30 Incredible Photos From 2009 That Show How Different the World Was

In 2009, Harry and William weren't married and Avatar was all the rage.

A decade can certainly feel like a lifetime, especially when you look at how much changes culturally, politically, and technologically in a mere 10 years. In 2009, for instance, the newest Apple product was the iPhone 3GS, we were first starting to see energy reform, and Donald Trump, then host of The Celebrity Apprentice, sent out his very first tweet. Things really have changed. Here, we take a look back at photos from 2009 to examine how different the world looked a decade ago.

The Great Recession was underway.

G20 protest outside Bank of England includes sign that reads "Capitalism Isn't Working, Another World is Possible"
Homer Sykes / Alamy Stock Photo

During the Great Recession, there was a lot of anger toward the capitalist system. It's become increasingly hard to remember those emotions as wealth, stability, and jobs have returned to most governments, but images of protests like this one in England during the G20 Summit in 2009 are a stark reminder.

The housing crisis was at its peak.

Cayman / Alamy Stock Photo

In this photo, nature has begun to overtake an uncompleted home construction project in Florida, abandoned during the housing crisis in 2009. At the time, the Great Recession resulted in mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures, leaving a record 2.9 percent vacancy rate for owned homes in Feb. 2009.

President Barack Obama had just taken office.

Annie Leibovitz / Official White House Photo

Seen here with First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters, Malia and Sasha, in the Green Room of the White House, Barack Obama took office as the first black president of the United States on January 20, 2009.

The Blackberry and flip phones were still popular.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Here are some cell phones left outside the Roosevelt Room of the White House during a meeting and lunch with President Obama in 2009. Yes, the Blackberry was still very much in use at the time, especially for those in the U.S. government. It wasn't until 2016, with the discontinuation of the Blackberry classic, and its popular full keyboard, that it would fall completely out of favor.

The iPod Touch was the way to listen to music.

A touch screen multimedia player on February 12, 2009 in Tokyo.

Ten years ago, purchasing music for an iPod Touch was still a popular way to collect and listen to music. These days it's all about streaming and the ease of paying one monthly fee for endless music options.

The Princes were unwed and not yet fathers.


Though Prince William was dating Kate Middleton in 2009, this photo with his brother, Prince Harry, is a look back at simpler times for the Princes of Wales: Neither was married and neither was a father. The picture was taken in 2009 at Royal Air Force Shawbury, where the brothers trained to be helicopter pilots.

Avatar showed the magic of digital movie-making.

Moviestore Collection Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

When Avatar was released in 2009, it set a new standard for what was digitally possible in regard to movie making. A decade later, actors are being added to films posthumously, or being given a "digital age lift" to look much younger. But it all started with the Na'vi.

The death of Michael Jackson shook the world.

Jackson family embraces at memorial service for Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson's death in 2009 was a shock to his loyal fans in the U.S. and across the world. Who could forget watching his family, his young daughter, Paris, included, pay tribute to him during a televised memorial from the Staples Center in Los Angeles in July 2009?

Same-sex marriage was only legal in five U.S. states.

Elijah Nouvelage / Alamy Stock Photo

In 2009, same-sex marriage was only legally possible in five states. It would take six more years of pressure and protests, like this one in Washington, D.C., before the Supreme Court would make its landmark ruling legalizing marriage for same-sex couples in all 50 states in 2015.

The effects of climate change began to sink in.

Ashley Cooper pics / Alamy Stock Photo

Here's the peak of Chacaltaya in Bolivia, which had a glacier that supported the world's highest ski lift at over 17,000 feet… until 2009. The glacier finally disappeared completely that year due to climate change induced melting—and soon, it became hard to ignore what was happening to our planet.

Air travel security had just introduced new full-body scanners.

TSA personnel demonstrate the a new backscatter imaging device at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on March 15, 2010. O'Hare is the second airport to receive one of the 150 backscatter units purchased in 2009 with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
UPI/Brian Kersey/ Alamy

2009 was the year the TSA introduced their new security screening machines at airports. Although travelers made their displeasure clear, the machines have become a part of the general security process that we're resigned to these days.

Obamacare was met with criticism.

Young woman in hospital gown holds up "Nobama Care" sign in Minneapolis in 2009

Those against health care reform legislation drafted by Democrats and nicknamed "Obamacare" protested throughout 2009. Here, a woman in a hospital gown holds up a sign that reads "Nobama Care!" outside the Target Center on Sept. 12, 2009 in Minneapolis, where the president was making a speech.

Solar energy solutions were just being introduced.

Visitors at Solar houses of Team Germany (Darmstadt) in an exhibition of Solar Decathlon October 11, 2009 in Washington, DC

The world was finally getting a handle on solar energy storage in 2009, as seen in the photo above from the Solar Decathlon exhibition in Oct. 2009 in Washington, D.C. Since that time, the number of panels storing energy has skyrocketed, and solar energy has become especially useful in places like California, where wildfires can be caused by sparks from power lines.

Smart cars made their way to the U.S.

Smart car electric concept car at the North American auto show on January 25, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.

The year 2009 was a big one for sales and excitement for the price, ease, and convenience of the gasoline version of the Smart car, which had just begun sales in the United States (seen here is the electric version already being sold in Europe at the time).

Cabs still dominated the city streets as ride-sharing slowly crept in.

Time square in New York with yellow taxis and poster for Wicked

Before Uber exploded onto the scene in March of 2009, getting around big cities like San Francisco, New York, or Los Angeles in a car meant hailing a taxi, but the modes of alternative transportation have since exploded with options. Aside from Uber and Lyft (which got its start in 2012), you can now use your phone to unlock one of the many motorized street scooters and bikes found all across U.S. cities nationwide.

Construction on One World Trade had only just begun.

The World Trade Center under construction in New York City, New York, on May 15, 2009. One World Trade Center, more simply known as 1 WTC, and formerly known as the Freedom Tower.

Eight years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the World Trade Center site was only just starting to become something new, after the permit process and other issues delayed construction (as you can see in this 2009 snapshot). In 2014, One World Trade, the tallest building in the U.S., finally opened its doors. Now, five years after tenants have settled it, downtown Manhattan seems to be back in working order.

Facebook was a much simpler social media network.

Silverisdead / CC By 2.0

In 2009, Facebook was still viewed by many as a simple way to connect with family. A decade later, following a data breach and a possible role in the 2016 election interference by Russia, founder Mark Zuckerberg has found himself at the center of much criticism, and has testified before Congress about the company's dissemination of political ads going forward.

Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift.

Kanye West Interrupts Taylor Swift at 2009 MTV VMAs
MTV via ET Online/ YouTube

There have been many changes to award shows ever since this historic moment when Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift during her acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. Changes such as making the voting bodies more diverse in gender and ethnicity, stricter standards for those in charge of the winning envelopes after the wrong Best Picture winner was named at the Oscars, and going completely host-less to avoid further controversy.

Nationwide retail chains began shuttering.

Circuit City Store with Going out of Business sign in Tyler, Texas.

RIP to the Texas Circuit City store in this picture. Circuit City's closing in 2009 was one of the first of many in a decade-long decline in retail shopping, as consumers turned more heavily to online purchases.

The swine flu epidemic took over.

The H1N1 vaccine closeup in person's hand to combat swine flu in 2009.
PJF Military Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

A scary outbreak of swine flu (H1N1) in the U.S. in 2009 had many cities scrambling to educate and administer vaccinations to the public. All told, by the beginning of 2010, there were over 12,000 confirmed deaths in the U.S. and there has been an increase in flu prevention efforts ever since.

The Fort Hood shooting left 13 dead and many in mourning.

Soldier wounded in 2009 terrorist attack at Fort Hood TX stands before portraits of those killed in attack at memorial service
Bob Daemmrich / Alamy Stock Photo

On November 5, 2009, the Fort Hood shooting claimed the lives of 13 people, with guns purchased at Guns Galore in Texas. The gun control debate is still ongoing in the U.S., but individually, many states have enacted stricter gun laws than what they had in place in 2009.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor had only just joined the U.S. Supreme Court.

Supreme Justice Sonia Sotomayor at hearing in 2009

Justice Sonia Sotomayor was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Obama in 2009 and made history as the first Hispanic and Latina to serve on the bench. In the course of 10 short years, two additional judges would be appointed to serve following the death of Antonin Scalia and the retirement of Anthony Kennedy.

The War in Afghanistan raged on.

US Air Force Photo / Alamy Stock Photo

In 2009, U.S. Army soldiers were trying to defeat a very active Taliban. Here, they're photographed returning to a base after a security patrol to destroy a Taliban safe house in the Khost province of Afghanistan.

Hillary Clinton testified against a planned troop increase in Afghanistan.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L), Defense Secretary Robert Gates (C) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen testify before a Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on Afghanistan in Washington on December 2, 2009.
UPI/Kevin Dietsch/ Alamy

Back when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State in 2009, she testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about a planned troop increase in Afghanistan. Over the course of the decade, she'd be back to testify again at the Benghazi hearing, and about her private email server in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election.

Donald Trump was just a famous businessman and TV host.

MediaPunch Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

In 2009, the future U.S. president was casually spending time with his wife, Melania, and son Barron at the Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida. It was in this year that Donald Trump first joined Twitter. His first tweet? A call out about his upcoming appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman—certainly less controversial than his current musings.

Putin was meeting with Obama.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

In 2009, President Obama met with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin outside Moscow. A decade after this image was taken, U.S. Intelligence agencies have reported that Putin and Russia worked to directly interfere and influence the 2016 election.

Somali pirates captured Captain Richard Phillips.

Maersk-Alabama Capt. Richard Phillips, right, stands alongside Cmdr. Frank Castellano, commanding officer of USS Bainbridge after being rescued by U.S Naval Forces off the coast of Somalia. Philips was held hostage for four days by pirates.
Official U.S. Navy Photo / Alamy

Somali pirates were hijacking ships on the Indian Ocean at an alarming rate in 2009. One such infamous event was the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama by four pirates in April that year. The captain of the ship, Richard Phillips (pictured right), was held captive for five days before his eventual rescue, courtesy of the U.S. naval service members aboard the USS Bainbridge (the ship's commanding officer, Frank Castellano, is pictured left). Increased anti-piracy measures and enforcement by the Somali government led to a steep drop in hijackings over the past decade. And eventually, Phillips' story became Hollywood fodder with Tom Hanks playing him in 2013's Captain Phillips.

Veganism was not as widespread.

David Grossman / Alamy Stock Photo

Just this year we've seen the rise of "beyond" and "impossible" burgers, but in 2009, vegans took to the streets for the second annual Veggie Parade in New York City, to educate the public about the global hazards of meat production.

The Space Race to Mars kicked into high gear.


The original Space Race of the 1950s and '60s seemed like it was in the rearview mirror until a new competition commenced in the 2000s as various countries fought to be the first to discover life on Mars. Pictured here is Spacex's Falcon 1 rocket, which launched in July 2009 as the company sets its sights on Mars.

Digital currency made its debut.


Bitcoin made its debut in Jan. 2009, and this image was taken that year, when the currency's returns were high, far surpassing that of the traditional dollar. But the past decade has seen major swings in price for investors in the crypto currency. What seemed like the future of currency in 2009 is now largely a punchline a decade later—proof that not everything ages well!