Ten years ago, the internet was in its infancy, and everyday words like Google and blogging would have just been strange, meaningless sounds. Alex Smith reflects on how we got from there to here

Tony Blair may have brought peace to Northern Ireland and economic prosperity to our nation but arguably the biggest change during his 10 years in charge has had naff-all to do with him.

The inexorable rise of the internet has been largely free of government intervention, which probably goes a long way to explain its success. Imagine if the internet had been devised by the same team that is delivering the NHS IT programme. This £12bn software package is two years overdue and all it does is puts patient records on a computer. If a message board and podcasting had been in the original brief, the development costs would have bankrupted the nation.

Happily the “open source” method of web development prevailed and now the government, like the rest of us, is keen to make the most of the internet’s power. Blair recently opened his own YouTube site and, on a construction level, there are some really useful government resources online, such as the excellent Planning Portal.

At times the government probably feels the web offers a little too much democracy.

E-petitions have already proved an almost dangerously good way to connect with the populace, even if only 8,682 people have so far signed one proposing the scrapping of Home Information Packs – the number of negative comments we receive about them on the website suggests there should be more. I also urge you to sign the petition asking the government to plant fruit trees in public spaces, which only has 302 signatures.