Understanding Internet Technology

Introduction

Internet is a short form of the technical term internetwork, the result of interconnecting computer networks with special gateways or routers.

The Internet is also often referred to as the Net.

The term the Internet, when referring to the entire global system of IP networks has been treated as a proper noun and written with an initial capital letter.

The Internet carries a vast range of information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext documents of the World Wide Web (WWW) and the infrastructure to support electronic mail.

The World Wide Web, abbreviated as WWW or W3 and commonly known as the Web, is a system of interlinked hypertext documents accessed via the Internet.

With a web browser, one can view web pages that may contain text, images, videos, and other multimedia and navigate between them via hyperlinks.

Web Browser

Web browser is a software application that enables a user to display and interact with text, images, and other information typically located on a Web page at a website on the World Wide Web or a local area network.

Structure of a web page is actually not the way it is displayed in a Web browser. A web page is written in a coded form in HTML, PHP or any other language.

Web browser gets this information and formats into the display, which we usually see when we visit a webpage.

Before the introduction of the NCSA Mosaic Web browser in 1993 – one of the first graphical Web browsers the Internet was used by military and universities.

Marc Andreessen, the leader of the Mosaic team at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), soon started his own company, named Netscape, and released the Mosaic-influenced Netscape Navigator in 1994, which quickly became the world’s most popular browser, accounting for 90% of all Web use at its peak and introduced web to the public.

Microsoft responded with its browser Internet Explorer in 1995 (also heavily influenced by Mosaic), initiating the industry’s first browser war. By bundling Internet Explorer with Windows, Microsoft was able to leverage its dominance in the operating system market to take over the Web browser market; Internet Explorer usage share peaked at over 95% by 2002.

The Internet Technology

Protocols

The complex communications infrastructure of the Internet consists of its hardware components and a system of software layers that control various aspects of the architecture. While the hardware can often be used to support other software systems, it is the design and the rigorous standardization process of the software architecture that characterizes the Internet and provides the foundation for its scalability and success.

The most prominent component of the Internet model is the Internet Protocol (IP) which provides addressing systems (IP addresses) for computers on the Internet. IP enables internetworking and essentially establishes the Internet itself. IP Version 4 (IPv4) is the initial version used on the first generation of the today’s Internet and is still in dominant use. It was designed to address up to ~4.3 billion (109) Internet hosts. However, the explosive growth of the Internet has led to IPv4 address exhaustion which is estimated to enter its final stage in approximately 2011.

A new protocol version, IPv6, was developed in the mid 1990s which provides vastly larger addressing capabilities and more efficient routing of Internet traffic. IPv6 is currently in commercial deployment phase around the world and Internet address registries have begun to urge all resource managers to plan rapid adoption and conversion. IPv6 can work with IPv4. It essentially establishes a “parallel” version of the Internet not directly accessible with IPv4 software.

This means software upgrades or translator facilities are necessary for every networking device that needs to communicate on the IPv6 Internet. The developed country is likely to stop using V4 and start only using V6 because there will be no motivation to run parallel software in their system.

Most modern computer operating systems are already converted to operate with both versions of the Internet Protocol. Network infrastructures, however, are still lagging in this development. Aside from the complex physical connections that make up its infrastructure, the Internet is facilitated by bi- or multi-lateral commercial contracts (e.g., peering agreements), and by technical specifications or protocols that describe how to exchange data over the network. Indeed, the Internet is defined by its interconnections and routing policies.

Governance

The Internet is a globally distributed network comprising many voluntarily interconnected autonomous networks. It operates without a central governing body.

However, to maintain interoperability, all technical and policy aspects of the underlying core infrastructure and the principal name spaces are administered by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), headquartered in Marina del Rey, California. ICANN is the authority that coordinates the assignment of unique identifiers for use on the Internet, including domain names, Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, application port numbers in the transport protocols, and many other parameters.

Globally unified name spaces, in which names and numbers are uniquely assigned, are essential for the global reach of the Internet. ICANN is governed by an international board of directors drawn from across the Internet technical, business, academic, and other non-commercial communities. The government of the United States continues to have the primary role in approving changes to the DNS root zone that lies at the heart of the domain name system. ICANN’s role in coordinating the assignment of unique identifiers distinguishes it as perhaps the only central coordinating body on the global Internet.

On 16 November 2005, the World Summit on the Information Society, held in Tunis, established the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) to discuss Intern ICANN is made up of a number of different groups, each of which represent a different interest on the Internet and all of which contribute to any final decisions that ICANN’s makes.

ICCAN  Structure 

There are three “supporting organizations” that represent:

The organizations that deal with IP addresses

The organizations that deal with domain names

The managers of country code top-level domains (a special exception as explained at the bottom).

Then there are four “advisory committees” that provide ICANN with advice and recommendations. These represent:

Governments and international treaty organizations

Root server operators

Those concerned with the Internet’s security

The “at large” community, meaning average Internet users.

And finally, there is a Technical Liaison Group, which works with the organizations that devise the basic protocols for Internet technologies.

Modern uses of Internet

Educational material at all levels from pre-school to post-doctoral is available from websites. Examples range from CBeebies, through school and high-school revision guides, virtual universities, to access to top-end scholarly literature through the likes of Google Scholar.

In distance education, help with homework and other assignments, self-guided learning, whiling away spare time, or just looking up more detail on an interesting fact, it has never been easier for people to access educational information at any level from anywhere.

The Internet in general and the World Wide Web in particular are important enablers of both formal and informal education.

The low cost and nearly instantaneous sharing of ideas, knowledge, and skills has made collaborative work dramatically easier, with the help of collaborative software.

Not only can a group cheaply communicate and share ideas, but the wide reach of the Internet allows such groups to easily form in the first place.

An example of this is the free software movement, which has produced, among other programs, Linux, Mozilla Firefox, and OpenOffice.org. Internet “chat”, whether in the form of IRC chat rooms or channels, or via instant messaging systems, allow colleagues to stay in touch in a very convenient way when working at their computers during the day. Messages can be exchanged even more quickly and conveniently than via email. Extensions to these systems may allow files to be exchanged, “whiteboard” drawings to be shared or voice and video contact between team members.

Version control systems allow collaborating teams to work on shared sets of documents without either accidentally overwriting each other’s work or having members wait until they get “sent” documents to be able to make their contributions. Business and project teams can share calendars as well as documents and other information. Such collaboration occurs in a wide variety of areas including scientific research, software development, conference planning, political activism and creative writing.

Social and political collaboration is also becoming more widespread as both Internet access and computer literacy grow. From the flash mob ‘events’ of the early 2000s to the use of social networking in the 2009 Iranian election protests, the Internet allows people to work together more effectively and in many more ways than was possible without it.

The Internet allows computer users to remotely access 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 working from home, 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 bookkeepers, in other remote locations, based on information emailed 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 their desk, perhaps on the other side of the world on a business trip or a holiday, can open a remote desktop session into his normal office PC using a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection via the Internet. This gives the worker complete access to all of his or her normal files and data, including email and other applications, while away from the office. This concept has been referred to among system administrators as the Virtual Private Nightmare, because it extends the secure perimeter of a corporate network into its employees’ homes.

Social impact

The Internet has enabled entirely new forms of social interaction, activities, and organizing, thanks to its basic features such as widespread usability and access. Social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace have created new ways to socialize and interact.

Users of these sites are able to add a wide variety of information to pages, to pursue common interests, and to connect with others. It is also possible to find existing acquaintances, to allow communication among existing groups of people.

Sites like LinkedIn foster commercial and business connections. YouTube and Flickr specialize in users’ videos and photographs.

Political Impact

The Internet has achieved new relevance as a political tool, leading to Internet censorship by some states. The presidential campaign of Howard Dean in 2004 in the United States was notable for its success in soliciting donation via the Internet.

Many political groups use the Internet to achieve a new method of organizing in order to carry out their mission, having given rise to Internet activism. Some governments, such as those of Iran, North Korea, Myanmar, the People’s Republic of China, and Saudi Arabia, restrict what people in their countries can access on the Internet, especially political and religious content.] This is accomplished through software that filters domains and content so that they may not be easily accessed or obtained without elaborate circumvention.]

Entertainment

One main area of leisure activity on the Internet is multiplayer gaming. This form of recreation creates communities, where people of all ages and origins enjoy the fast-paced world of multiplayer games. These range from MMORPG to first-person shooters, from role-playing video games to online gambling. This has revolutionized the way many people interact.] while spending their free time on the Internet.

While online gaming has been around since the 1970s, modern modes of online gaming began with subscription services such as GameSpy and MPlayer. Non-subscribers were limited to certain types of game play or certain games. Many people use the Internet to access and download music, movies and other works for their enjoyment and relaxation.

Free and fee-based services exist for all of these activities, using centralized servers and distributed peer-to-peer technologies. Some of these sources exercise more care with respect to the original artists’ copyrights than others.

Cyberslacking can become a drain on corporate resources; the average UK employee spent 57 minutes a day surfing the Web while at work, according to a 2003 study by Peninsula Business Services. Internet addiction disorder is excessive computer use that interferes with daily life. Some psychologists believe that Internet use has other effects on individuals for instance interfering with the deep thinking that leads to true creativity.

Internet usage has been correlated to users’ loneliness. Lonely people tend to use the Internet as an outlet for their feelings and to share their stories with others, such as in the “I am lonely will anyone speak to me” thread.

SOCIAL MEDIA

A good way to think about social media is that all of this is actually just about  being human beings. Sharing ideas, cooperating and collaborating to create art, thinking and commerce, vigorous debate and discourse, finding people who might be good friends, allies and lovers – it’s what our species has built several civilisations on. That’s why it is spreading so quickly, not because it’s great shiny, whizzy new technology, but because it lets us be ourselves – only more so.

The best way to define social media is to break it down. Media is an instrument on communication, like a newspaper or a radio, so social media would be a social instrument of communication.

In Web 2.0 terms, this would be a website that doesn’t just give you information, but interacts with you while giving you that information. This interaction can be as simple as asking for your comments or letting you vote on an article, or it can be as complex as Flixster recommending movies to you based on the ratings of other people with similar interests.

Think of regular media as a one-way street where you can read a newspaper or listen to a report on television, but you have very limited ability to give your thoughts on the matter.

Social media, on the other hand, is a two-way street that gives you the ability to communicate too.

Is Social Media and Social News The Same Thing?

It is easy to confuse social media with social news because we often refer to members of the news as “the media.” Adding to the confusion is the fact that a social news site is also a social media site because it falls into that broader category.

But social news is not the same thing as social media anymore than a banana is the same thing as fruit. A banana is a type of fruit, but fruit can also be grapes, strawberries, or lemons. And while social news is social media, social networking and wikis are also social media.

What Are Some Social Media Websites?

Now that we have answered the question of what is social media, we can move on to social media websites. Because social media is such a broad term, it covers a large range of websites. But the one common link between these websites is that you are able to interact with the website and interact with other visitors.

There are basically six kinds of social media.

Social networks

These sites allow people to build personal web pages and then connect with friends to share content and communication. The biggest social networks are MySpace, Facebook and Bebo.

Blogs

Perhaps the best known form of social media, blogs are online journals, with entries appearing with the most recent first.

Wikis

These websites allow people to add content to or edit the information on them, acting as a communal document or database. The best-known wiki is Wikipedia4, the online encyclopedia which has over 2 million English language articles.

Podcasts

Audio and video files that are available by subscription, through services like Apple iTunes.

Forums

Areas for online discussion, often around specific topics and interests. Forums came about before the term “social media” and are a powerful and popular element of online communities.

Content communities

Communities which organize and share particular kinds of content. The most popular content communities tend to form around photos (Flickr), bookmarked links (del.icio.us) and videos (YouTube).

Microblogging

social networking combined with bite-sized blogging, where small amounts of content (‘updates’) are distributed online and through the mobile phone network. Twitter is the clear leader in this field.

How social media works

Now let’s take a look at each of the main types of social media, and how they work. These explanations are intentionally very general, because with social media every rule seems to have an exception.

In fact, among the defining characteristics of social media are the blurring of definitions, rapid innovation, reinvention and mash-ups.

Each explanation also has a section on how to try out that form of social media yourself, with pointers on both how to find social media that’s relevant to you and how you might go about creating it. If you want to really understand how social media works, there’s no better way than to take part in it.

Mash-ups

The combination of two or more pieces of content (or software, or websites) is one of the phenomena in social media that make it at once so exciting, fast-moving and sometimes bewildering. Mash-ups are possible because of the openness of social media – many websites and software developers encourage people to play with their services and reinvent them.

There are literally hundreds of mash-ups of the Google Earth service, where people have attached information to parts of the maps. For instance there is a UK rail service mash-up where you can track in real time where trains are on the map. Fans of the TV series 24 have mapped locations from the shows’ plotlines on to a Google Earth map.

A popular type of mash-up cannibalises different pieces of content, typically videos and music. Popular videos on YouTube can spawn hundreds of imitations, homages and

(frequently) comic reinterpretations. In communities like this, the number of mash-ups a piece of content spawns is often an indicator of its popularity.

Social networks

Social networks on the web are like contained versions of the sprawling blog network. People joining a social network usually create a profile and then build a network by

connecting to friends and contacts in the network, or by inviting real-world contacts and friends to join the social network.

These communities retain the interest of their members by being useful to them and providing services that are entertaining or help them to expand their networks. MySpace, for instance, allows members to create vivid, chaotic home pages (they’ve been likened to the walls of a teenager’s bedroom) to which they can upload images, videos and music.

How blogs work

At its simplest, a blog is an online journal where the entries are published with the most recent first. There are a number of features that make blogs noteworthy and different to other websites:

Tone

Blogs tend to be written in a personal, conversational style. They are usually the work of an identified author or group of authors.

Topic

Blogs tend to define what it is they are writing about. They can be as specific as a

blog about a book in progress or as wide in scope as „my musings on life and stuff.

Links and trackbacks

The services people use to write blogs make it very easy for them to insert links to other websites, usually in reference to an article or blog post or to provide further information about the subject they are writing about.

Comments

Each blog post has a comments section, effectively a message board for that article. On blogs with large audiences the debates in these sections can run to hundreds of comments at a time.

Subscription

Blogs can be subscribed to, usually via RSS technology, making it easy to keep up with new content. Blogs are easy to set up using any of a number of services. One of the simplest is the free Blogger service from Google. Others such as WordPress and TypePad offer more features, the latter for a fee.

Types of Blogs

With millions of people around the world of different ages and backgrounds blogging about whatever they feel like, it is about as easy to generalize about ‘bloggers’ as it is to make sweeping statements about ‘human beings’.

Personal blogs

Many millions of people keep blogs about their everyday lives, much like public diaries. These sometimes become very popular indeed, especially those anonymous, slightly risque ones. You know the sort: they get written about in the Sunday Times and become best-selling novels. One of the best-known personal blogs is Dooce.

Political blogs

Especially in the US, but increasingly in the UK, blogs are being written about politics.

Often perceived as a response to media bias (across the political spectrum) they  tend to comment on the news, giving closer analysis of issues they feel have been misrepresented or glossed over by mainstream media.

Business blogs

Many professionals and businesses now have blogs. They can allow companies to communicate in a less formal style than has been traditional in newsletters, brochures and press releases, which can help to give a human face and voice to the organisation. For individuals in business a blog can become a very effective way of building a network of like-minded individuals and raising their own profiles. Blog Maverick is a good example.

‘Almost media’ blogs

Some blogs are unashamedly media businesses in their own right, taking advertising and employing a blogger or a group of bloggers full-time. Effectively, they are startups that are taking advantage of the new blogging technologies and opportunities to build communities of readers in new or niche subject areas. These are generally to be found covering news and opinion in the technology and media industries.

Mainstream media blogs

Most national newspapers now have blogs for some of their reporters and editors. These can provide useful insights into the news gathering and reporting process, but will also give vent to personal views that the journalist may otherwise have kept to themselves. For example, see Onyango Obbo, a Daily Nation journalist’s  blog. It’s worth noting that while many journalist blogs are hosted on newspaper sites themselves, a large number are independent, personal blogs with a major focus on their professional interests.

How Wikis work

Wikis are websites that allow people to contribute or edit content on them. They are great for collaborative working, for instance creating a large document or project plan with a team in several offices. A wiki can be as private or as open as the people who create it want it to be.

Wikipedia

The most famous wiki is of course Wikipedia, an online encyclopaedia that was started in 2001. It now has over 2.5 million articles in English alone6 and over a million members.

In 2005 the respected scientific journal Nature conducted a study into the reliability of the scientific entries in Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica. No one was surprised that Encyclopaedia Britannica was the more reliable of the two – what was remarkable was that it was only marginally more accurate. The Encyclopedia Britannica team issued a 20-page rebuttal of the study a few months later.

Others observed that while Encyclopaedia Britannica had no entries for wiki, Wikipedia has a 2,500 word article on Encyclopaedia Britannica, its history and methodology. But Wikipedia is more than a reference source. During a major breaking news story, especially one which affects large numbers of people directly, such a natural disaster or political crisis, Wikipedia acts as a collective reporting function.

Wikia

A community of wikis on different subjects

wikiHow

A practical ‘how to’ manual for everything from making coffee to writing business plans

Wikinews

Wikipedia’s news project You can start your own public wiki in the Wikia community, or look at the technology’s possibilities for team working by trying out the

services from companies like JotSpot and Socialtext.

PODCASTS

A “podcast” is a buzzword to describe a very simple concept: an audio or video file available on the Internet for you to listen to and/or watch. A podcast can also refer to a series of these audio or video files (similar to how a TV or radio “show” can be a series of shows or just one show). When using the word “podcast”, most people refer to the entire series and not just one audio or video file.

How Podcasts Work

Podcasts are audio or video files that are published on the internet and that users can subscribe to. Sometimes ‘vodcast’ is used to specifically describe video services.

It is the subscription feature that makes a podcast so powerful as a form of social media. People have long been able to upload audio content to the web, but the subscription feature means that people can build regular audiences and communities around their shows. It effectively puts private individuals or brands on a level playing field with traditional media organizations when it comes to competing for people’s attention with AV content online.

Podcasts, like personal video recorders (PVRs), are part of a shift in media consumption patterns, which increasingly sees people watching or listening to content when and where it suits them. This is sometimes known as time-shifting.

When a new podcast is posted to the web, all the subscribers’ podcast services (such as iTunes) are automatically notified and download the programme to their computer’s hard drive. The podcast can then be either listened to on the computer or downloaded onto an MP3 player, such as an iPod.

Naturally the advent of the podcast has also meant that media brands have been able to invade one another’s traditional territory. Many national newspapers in the UK have started effectively producing their own radio-style programmes and distributing them via their previously text-and-picture based websites. Channel 4 has also launched its own audio/podcasting brand, 4Radio.

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One response to “Understanding Internet Technology

  1. Pingback: » Understanding Internet Technology | Technology In Kenya …Computer Reviews: Latest Computer News And Reviews

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