I remember when I first opened an internet browser. I was 8 or 9 years old then when I used to come along with my parents to their workplace. One time, my father got tired of me tailing him around the office, so he sat me in front of a computer unit and opened this window with the lighthouse icon. I read the name that appeared on the blue bar high up on the screen. It read Netscape. I looked curiously at Dad, and he typed in http://www.archiecomics.com. As soon as Archie appeared, I eagerly seized the mouse from my father and clicked happily around the screen. Somehow, I didn’t expect to see Archie, Jughead, Reggie, Betty, and Veronica anywhere else other than a comic book. And the website had games! Goodie!
A few years later, I got my own e-mail account which is still alive, kicking, and filled with Facebook feeds.
It was our generation that truly saw how the internet was born and how much it has flourished through the last two decades. We saw how the world wide web revolutionized information technology. The internet is a most amazing phenomenon.
When I was a whole lot younger, I watched cartoons and anime on the TV. I used to rush home in the afternoons just to catch the newest Ghost Fighter episode. Today, I just type in the name of any TV show in Google and watch the latest episode of the latest season free anytime and anywhere.
Years ago, I used to wait for the radio station to play my favorite song (ick, sounds like a line from a song). Now, I just download the latest songs from Limewire. Yes, I am a shameless pirate.
I also remember waiting for the paperboy to come with our daily subscription of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (read: Comics section). Today, I wait for the most recent news on http://www.inquirer.net.
I used to have 3-hour “telebabad” sessions with my bestfriend. Now, I can hold a YM conference with my whole barkada.
I could name so much more thens and nows. One thing is for certain, the internet has changed the way we obtain information and communicate with one another. The internet is the trimedia rolled into one and so much more. With the continuous advancement of technology, your imagination is the limit.
According to Microsoft’s mastermind, Bill Gates, the internet is still in its infancy stage. Well, if “WWWebby” here is still just a cute baby sucking his proverbial thumb, just think how big and how brilliant he will be when he grows to maturity.
Mr Gates mentioned that any new technology amplifies human potential. If the invention of the diesel engine, television, radio, telephone, and airplanes transformed all societies across the planet, the internet has the same impact. To quote Thomas Friedman, the world has shrunk to a size small. Every person, organization, company, corporation, business, and government are linked to everybody else. More than just being an infomation portal, the internet erased geographical, cultural, and logistical barriers to communication.
The internet has enabled individuals and businesses to communicate with clients, suppliers, and other working units immediately and in real time. Location and time are no longer issues. One just needs a computer (or a smart device for that matter), a modem, a wi-fi hotspot, a 3G or broadband connection, and poof! Deals closed, production started, merchandise shipped, products sold, profits made. The internet made business so much easier and so much less complicated.
On a personal level, the internet has made it possible for friends and relatives keep in touch with each other – whether Mom is just at the office or Dad is at an oil rig at the Middle East. It’s not unusual anymore for friendship to form between a Filipino and a Slovenian. I have one and we really get along well. It used to be just phone calls from cousins in the States to cousins in the Philippines. Today, I get to see how my cousin cracks up at a joke over the webcam. The internet basically makes sure that no one is an island. Hello, Facebook.
The internet has also become an avenue for individualism, creativity, advocacies, ideologies, and beliefs. Blogs and online portfolios helped individuals to make their mark on the world. NGOs and other concerned organizations coordinate humanitarian efforts and spread awareness through the web. Political and religious organizations use the internet to impart their beliefs and gain supporters.
More than anything, it cannot be stressed enough that the internet provides the whole world with information. Pretty much everything that one needs to know is in at least one website or webpage. If something does not exist in the internet, it doesn’t exist anywhere.
Another way of looking at the internet is that it is the epitome of globalization. In fact, globalization is possible because of the internet. No other technology can bring about globalization. While it is true that other modes of communication (telephones, cellphones) and other advances in human technology (airplanes, satellites) have more than facilitated communication all over the world, the impact of the creation of the internet has shattered every conceivable boundary. Because the internet made it easier to become connected to other individuals, companies, and countries all over the world, anything and eveything that happens affects anyone and
Then again, let’s not fool ourselves with the glamour of the internet. As with any other form of technology, it is not without risks.
Since it is easier to conduct business through the internet, anyone can buy something from anywhere. Governments may have problems in regulating the movement of products. While the internet can move economies, it can also move the black market. It is relatively easy to bypass security barriers and disappear without a trail. Remember those movies which feature a nuclear weapon being stolen right from under the noses of the army? That can be made entirely possible. It just takes a computer, an internet connection, and a kick-ass hacker.
On the topic of security, it is very important to address problems in this area. Personal and financial information are being transmitted through internet sites to better manage one’s finances or other personal and official affairs. You just might wake up one day and find that someone has bought a brand new car using the credit card number that you used to buy your plane ticket. Not to mention those spyware and viruses that your computer can contract while you are surfing the web.
The same goes with businesses. They can lose millions of money if some unscrupulous hacker infiltrates their records and finances.
While the internet is such a rich ground for information, there may be issues with the credibility of the sources. You can trust the official sites and pages of academic institutions or those of other established organizations, but there are ones that carry wrong or at least misrepresented data. Furthermore, there are issues on intellectual property rights. Piracy has become rampant with the use of torrents and a personal favorite, Limewire or other sites and softwares. On the other hand, other people can steal YOUR ideas and YOUR intellectual property.
Another problem with the internet is the proliferation of all kinds of content, including sex and violence. Even though some measures are undertaken to limit kids and minors to access certain websites, let’s face it, no one listens to those PG warnings anyway. You can just age yourself to 10 years in the future and no one will be the wiser.
Also, unsavory characters prowl around the web. Just as you can’t trust certain people who walk down the street, you can’t trust everyone you meet over the internet – in chatrooms or boardrooms. You may think that you are safe behind your computer, but these people know how to get to you wherever you are.
These are some issues and risks that we all have to be careful of and as much as possible, to minimize. The internet is undoubtedly one of the best inventions of mankind. So far. And even then, every innovation would have to spring from this.
As with the invention of the diesel engine, the internet has changed and will forever change human technology.
What is hard to imagine is not what the future of internet holds, but a world without it. It’s that simple.
This is the link for Bill Gates’ Shaping the Internet Age: