Some Thoughts on the Internet

Last Wednesday, my Verizon FIOS Internet connection went down for the entire day. What was amazing to me was how much this impacted me. High-speed Internet access is ubiquitous nowadays; we don't even really think about it unless it's absent. When it's not available, you begin to realize just how much the Internet has pervaded every aspect of our lives.

Professionally, of course, most of my work has to do with the Internet. I build web applications of all types, small ones for conferences, large ones for government agencies, etc. I access my source code over the Internet (using remote source code management technologies like git and Subversion); stay in contact with team mates using technologies like Skype, IM and email; and sometimes monitor my live web sites online.

But the Internet means far more than work to me. The most important thing about the internet is that it provides "information on demand."

Information on demand is a huge asset, and I think that even now we're underestimating the impact it's going to have on world-wide societyWant to know who starred in the 1957 movie, "Bridge on the River Kwai"? Check out the Internet Movie Database. Need to research information on the Battle of Midway for a Toastmasters speech? Check out Wikipedia; it may have a few flaws, but it's still the most complete encyclopedia there is. Need to research how a Rails application can interact with Facebook? Use the Google search engine to track down articles, documentation, blog entries and other information sources.

What about entertainment? Want to catch up on that television show you missed last night? Check out Hulu. Or preview the menu of the restaurant you're thinking of taking your wife to on Friday.

Let's go even further. Pay your bills online using your bank's web site. Order items from your favorite store online. Keep up with the news.

Stay in contact with friends, both new and old on Facebook. Chat with friends online using IM. Heck, I even work with a group of people to run two conferences, RubyNation and DevIgnition, and most of our communication is done online via email and IM.

Toss your favorite smart phone into the mix, and you now have Internet access, information on demand, just about anywhere that you go.

What does this all mean?

  1. We live in a connected world now. Geography isn't a factor anymore. We can stay in contact with friends wherever they may be. We can form friendships online with people we've never met in person. We can build communities around common interests that transcend conventional geographic boundaries.

  2. Information on demand is a huge asset, and I think that even now we're underestimating the impact it's going to have on world-wide society (think of the current Middle East unrest as being caused by a younger generation that has been exposed to new ideas via the Internet). The tools are becoming available so that anybody can educate themselves on any topic they find interesting, whether to enhance their career or simply to pursue hobby-level interests.

  3. Email, the World Wide Web, IM and social networks are all technologies that have been empowered by the universal accessibility of the Internet. And we're not done yet. There are technologies like virtual environments and environment tagging that have incredible potential that we've only barely tapped into, plus new technologies beyond the horizon.

  4. We're still in the early days of the Internet. We've yet to see the majority of the impact that the Internet will have. Just think about that for a minute...

Welcome to the Internet. It's going to be a wild ride, if Verizon can keep my connection up.


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