50 surprising things that didn't exist 10 years ago

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December 5, 2019
emerald_media // Shutterstock

50 surprising things that didn't exist 10 years ago

Depending on who you ask (and how his or her decade went), 2009 might seem like just a few minutes ago or eons away. Looking back, the United States in 2009 had just elected the first African American president; Instagram was still just a speck in the imaginations of its two future inventors; and Juul didn't exist. Many of today's hallmarks of modern life––from social networks and online dating to preventive medicine and meal delivery kits––have been introduced in these critical 10 years.

Many of these inventions and adoptions have fundamentally altered the course of American life. On the technological side, the advent of such gadgets as tablets, smartwatches, and even home security systems allow people to do more than ever with the simple stroke of a few keys. Norms have shifted significantly surrounding some issues during this decade, too. Online dating was becoming more mainstream in 2009 than at the turn of the century but was hardly as ubiquitous a match-making tool as the practice is today. Pot-smokers a decade ago had to buy marijuana from the black market; today, high-end dispensaries and medical offices in a growing number of states can sell weed and its associated products legally. 

A quick look at the advances that have occurred in recent years also shed a lot of light on people’s priorities over the past decade. For example, it’s clear with the development of some apps that people have had a big focus on saving time. Apps like Instacart and Postmates allow people to have their groceries or food delivered directly to their doors, while meal prep kits like Blue Apron allow people who would enjoy cooking to do so without having as much prep or waste: Everything can be delivered pre-assembled and measured out perfectly. From grocery delivery services to personal technology, Stacker surveyed dozens of surprising things that didn’t exist 10 years ago and whittled that list down to 50. It seems for every breakthrough or trend there are a dozen more in fast order coming at us promising to make our lives healthier, more organized, more convenient, and more fun. 

Click through for a surprising look at products and services that didn't exist 10 years ago—including a few we all could probably have lived without.

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BestAI Assistant // Flickr

Personal robots

If someone calls out “Hey, Alexa!” now, most people will assume that the person is talking to a robot, not a human. Alexa is just one example of a personal robotic home device that can do anything from turning on the lights to changing a song that you’re listening to on your home speaker. Amazon debuted smart home speakers in 2014 with the Echo, and while many people have since gotten hooked on the novelty and convenience of the smart assistant of sorts, personal robots have been drawn into question by privacy advocates.

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Kārlis Dambrāns // Flickr


iPhones were nothing new 10 years ago, but voice command on the iPhone was. The idea that you could ask your phone verbally to call or text someone was just an idea back in 2009, until Apple debuted the Siri voice command feature in 2011.

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Brainstorm Health // Flickr

Glasses for the vision impaired

In an incredible technological feat, a pair of glasses that could mimic sight for the visually impaired was developed in 2017. The company eSight helps many patients live similar lives to those with good eyesight see clearly thanks to high-resolution screens and revolutionary software.

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Mainstream wellness

The market in 2019 is so heavily saturated with wellness products and services, it may come as a surprise that this was not the norm 10 years ago. Back then, acupuncture, crystals, and reiki were fringe treatments rather than mainstream commodities like they are today.

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L.A. Foodie // Flickr

Virtuous ice cream

Ten years ago, there were few options for those looking to inhale a pint of ice cream without a heaping side of regret. But then came Halo, the ice cream brand that debuted in 2012 and offered pints that came in at less than 300 calories. And with the astonishing level of consumer success that it saw, it’s no wonder that Halo set the stage for even more reduced guilt ice cream brands that have popped up since.

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Wikimedia Commons


When the iPad was announced by Apple in 2010, no one really knew how the public would receive the idea of a personal tablet––a sort of hybrid between phone and computer. Ten years later, sales are still going strong, with Apple reporting an impressive $4.66 billion in sales from July through September of 2019.

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A Kodak film revival

What’s old is new again in the case of Kodak, which reissued its 35mm and other print films due to popular demand. Analog film buffs celebrated the company’s move, which required sourcing of over 80 ingredients to make the film, some of which were no longer widely available.

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Nadir Keklik // Shutterstock


So dominant is Instagram in the minds of many millennials today, it’s almost inconceivable that the company ever didn’t exist. But the reality is that Instagram was nonexistent until two friends co-founded the company in 2010 and later sold it to Facebook.

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Knowledge was once the domain of those able to enroll and attend lectures and seminars, or those willing to do a little self-teaching. But the rise of the Massive Open Online Course in 2012 via companies like Coursera changed that forever, opening up the world of learning to anyone with an internet connection.

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Paul VanDerWerf // Flickr

Diverse makeup shades

Until pop star Rihanna launched Fenty Beauty in 2017, the range of available cosmetics shades was relatively narrow, making the makeup industry one that was seriously lacking in inclusivity. Fenty launched to wild success as went to market with 40 shades of foundation to cater to a wider skin tone range than ever before, and other companies have since been pushed to follow suit.

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Christopher Penler // Shutterstock

Amazon alternatives

Amazon may be one of the biggest players in the online marketplace industry, but in the past 10 years, it’s developed competition. From China, there’s Alibaba, and in the U.S. there is Jet, nipping at its heels.

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franchise opportunities // Flickr

Simplified health insurance

American health insurance is notoriously complex, but new companies are looking to change that. The company Oscar, founded in 2013, is meant to simplify the American healthcare market for consumers weary of sifting through complex jargon for expensive plans.

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Abi Porter // Flickr

Clean beauty

A decade ago, clean beauty was a priority for relatively few people. But with the mainstreaming of wellness, many consumers are now demanding that their products be free from chemicals and pesticides, with brands like Tata Harper and the Honest Company leading the charge.

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Ajay Suresh // Wikimedia Commons

Clothing rentals

The idea of renting a dress instead of buying one wouldn’t have occurred to many people 10 years ago, but all of that changed with Rent the Runway. The company allows users to rent designer outfits for a fraction of the price of purchase, forever transforming retail and fashion.

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Atstock Productions // Shutterstock


Where magazine editors were once regarded as arbiters of taste, telling their readers what to see, shop, and do, that job has been largely overtaken by influencers. Typically on Instagram and YouTube, influencers are people with large followings who can––you guessed it––heavily influence their followers.

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Tero Vesalainen // Shutterstock

Widespread online dating

A decade ago, admitting to online dating was far less common than it is today. Apps like Bumble and Tinder have normalized online dating in an era when fast-paced lifestyles make it more difficult to connect with people in person. Nowadays, many couples will happily admit it’s where they met.

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Aleksandr Yu // Shutterstock

Vaping teenagers

Teenagers used to get in trouble for smoking tobacco and engaging in underage drinking. Now, teens are more likely to be caught vaping electronic cigarettes and other substances, as the use of e-cigarettes has soared in recent years.

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S and S Imaging // Shutterstock

Chic dispensaries

As marijuana has been legalized and decriminalized in a number of states in the past 10 years, consumer cannabis culture has followed suit. In Los Angeles and New York, a chic dispensary called MedMen that’s been recognized for possessing the same vibe and feel as an Apple store.

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Eugenio Marongiu // Shutterstock

Sideways elevators

Elevators have historically traveled up and down, but in 2014, a German company announced an additional option: left and right. The 'Multi' system, as the elevator is called, transports passengers sideways, much to the delight of Willy Wonka fans everywhere.

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Casimiro PT // Shutterstock

Peer-to-peer lending

A decade ago, most people looking for loans had to appeal to traditional banks. But with personal loan sites like Avant, which debuted in 2012, consumers who might not have been approved by a traditional bank became able to appeal directly to individuals instead.

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osseous // Flickr

Meal kit delivery

Most people were faced with two options when it came to feeding themselves 10 years ago: go out to eat or cook at home. Those looking to cook without putting in the effort now have the option of meal kits like Blue Apron, founded in 2012, which arrives with all the ingredients needed pre-assembled.

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robert cicchetti // Shutterstock

Restaurant delivery

For those who want restaurant-quality food without having to change out of pajamas or whip up anything extra fancy themselves, meal delivery has been an increasingly popular option. Apps like Postmates, founded in 2011, allow people to order and receive food from their favorite restaurants in the comfort of their own homes more easily than ever before. DoorDash, one of Postmates' competitors, was founded in 2013 and today is worth an estimated $13 billion.

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Manjurul Haque // Shutterstock

The malaria vaccine

Malaria is a highly deadly disease in the developing world, and as recently as five years ago, there wasn’t much that was widely available as far as preventative medicine. But since 2015, a vaccine has been on the market that has shown efficacy in reducing cases for young children.

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Dragon Images // Shutterstock

Grocery delivery

For those who don’t need their meals pre-assembled but can’t face the aisles at Whole Foods, the past 10 years have been a godsend. Apps like Instacart allow users to order grocery items directly from supermarkets or other grocers and have their items delivered right to their homes like they would any other package.

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High-quality phone cameras

Just take a look at any smartphone photo from 10 years ago to see how far smartphone cameras have come. The camera in the newest iPhone––the iPhone 11––has features like night mode that were previously only available on expensive professional cameras.

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Jacob L. // Shutterstock

Sport hijabs

Female Muslim athletes didn’t have much in the way of athletically oriented hijabs––the traditional headscarf that some women wear for modesty––10 years ago. That is, until Nike debuted a hijab in 2017 and set the stage for a new wave of sportswear.

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Jonathan Weiss // Shutterstock

Uber alternatives

Although Uber has been around for just over a decade, it had few competitors until more recently. Now, customers have the option to choose from the likes of many a car ride app, including Lyft and Via.

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AlesiaKan // Shutterstock


Like is the case with Instagram, it’s hard to think back to a time before Snapchat. Yet, that time was just under 10 years ago. Snapchat was founded in 2011 by a Stanford dropout. The social network sends disappearing photos from users to their friends, and has spawned a raft of imitators, including Instagram and Facebook stories.

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Indoor clouds

One of the most ethereal inventions of the past decade is invisible clouds. Berndnaut Smilde, a Dutch artist, created them by calibrating room conditions just so before using a fog machine to create gorgeous clouds indoors, which he first displayed as a part of his “Nimbus” series.

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SpeedShutter // Shutterstock

Doomsday bunkers

Sure, maybe the odd person here or there had a doomsday bunker 10 years ago. But now, the super-rich have turned doomsday prep into a competitive sport. Kits, bunkers, and even arcs have been constructed at a rapid clip over the past decade to help the top 1% ride out of the end of the world in style.

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At-home HIV tests

A decade ago, testing for HIV was made even more perilous given that you had to leave home to do it. Not so today, where people may order and use kits to test for HIV in the comfort of their own homes.

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Adam Radosavljevic // Shutterstock

Tech gloves

If you wanted to text while wearing gloves 10 years ago, you were out of luck. But in 2010, the first pair of gloves that enabled the user to type at the same time debuted, and winter tech use has never looked back.

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grbender // Shutterstock

Self-inflating tires

A flat tire is every driver’s nightmare. But it wasn’t until 2012 that tire makers came up with a solution: a self-inflating tire that could sense when its own pressure was low, and fill up automatically.

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Debra Dawson // U.S. Army photo

Women’s body armor

In a nod to the increasing number of women taking on roles in combat, the United States Army started testing out body armor for women in 2012, letting the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division soldiers at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, be the first to try out the prototype. Previously, women––who at the time made up about 14% of active-duty troops––were simply given smaller sizes of body armor made for men.

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emerald_media // Shutterstock

Consumer drones

Ten years ago, drones were more military equipment than consumer product. But technology has changed that, and drones that children can fly and everyday people can use to take photographs are now extremely popular.

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Sundry Photography // Shutterstock

The Impossible Burger

Vegetarians had limited options a decade ago when it came to fake meat. But the Impossible Burger, launched in 2016, has changed that by offering vegetarians an option for a plant-based burger that tastes just like the real thing.

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Flystock // Shutterstock

Self-driving cars

In prior decades, self-driving cars were eccentric side projects. But by 2013, companies from BMW to Tesla to Google had gotten into self-driving cars, with research and development to that end continuing to this day.

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Space vehicles

The idea of a car that could drive in outer space was hardly a glimmer is anyone’s eye 10 years ago. But in 2011, a rover named Curiosity landed on Mars and made the innovation something of a reality.

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Zapp2Photo // Shutterstock

Augmented reality

In 2014, Google launched Google Glass, an augmented reality device. With the devices on, people can experience events––from a protest in a foreign country to a walk on the moon––virtually, yet feel as though they’re participating in them.

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SpaceX // Wikimedia Commons

Reusable rockets

One of the reasons rocket launches were so expensive a decade ago is because rockets could be used only once. In 2015, the first multiuse rocket was launched, making it far more cost-effective to send off a rocket into space.

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Kenneth L. // Flickr


Forget solar panels; now there are power walls. In 2015, Tesla pioneered a “Powerwall” that can power an entire home for two days.

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angellodeco // Shutterstock

Genetic engineering

Holding vast potential for the treatment of diseases like cancer, genetic engineering has long been a dream of doctors and scientists. In 2014, the first genetically modified monkeys were created––the first step on a long road toward applying the same science to humans.

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maxbelchenko // Shutterstock


Move over, skateboards. In 2013, the hoverboard––a kind of electric, self-balancing scooter–– debuted to the delight of “Back to the Future” fans everywhere.

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Anna Hoychuk // Shutterstock


Turns out the smartphone didn’t kill the watch, after all. In 2015, Apple announced the launch of the Apple Watch, which can do almost anything a smartphone can do without necessitating that the phone is brought along.

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maroke // Shutterstock

Drone delivery

The only way to get packages used to be via plane, train, automobile, bike, or foot. But in 2016, Amazon began using drones to deliver packages, changing the face of delivery forever.

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JIM WATSON/AFP // Getty Images

Bionic eyes

In 2013, the FDA approved the first bionic eye. The eye uses built-in cameras to transfer data to the retina, and though they can’t entirely restore vision just yet, they can at least help vision-impaired individuals to distinguish between light and dark.

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Dragon Images // Shutterstock

Preventive care clinics

A new kind of health care clinic has debuted over the past decade. These clinics, like Forward, which launched in 2018, focus on preventive care, giving members access to blood testing, nutrition counseling, and other preventive measures for a monthly fee.

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TierneyMJ // Shutterstock

Affordable electric cars

When electric cars first launched, they were too expensive for many consumers to afford. But when Tesla introduced the Model 3 in 2017, prices started at $35,000, bringing these cars to a much wider audience.

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CC Photo Labs // Shutterstock

Simple home security

Home security systems were once complicated and expensive, requiring passcodes that could be all too easy to forget. But with the introduction of systems like Google’s Nest in 2017, all you have to do is wave a key fob to get in, plus the sleeker-looking security devices make it easy to monitor and secure your home remotely.

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Jennie Book // Shutterstock

Fidget spinners

Designed to do nothing but keep boredom at bay, fidget spinners were wildly popular when they launched in 2017. Despite the original mania surrounding the weighted prongs, though, fidget spinners ultimately had a short-lived life and the trend has since simmered down quite a bit.

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