So there it is, another decade gone. And how our world has changed over the last 10 years. The way we consume music and television has completely changed, our diet has gone through a pretty dramatic upheaval as have the ways in which we communicate with each other. Concerns over the climate have deepened and the way we spend money and travel are – in many respects - completely different – to 2010.
Here – in completely random order are some of the things we take for granted today that were either non-existent or of marginal interest when the decade just gone first started.
In the summer of 2011 Bank of Ireland announced plans to introduce a new cashless payment method to Irish customers with its new "contactless" Visa Debit cards. Within weeks AIB said it was doing likewise. The banks explained that the cards would be aimed at small transactions, limited to €15 and would allow customers to pay for smaller items in stores in less than a second, simply by holding the card over a reader in the shop. Take up was slow at first. But in the last three months of last year around 1.5 million contactless payments were made every day with people using cards and phones and even watches to make payments.
On December 12th, 2011, after nine years of planning and more than two decades of talk, Dublin got its first integrated ticketing for public transport. The Leap card was officially launched by then minister for public transport Alan Kelly and it allowed people to use the bus, the Luas, the Dart and then some of the trains using one single ticket.
The Dublin City Bikes scheme was actually rolled out in Dublin in 2009 but it really started to take off in the early part of the last decade. In the early days almost everyone was convinced that all the bikes would end up in the river. That did not happen. The city took the bikes to their hearts and it has by any measure been a runaway success.
Over the last 30 or 40 years there is little that has been shaken up quite as many times as the music industry. Records became cassettes which became CDs which – briefly – became mini-discs which became a collection of ones and zeros illegally downloaded from the Internet which became legal streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer. Are we better off now that almost every single song from every single artist is available on your phone? Or did we value music more when we had to save up to buy vinyl records which we treasured and played on the styluses were blunt?
When Netflix launched its streaming service in Ireland in early January 2012, the response from this writer was distinctly sniffy. On day one we looked at what it was offering and declared that the content was poor and we wondered if enough people would be interested in seeing Paul Blart: Mall Cop to sign up for the service. We made a fleeting reference to the presence of something called Breaking Bad. Fast forward eight years and Netflix is almost all conquering. It has an endless stream of content and Pricewatch is just finishing watching Breaking Bad on Netflix for the second time. And – take it from us – it is as good this time round as it was first time out.
Ten years ago it was still the norm to go into shops and buy computer games. That market is virtually non-existent now as all the major platforms sell all their games online. And speaking of games, how can we forget Minecraft and Fortnite, the all conquering games that leave us entirely mystified.
Social media influencers became a major force in marketing over the course of the last decade. Their tweets, Facebook posts, Snapchat snaps, Instagram posts and Insta stories reached enormous audiences and became very attractive to brands, agencies and companies who wanted to reach a mass of people. They were doubly attractive because the impact on a brand of a particular post was so easy to see in real time. Whether or not the idea has legs remains to be seen.
What was once a very niche market is on the way to becoming mainstream as people look to alternatives to meat as a result of health and environmental concerns. According to Bord Bia almost 10 per cent of people in Ireland are now vegetarian (not the same thing as veganism, we know). This is a doubling in a decade.
As far as we can ascertain, in this newspaper Gelato was a word which was confined to articles about Italy until 2014 when we first saw it mentioned in relation to an Irish establishment selling that thing that is a bit like ice-cream. Nowadays there are gelatarias at almost every corner and people seem to be forever ordering the stuff in restaurants. But do you know what the difference between ice-cream and gelato is? Well, gelato is the Italian word for ice cream but it is soft and smooth and has a freshness that ice cream, which is heavier and sweeter, lacks. Gelato is also made with less fat and less air. And regular ice cream is made with cream as the key ingredient – the hint is in the name – while gelato eschews loads of cream in favour of milk.
"WhatsApp is a messaging application that gives you the chance to get around SMS charges. Instead of eating into your text message quota, you can use the data network to send texts to friends using the application. The difference is that you don't need to remember user names to find them; the application uses phone numbers to identify contacts and automatically picks out those who have the app, too. It's available for iPhone, Nokia and Blackberry, and messages can be sent cross-platform." So wrote Ciara O'Brien in this newspaper on August 28th, 2010. Accessing WhatsApp is now the most popular use of apps among smartphone users in Ireland with 85 per cent of people using their smartphones for this purpose. And check out the reference to Blackberry.
Just three years ago a grown-up on a scooter was viewed with suspicion as an attention-seeking oddball but over the last 18 months the devices have started appearing in large numbers across the country. The cool kids of Silicon Valley are to blame. They have been zipping about on them without the merest hint of shame since at least 2016 and small start-ups with big plans to rent scooters to the world with schemes that operate in the same way as city bike rental schemes have attracted hundreds of millions of dollars from venture capitalists. By almost every measure the e-scooter is the perfect vehicle for short commutes and city crossings. They are eco-friendly, comparatively cheap, zippy and hard to steal because they are compact and lightweight and can easily go where their owner goes.
They can also be easily carried onto a bus, train or taxi should the weather turn at any point along the journey. And because they allow users to comfortably cover distances of up to 20km – although realistically the range is closer to half that – without breaking a sweat, people can arrive at work or at their bus stop or train station fast and without having to shower before they sit at their desk. There is just one teeny-weeny problem however. Under legislation that is more than 50 years old, they are illegal in Ireland.
The very first mention of the now ubiquitous home sharing platform was in July 2010. And it merited only a short paragraph in a website round-up. Who knew that within a couple of years it would dramatically reshape how people all over the world went on their holliers.
A decade ago Ireland was in the depths of one of the worst recessions in the history of the State. House prices was in free fall, there was talk of banks collapsing and the army being sent to protect ATMs. Jobs were disappearing, austerity was everywhere and the people that controlled the levers of power appeared to have no real idea what to do. But slowly, as the years past, through a combination of favourable international trade winds, luck, sacrifice by people and – to be fair – political management, things began to improve. While Irish people are spending money again – at least those who have it are – there does appear to be a reluctance to return to the profligate shopping habits of the past and the Irish consumer is still chastened by the crash and fearful of what might happen next. People are still very price-sensitive compared to the boom years.
A massive storm at the end of October 2013 which led to 17 deaths in Europe and some fierce storms which blew in from the Atlantic that winter prompted the met offices in Ireland and the UK to come together to start naming storms. The first wind storm to be named was Abigail in November 2015. Only storms categorised as Status Orange or Red are to get names on the grounds that they have the potential to cause a substantial impact. Once a storm receives a name from any national met service, it hangs on to it even if it subsequently enters Irish waters. Two of the worst storms of recent years – Ophelia and Emma – were named by forecasters in the US and Portugal respectively.
Now obviously doughnuts are more than 10-years-old. They are more than 400 years old but the last decade has seen the humble treat's popularity explode. Years ago, when sales of doughnuts were confined to supermarkets, old-school bakeries and the occasional festival van, they were considered by most people to be ugly lumps of greasy dough which were bad for the heart and worse for the waistline. But then Instagram came along and people started taking pictures of their doughnuts and suddenly the things were cool. There are more than 20 dedicated doughnut shops in Dublin alone and others have popped up across the State. When a Krispy Kreme outlet opened in Blanchadrstown in September of last year there were queues around the block and in its first 12 months of trading here about 600,000 customers walked through the doors and bought about 6.6 million doughnuts making it the brand's most successful store opening internationally.
The very first time this by now ubiquitous concept appeared in this newspaper was in an article written by Kevin Courtney in the summer of 2012. “While artists and photographers have long mastered the art of self-portraits, most of us haven’t yet worked out how to snap a self-portrait without jerking the camera or pulling a silly face,” he wrote in a short explainer. He even outlined how the word could best be used by giving a sample sentence. “Britney’s getting desperate for publicity – she sent us a bunch of selfies and claimed they were taken by paparazzi with really good zoom lenses.”
Along with the rise of the doughtnut came the rise of the salad bar. Ten years ago the idea of walking into a restaurant and ordering a salad to go would have been outlandish. Today everyone is at it with the likes of Freshly Chopped and Sprout offering virtually nothing else but salads to diners.
There was a time when the only food you could reasonably expect to have delivered to your home was pizza or Indian and Chinese takeaways. Then along came Just Eat which promised to deliver food from all manner of restaurants. About five years later, in 2015 it was joined by Deliveroo and then along came Uber Eats.
How we loved Hailo when It first came to Ireland in 2012. And what wasn’t to love? It was an effortlessly simple app that allowed people to get a taxi using their (still swanky) smart phone. People loved that fact that they could track a cab’s progress as it headed towards them. It also allowed people to pay by credit card. There was no call-out charges and people were given five minutes from the moment the taxi arrived before the meter started, so if they were running a little bit late they were not penalised for it. They were also sent the name and a picture of the taxi driver and emailed a receipt. Within a couple of years it was among the most beloved companies in Ireland. But we are a fickle people. Hailo became MyTaxi and then FreeNow. And we started getting cranky with it. The call out charges were brought back as were cancellation charges. It is still a great service mind you and we would be worst off without it.
Concerns about climate change are not new and the environment is millions of years old. But it is front and centre now in a way it most certainly wasn’t a decade ago. For more than four decades smart people have been warning us that we are destroying the planet through our excessive use of carbon and our shamefully conspicuous consumption and are appalling approach to waste. Few people were listening when it would have been easier to fix things. There are a lot more of us listening now but whether or not we have left it too late to fix the environment problems we face remains to be seen.
The next decade
So, what will be writing about in 10 years time? There are some things on the list above that we could have predicted, others have completely blindsided us. But what we reckon will make the list when the 2030s dawn are robots – but hopefully not robot wars (we will definitely lose them). Augmented reality will be big, as will artificial intelligence. We may have to wait a bit longer for the Singularity. But then again, who knows?