Tips & Definitions:
The Internet allows computer users to connect to other computers and information stores easily, wherever they may be across the world. They may do this with or without the use of security, authentication and encryption technologies, depending on the requirements.
This is encouraging new ways of home-working, collaboration and information sharing in many industries. An accountant sitting at home can audit the books of a company based in another country, on a server situated in a third country that is remotely maintained by IT specialists in a fourth. These accounts could have been created by home-working book-keepers, in other remote locations, based on information e-mailed to them from offices all over the world. Some of these things were possible before the widespread use of the Internet, but the cost of private, leased lines would have made many of them infeasible in practice.
An office worker away from his or her desk, perhaps the other side of the world on a business trip or a holiday, can open a remote desktop session into his or her normal office PC using a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection via the Internet. This gives him or her complete access to all their normal files and data, including e-mail and other applications, while they are away.
This low-cost and nearly instantaneous sharing of ideas, knowledge and skills has revolutionized some, and given rise to whole new, areas of human activity. One example of this is the collaborative development and distribution of FLOSS (Free, Libre and Open-Source Software) such as Linux, Mozilla and OpenOffice.org. See Collaborative software.
A few other examples include Wikipedia, a collaboratively edited and maintained free encyclopedia, the Urban Dictionary project and TEIS - the UK Telemedicine and E-health Information Service for those working in the field of telemedicine, telecare and health.
A computer file can be e-mailed to customers, colleagues and friends as an attachment. It can be uploaded to a web site or FTP server for easy download by others. It can be put into a "shared location" or onto a file server for instant use by colleagues.
The load of bulk downloads to many users can be eased by the use of "mirror" servers or peer-to-peer networking.
In any of these cases, access to the file may be controlled by user authentication; the transit of the file over the Internet may be obscured by encryption and money may change hands before or after access to the file is given. The price can be paid by the remote charging of funds from, for example a credit card whose details are also passed - hopefully fully encrypted - across the Internet. The origin and authenticity of the file received may be checked by digital signatures or by MD5 message digests.
These simple features of the Internet, over a world-wide basis, are changing the basis for the production, sale and distribution of many types of product, wherever they can be reduced to a computer file for transmission. This includes all manner of office documents, publications, software products, music, photography, video, animations, graphics and the other arts. This in turn is causing seismic shifts in each of the existing industries that previously controlled the production and distribution of these products. See RIAA - the Recording Industry Association of America has been particularly vocal about the problems this is causing them.
The most used language for communication on the Internet is English, due to the Internet's origins, to the growing role of English as an international language and to the poor capability of early computers to handle characters other than those in the basic western alphabet (see Unicode).
After English (56 % of websites) the most-used languages in the world wide web are German 8 %, French 6 %, Japanese 5 % and Spanish 3 %. These numbers are probably already inaccurate as there has been a recent surge in Chinese websites.
The Internet's technologies have developed enough in recent years so that sufficient native-language facilities for a usable experience are available for the most widely used languages. However, some glitches such as mojibake still remain.
From a cultural awareness perspective, the Internet has both an advantage and a liability. For people who are interested in other cultures and the worldviews of those cultures it provides a significant amount of information and an interactivity that would be unavailable otherwise. However, for people who are not interested in other cultures and worldviews there is some evidence indicating that the Internet enables them to avoid contact to a greater degree than ever before.
See main article Censorship in cyberspace
Some countries such as Iran and the People's Republic of China restrict what people in their countries can see on the internet. This has made blogging very popular in Iran in order to avoid the censorship. The BBC is proposing to offer its entire range of terrestrial television broadcasting as free downloads, but only to people within the UK. At the moment most internet content is available regardless of where one is in the world, so long as one has the means of connecting to it.
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