Browsing The Web

29 September 2008

Browsing the Web

To browse the web one has to have a computer or similar device with a modem, a web browser (such as Internet Explorer or Firefox) and internet access. It is rare to find an individual that uses a dial up connection, but if he or she does, all that person would need is a phone line cord, a landline, and the internet service of their choice. More than likely, it would be difficult to get internet access without paying for the service. But, if someone finds themselves in an airport, a coffee shop, or the local mall, and if he or she has a wireless setting on their computer, then they can connect to a type of internet called Wi-Fi. Some businesses, like a few local Billings establishments, offer Wi-Fi access as a way to attract customers.

Browsing the web is very simple to do and is available virtually anywhere: home, school, the airport, the library. As long as there is a device like a laptop or PDA, and Wi-Fi internet access is available, then there should be no problem connecting to the internet.

There are three main types of internet one could use. Cable internet is the most common way to connect to high speed internet. The average connections speed is 400K/second for downloads and an 128K upload speed. An advantage to using cable internet is the availability. A major disadvantage is how much time the internet could take to load when multiple people are sharing the network. Another type of internet is DSL. DSL, also known as Digital Subscriber Link, uses a phone line and a special modem to connect. The average connections speed is 400-650K/second for downloads and a 128-256K/second upload speed. The advantage for this is reliability and the disadvantage is availability. The third main type of internet is known as satellite or HST. Internet via satellite comes in two different varieties: 1-way and 2-way. A 1-way satellite uses television receivers, which only accepts signals. A 2-way satellite sends and receives and is telephone free. The average speed for this type of internet is among the fastest, with download speeds at about 600K/second and upload speeds at about 128K/second. Internet via satellite is available practically everywhere, which is a major advantage. A disadvantage to this service is the reliability and the cost. On average, expect to pay about six hundred dollars for the equipment and about an additional fifty dollars per month service charge.

The most common use of the web is so individuals can keep in touch with each other. Social networking sites, email, forums, and instant messengers are all different ways in which meeting new people and sustaining old relationships is possible.

The web also makes a great abundance of information available at the click of a mouse. Not only do local newspapers post the print versions of their publication online, but foreign publications are also available if to get perspectives on worldly issues. There are many websites that contain full versions of books of intellectuals, philosophers, and writers. Many colleges and universities offer online courses on about any topic one could think of.
Depending on how the web is used, it can have endless potential, or be a big waste of time. The web is a very handy tool that could be used to an advantage, or also abused.

There are a variety of “rules” that individual websites, internet access providers and governments have put into place that individuals in the community are expected to abide by. These rules are usually found in the Terms of Service pages on websites. Privacy policies also contain information that the individual website is going to collect about the user and his or her online activities. For example, to use the social networking site one must:
Be 13 years of age or older.
Not post content that is offensive, illegal or would intrude on the rights of another individual.
Not obscure the banner on the individual’s profile page.
Submit truthful and accurate information.
Not submit anything that contains nudity or anything that may be offensive.
Not participate in any activity using their service that would violate any laws.

This is a small sampling. The full Terms of Service page can be found at the bottom of the host’s website, and is updated often.

Laws have been implemented to deter a variety of criminal activities instigated on the web including but is not limited to child pornography, cyber-stalking, spamming, hacking, cyber-terrorism, internet fraud and piracy.

On the topic of child pornography, the internet can be dangerous because it gives the criminal anonymity and links them to other similarly inclined individuals. As the web can bring individuals together for good, it can also make it easier to do the opposite - such as the case of the intricate child pornography rings that have been created.

Privacy is a big issue. The U.S. Government's “Patriot Act” allowed them access to all internet activity. This law requires internet access providers and individual websites to hand up all the information they have on their users when the government demands it. Websites collect information on activity stored in “cookies” that can reveal what one has searched for, pages that have been visited and likewise topics. The information can also be stored in databases. This data is usually collected for advertising purposes. Google's email service “Gmail” actually scans our emails and then displays advertisements that are tailored to email discussions. Myspace does the same with messages. In addition, information provided on website profiles can be sold by the site to other companies.

Many of these laws do not seem to bother individuals as most are unaware of them. The majority of the population has participated in some form of piracy. It is very easy to download pirated music or movies and not get caught. People are usually unaware that they are violating any rules on a website until their accounts are terminated or suspended.
With the number of supposed "criminal" activities that transpire over the internet, very few individuals (in comparison) have actually been prosecuted. This may change in the future.

There are many ways in which one can escape such controls. One is in the form of anonymity. IP Addresses (assigned by the ISP) are used to track down individuals right down to their physical location. One can spoof his or her IP so that they can't be tracked down. IP spoofing can be used to surf anonymously. Spammers can even spoof the originating email address when they send out their spam messages. Oftentimes these originating email addresses belong to an actual individual. These individuals (or companies) don't suspect anything has happened until they get the inevitable backlash – hundreds of angry emails from spammed people.

The possibilities are endless. There are endless things to do on the internet, and if one feels overwhelmed, a simple Google search or a video tutorial on Youtube could definitely help!

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