The internet represents a world without boundaries, a digital domain both removed from and parallel to our own, where data of any kind can be discovered, downloaded or mail-ordered, and every desire, carnal or platonic, and interest is catered to at the push of a button. From its Cold War origins to the internet boom of the nineties, the World Wide Web has also been feared by those who are ignorant to what the net can offer, or are well aware.
The web did not truly bloom until the mid-nineties, when phone line suppliers and broadband fellowships began to capitalise on the foreseeable phenomenon. Within but a decade the net has outgrown its introductory techno-geek user base and is now an integral part of Western society. Arguably, what was once defined as cyber-culture no longer exists; the net has been embraced by mainstream society and beyond. With internet way steadily expanding into developing countries, and over 1 billion population using the internet worldwide, additional growth is inevitable.
The confident benefit of online transportation is that of remote access; real time conversation, email, 24 hr banking, and online shopping being any examples. Cyberspace presents a form of global transportation that operates regardless of time or place, restricted only to the accessibility of internet way points. Handheld technology, such as Wap movable phones and wireless connections, has increased this way furthermore, and broadband also offers a form of transportation in which the distance or period of transportation does not influence the cost.
The Web has presented us with a comprehensible online library, a decentralised data resource that via internet hunt engines, such as Google and Yahoo!, offers instant way to a vast estimate of information. Increased bandwidth capacity has made way to digital media, such as Mp3s and video files, convenient and fast, and also brought about a confident preservation of digital information, a good example being Rom emulation, the copied images of retro video games that would no longer be ready to the collective surface of unauthorized distribution.
In the industrialised world, the Web has brought about the growth of a new form of journalism, and a free time of speech unattainable straight through other mediums. The growth of weblogs/blogs, forums, newsletters and personal homepages has presented the user with an affordable way to voice their own concerns, views and interests. Unlike original magazines and newspapers, internet sites can survive without finances, and can gift petition to a niche shop without marketing concerns. Online, every user can have their say; regardless of either it is accurate, valid, or worth reading.
Withstanding the boom, and partial crash, of the dotcom enterprises of the late nineties, online shopping has broken numerous trading boundaries, and now provides the buyer with unlimited choices, regardless of location. Amazon provides hunt engines that are used to track rare books both new and old, and items such as international antiques and collectables can be tracked down with microscopic effort. Mp3 albums and Dvd quality video can purchasable and downloaded directly within the hour, eliminating postage costs and shipping times altogether. Though the large corporations arguably dominate the online shop as they do the ‘real world’, smaller businesses and aspiring professionals have prospered from the low-cost advertising and small scale financing that the Web, and market-sites such as eBay, offer, and can effectively promote themselves alongside their conglomerate competitors by focussing on a exact market.
With this growth of online trading, fellowships are forever attempting new marketing methods. With many browsers now featuring automatic pop-up filters, the company world will test new ways to monitor potential clients. With fellowships seeing new ways to monitor and exploiting hunt engines, user privacy is an expanding concern.
Despite this promise of communicational possibilities, the rift in the middle of the acceleration of way points in industrialised countries compared to that of developing countries is widening faster, with internet growth in the third world impeded by both financial and structural limitations, referred to as ‘digital divide’, an economic phenomenon that distinguishes developed from developing countries, where factors of geography, socio-economic status and ethnicity prove crucial.
Encouragingly, many developing countries are seeing the estimate of internet way points double each year, but other divide that looks less likely to close is the language barrier. With English the most requested language on the Web, and the majority of multilingual sites catering predominantly for the western languages, many minority languages have suffered online, impeded by the dominance of the Latin alphabet and Qwerty keyboard. Nevertheless, 35.6% of the world’s internet users are based in Asia, with Chinese and Japanese being the second and third most frequent languages, respectively.
Unarguably the digital sceptic’s greatest ammunition is the plentifulness of both well accessible pornography and online crime. Porn is the Web’s largest and most financially profitable industry, having flourished from the Web’s lack of censorship and underground nature, and the availability of sexually explicit sites to young children is a growing concern to many parents. Parental filters and adult verification filters are well bypassed by computer literate youngsters. Though not technically illegal, many adult sites tread ambiguously, selling products and services from a country/state in which they are legal, to a consumer located where they are not.
Credit card fraud, privacy invasion and personal security are a constant concern to many internet users, with online criminals forever developing new ways to steal prestige card details and bank information, despite the effectiveness of antivirus programs and firewalls. Scams such as ‘phishing’, in which the internet subscriber receives a seemingly legitimate email demanding their personal banking details, are expanding common.
Another comprehensive concern has been online piracy. With the music and film industries claiming to have lost billions from internet piracy, file sharing is a convention that has become increasingly lowly despite the legal issues. The tension in the middle of protecting intellectual property and promoting creativity and the free flow of ideas is evident.
Whereas in the Western world there has been much deliberate upon over the benefits of a faultless lack of censorship, in other regions such as the Middle East, the internet is thought about a security threat by less democratic governments, and political and religious sites have been censored from the collective by government controlled filters. With the People’s Republic of China arresting individuals for accessing non-sanctioned websites, the antithesis of the Western attitude, one that is itself criticized for doing microscopic to police the Web, where paedophilia and Nazism sites are rising. The net potentially allows those who would previously have be been observers to become participants.
All taken into account, it is easier to be sceptical than favourable. The greatest benefit that the Web has brought to the Western world, one that no estimate of concerns can detract from, is the level and range of free speech, globally decentralised and for the most part, unmonitored. This double-edged blade encompasses both the darkest depravity of the Web, and the broadening of democratic boundaries; for every opportunity online transportation offers, exploitation is to be expected. Cyberspace offers a separate world that parallels our very own, for bettor or worse, and is all the more spirited because of it.