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Internet, its effects in our lives and the future of the Internet

The Internet is, quite literally, a network of networks. It is comprised of ten thousands of interconnected networks spanning the globe. The computers that form the Internet range from huge mainframes in research establishments to modest PCs in peoples homes and offices. Despite the recent hype, the Internet is not a new phenomenon. Its roots lie in a collection of computers that were linked together in the 1970s to form the US Department of Defenses communications systems.

Fearing the consequences of nuclear attack, there was no central computer holding vast amounts of data, rather the information was dispersed across thousands of machines. A set of rules, of protocols, known as TCP/IP was developed to allow disparate devices to work together. The original network has long since been upgraded and expanded and TCP/IP is now a “de facto” standard. Millions of people worldwide are using the Internet to share information, make new associations and communicate.

Individuals and businesses, from students and journalists, to consultants, programmers and corporate giants are all harnessing the power of the Internet. For many businesses the Internet is becoming integral to their operations. Imagine the ability to send and receive data: messages, notes, letters, documents, pictures, video, sound- just about any form of communication, as effortlessly as making a phone call. It is easy to understand why the Internet is rapidly becoming the corporate communications medium.

Using the mouse on your computer, the familiar point-and-click functionality gives you access to electronic mail for sending and receiving data, and file transfer for copying files from one computer to another. Telnet services allow you to establish connections with systems on the other side of the world as if they were just next door. This flood of information is a beautiful thing and it can only open the minds of society. With the explosion of the World Wide Web, anyone could publish his or her ideas to the world.

Before, in order to be heard one would have to go through publishers who were willing to invest in his ideas to get something put into print. With the advent of the Internet, anyone who has something to say can be heard by the world. By letting everyone speak their mind, this opens up all new ways of thinking to anyone who is willing to listen. Moreover, the Internet is an information resource for you to search, gathering new data on key search aspects of your market. Perhaps most importantly, the Internet offers a new way of doing business.

A virtual market-place where customers can, at the push of a button, select goods, place an order and pay using a secure electronic transaction. Businesses are discovering the Internet as the most powerful and cost effective tool in history. The Net provides a faster, more efficient way to work colleagues, customers, vendors and business partners- irrespective of location or operating system harnessing this powerful resource gives companies strategic advantages by leveraging information into essential business asset.

The technology of the future here today. This is a fact. Businesses making the transition will, and are prospering; however those that do not will most certainly suffer the consequences. One of the most commonly asked questions is, Will the Net help me sell more product? The answer is yes, but in ways you might not expect. The Internet is a communication tool first, not and advertisement medium. Unlike print or broadcasting media, the Internet is interactive; and unlike the telephone, it is both visual and content rich.

A Web site is an excellent way to reduce costs, improve customer service, disseminate information and even sell to your market. Perhaps, the most important facts about the internet are that it contains a wealth of information, that can be send across the world almost instantly, and that it can unite people in wildly different locations as if they were next to each other. The soundest claims for the importance of the Internet in todays society are based upon these very facts.

People of like minds and interests can share information with one another through electronic mail and chat rooms. E-mail is enabling radically new forms of worldwide human collaboration. Approximately 225 millions of people can send and receive it and they all represent a network of potentially cooperating individuals dwarfing anything that even the mightiest corporation or government can muster. Mailing-list discussion groups and online conferencing allow us to gather together to work on a multitude of projects that are interesting or helpful to us.

Chat rooms and mailing lists can connect groups of users to discuss a topic and share ideas. Materials from users can be added to a Web site to share with others and can be updated quickly and easily anytime. However, the most exciting part of the Internet is its multimedia and hypertext capabilities. The Web provides information in many different formats. Of course, text is still a popular way to transmit information, but the Web also presents information in sound bites, such as music, voice, or special effects.

Graphics may be still photographs, drawings, cartoons, diagrams, tables, or other artwork, but they also may be moving, such as animation video. Hypertext links allows users to move from one piece of information to another. A link might be an underlined word or phrase, an icon or a symbol, or a picture, for example. When a link is selected, usually by clicking the mouse on the link, the user sees another piece of information, which may be electronically stored on another computer thousands of miles away.

Of major importance is the fact that the Internet supports online education. Online education introduces unprecedented options for teaching, learning, and knowledge building. Today access to a microcomputer, modem, telephone line, and communication program offers learners and teachers the possibility of interactions that transcended the boundaries of time and space. Even from an economic standpoint, the costs of establishing a brand new educational program for a few thousand students are far less than the cost of a building to house the same number of students.

New social and intellectual connectivity is proliferating as educational institutions adopt computer-mediated communication for educational interactions. There are many school based networks that link learners to discuss, share and examine specific subjects such as environmental concerns, science, local and global issues, or to enhance written communication skills in first- or second- language proficiency activities. Online education is a unique expression of both existing and new attributes.

It shares certain attributes with the distance mode and with the face-to-face mode; however, in combination, these attributes form a new environment for learning. Online education, on the other hand, is distinguished by the social nature of the learning environment that it offers. Like face-to-face education, it supports interactive group communication. Historically, the social, affective, and cognitive benefits of peer interaction, and collaboration have been available only in face-to-face learning. The introduction of online education opens unprecedented opportunities for educational interactivity.

The mediation of the computer further distinguishes the nature of the activity online, introducing entirely new elements to the learning process. The potential of online education can be explored through five attributes that, taken together, both delineate its differences from existing modes of education and also characterize online education as a unique mode. They may learn independently, at their own pace, in a convenient location, at a convenient time about a greater variety of subjects, from a greater variety of institutions or educators/trainers.

But no matter how great and significant the effects of the Internet in our lives might be, there are some quite considerable consequences and drawbacks. A very important disadvantage is that the Internet is addictive. One of the first people to take the phenomenon seriously was Kimberly S. Young, Ph. D. , professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. She takes it so seriously, in fact, that she founded the Center for Online Addiction, an organization that provides consultation for educational institutions, mental health clinics and corporations dealing with Internet misuse problems.

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