land-based casinos had to close down all over the world, and so most gambling fans ended up playing online poker, blackjack and other online versions of popular casino table games to pass the time. These trends are also likely to continue to a large extent even when the world opens up again, due to the popularity of these online alternatives.
It is no surprise that online streaming of content, be it movies, music or TV shows, also increased by a massive amount during this time. Streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video saw a large increase in new user sign-ups and subscriptions, and their massive content libraries meant that there was never a shortage of content for people to watch. Again, we can expect this trend to carry on, with the increasing number of big-name movies and shows that are releasing on these content platforms.
These are some of the most popular ways in which people used the internet to pass the time in the last year or so, with all of these trends set to continue in 2021 and beyond as well.