Monday 9 March 2009

It's good to talk

The internet has always been about two things - information and communication. Over the years the way in which information is presented hasn't really changed; things have got slicker and better presented, and more reliant on graphics as download speeds have increased and broadband has taken the place of dial-up modems. Perhaps you don't remember the early days when there was an option (frequently enabled) in Mosaic and Netscape to disable the download of images to increase the speed of page loads. Ah, happy memories. Or the common use of anonymous ftp file servers to download large amounts of information instead of reading it online. Happy memories indeed. Things haven't changed that much - it all just works faster.

What has really changed is communication. Email is still there of course, although it is a lot less useful than in the early days - something upwards of 80% of email traffic is now spam. Less used than fifteen years ago (when the internet first began to emerge into popualar consciousness) are the other communication. When I first met the internet the most popular way to while away time was using a Telnet client to connect with an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) network. This has evolved into the chat rooms we use today. The other form of communication popular back then was newsgroups. These are still around; although the need for more 'real-time' communications means that these have largely been replaced by forums.

It doesn't end there though. It has always been the case that anyone with the time and skills could have their own space in cyberspace. This was either in the form of free hosting (from the likes of Yahoo! etc.) or paid for domain names and webhosting. This still required the formulation of a webpage, and usually a rudimentary understanding of HTML coding if the page was to look anything other than basic. This has all changed with the explosion of the 'Blogosphere'. Blogs allow anyone to get a fairly polished looking page with little or no effort. The author posts, but then readers comment. These readers usually have blogs of their own; the original author reads that blog and comments in turn. Before long an entire 'ad-hoc' community has emerged.

There are now so many ways of communicating with the rest of the internet it is impossible to mention it all. A great deal of the time it is down to personal preference, and a question of who you want to communicate with. For friends and family email and instant messaging services (such as  Windows Messenger etc.) does just fine... for a wider audience there are forums and chatrooms. For those with the time and inclination there are the micro-blogging services such as Twitter... which can almost be like a 'stream of consciousness' with every impulse and thought sent to cyberspace.

Blogging, forums and chat-roooms allow almost real-time communication. It means that content on the internet can be more relevant - equally due to the fact that anyone with a keyboard and internet access is now an author it also means that the internet is less relevant. Luckily technology is always abreast of developments; the use of modern browswers with a multitude of add-ins means that you can customise your browsing experience any way you like.

My cold and I might have spent the day in bed together but the rest of the world was never far away!