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The Extensive Internet
The Internet is a growing phenomenon that was introduced into our homes in the early 1990 s. Over 50 million people used the Internet in 1995 and by the year 2001 the number is predicted to be over 150 million. The net has helped the free flow of ideas, created a place for people to interact with each other, allowed one to express viewpoints with a large audience, and created a virtual shopping mall only a few mouse clicks away. Along with the good often comes a bad. Many criminals are able to hide behind a computer screen and reek havoc throughout the world. They can distribute illegal information and generally get away with it. The Internet is a great tool for anyone to use in any walk of life, but let the user beware.
With the explosion of the Internet, anyone can publish his or her ideas to the world. Before, in order to be heard, you needed to go through publishers who would have to be willing to invest in your ideas. Now you can share information with one another through electronic mail and chat rooms. E-mail gives us the power to communicate with someone on the other side of the world instantly. Approximately 225 million people can send and receive electronic mail. Online discussion groups and conferencing allows you to gather together and work on a multitude of projects that are interesting or helpful. If someone wanted to express a idea too thousands of users, all you would have to do is join a online chat room and connect to people who share similar viewpoints. By letting everyone speak their mind, this opens up all new ways of thinking to anyone who is
willing to listen. It can unite people in wildly different locations as if they were next-door to each other. The foremost claims for the importance of the Internet in today s society
are based upon these facts.
Online education makes up another facet of today s Internet. It is possible for a student to get all of the resources needed to construct a paper right off a computer screen without even stepping foot into a library. With all of the information the Internet holds it allows for a more intellectual and factual based paper. Also, online tutoring is available at several Internet sites. If a student was having trouble in their French class, they could log on to a site and speak with someone in France. An increasing amount of schools, even elementary schools, are using the net so students can get a more diverse education. This allows for us to greatly increase our knowledge and create a more educated society.
Perhaps more 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. Dot-com companies spent over 3.1 billion dollars on advertising in 1999. After all the advertising money was spent, only 38% of the companies were profitable. This data shows the retailers faith in what the Internet holds for the future. Also, smaller companies are jumping on the bandwagon of doing Internet business. When looking around today, on almost every company advertisement either being on a company van or truck, yellow pages, or flyer, they have an Internet address where you can see what their company offers to the consumer. This greatly expands their local selling territory to a worldwide format.
However, the most exciting part of the Internet is its multimedia 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 as sound, 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. Internet users can move from one piece of information to the other using a hypertext link. These links 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.
Generally, the Internet and its content are used by people with good intent. People can have malicious purposes when they publish certain information like child pornography, illegal copyrighted music, and anti-government material. These people should be taken seriously because it has the potential of getting out of control. Illegal use and content only make up a small fraction of the total Internet and should not be looked upon as a downfall.
Just like alcohol and drugs, the Internet can become addictive. Internet addicts are people who are reported staying online for six, eight, ten or more hours a day, every day. The effects can lead to headaches, lack of concentration and tiredness. They use the Internet as a way of escaping problems or relieving distressed moods. Their usage can cause problems in their family, work and social lives. They feel anxious and irritable when offline and have cravings to get back online. Despite the consequences, they
continue using regardless of misgivings from friends and family. Special help groups have been set up to give out advice and offer links with other addicts.
Another considerable drawback of the Internet is that it is susceptible to hackers. Hackers are people that have tremendous knowledge on the workings of the Internet and use it to steal, cheat or misuse confidential or classified information for the sake of fun or profit. Hackers often put virii into e-mail and distribute it over the Internet. For the most part, a virus s effect is harmless, but in extreme situations in can cause an entire computer system to just stop working. As the world increases its reliance on computers, we become more vulnerable to extremists who use computer technology as a weapon. Problems also arise when trying to arrest or investigate certain hackers. They might be in another country where laws don t exist against doing such activities, or if the crimes happened in the United States and the hacker was in another country, extradition might not be an option. Cyber-terrorism has become one of the main threats to global security. Steps are being taken by various governments to increase their network security, but no one knows if they will stand true.
Another controversial issue that comes about from the Internet is that of our privacy. People often get the impression that when you surf the Web you leave no traces behind. The truth is rather different. Some sites place spying devices, or cookies, on your computers hard drive the moment you log onto them. They can then tell which pages of their site you have looked at, when you looked at it and for how long. When you next visit them, they can present you with advertising tailored to your interests. Another issue concerning our privacy is that of our financial records. It used to be that only the
government had access to these records, but that is entirely false now. Several Internet sites allow you to access court records. This would allow the user to see bankruptcy information, business records, and financial proceedings. If someone had right knowledge and mindset, they could gain access to anything a computer wired to a network knows about you. These are very scary and should be taken very seriously. Certain steps are being taken to rectify these dealings, but one often wonders if it will be enough.
Today the Internet is a highly effective tool for communicating and gathering information between wide spread locations. There is a growing list of applications that apply to the Internet like: advertising, communication, shopping, banking, to name just a few. Who knows what the Internet holds for our future and what they will mean to us as a society. I guess we can only sit back and see what is too come.
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