The internet has been a large part of how the world works since its conception. Many people have smartphones to look at memes or read up on the latest news, internet cafes are available to those who need it, and university coursework is often done online rather than with a pencil and paper. With COVID-19 having put the world under various states of emergency or other forms of restriction, the use—and importance—of the internet has never been so abundantly clear, letting people work from home remotely or stay in contact with friends and family over video chat.

 

COVID-19 is changing our daily lives, but it’s also changing the way we use the internet, albeit subtly. How, exactly?

 

Entertainment: Because they’re being kept inside and under quarantine, people have gone searching for other ways to keep themselves entertained since going out is no longer an option. Media platforms like Facebook, Netflix, and YouTube have seen a drastic increase in usage as people go to stream videos or connect with friends on social media. As most people over the years have used their phones to access their media profiles, platforms have focused on improving their apps rather than their websites. Now that laptops and PCs are more closely at hand, the increased use of actual websites has gone up and, as a result, caused mobile app numbers to stagnate. 

 

Video Chat: Now that we have to social distance, people need to find other ways to see one another rather than just texting their loved ones. This brought a large spike to video chatting platforms, such as Duo and Google’s video chat option. With these apps, people can either speak to their friends, watch videos together, or play games with one another. Another app, Nextdoor, lets people connect with surrounding neighborhoods as the interest in people’s surroundings grows.

 

Remote Work: Perhaps the biggest change for most people has been the transition from in-person work to working or learning from home. This quickly caused apps like Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Teams to blow up in terms of usage, though privacy concerns have risen due to this rapid and unexpected growth.

 

News: The internet is a vast resource for information, so naturally, people will turn to it to find out more about COVID-19. Though the past few years have seen a rise in popularity for partisan sites, they have seen either stagnation or a decrease in traffic amid this pandemic. Rather, local and already-established newspapers have seen an increase in site traffic as people search for facts rather than opinionized pieces.

 

Sports: Social distancing and the cancellation of large events until further notice have impacted ESPN sports dramatically, while e-sports and video games have soared in popularity. People have gone to Twitch to watch people play video games or Tik Tok to make short videos of their own, entertaining one another and being social virtually as a result.