Monday, January 2, 2012

Internet and the Web - Historical Development and the Emergence of Global Village

The Internet revolution did not come overnight. Any scientific and technological revolutions come into being after years of advances and breakthroughs in research and the application. As the Internet became more popular, the number of services available on it continued growing and today we have services like email, file transfer, the Web, web hosting, domain name creation, Usenet and telnet session. Once you are connected to internet by an Internet Service Provider (ISP), you can have access to these services.

The Internet evolved form a project in USA to develop a world wide network for transferring information in the 1960s to combat communication problems that were anticipated during nuclear war. The US government set up the Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA) to fund the project which became known as ARPANET. The TCP and IP now used on internet were developed to fulfill the requirements for the ARPANET. The first services developed were remote Telnet access and file transfer. The users of ARPANET adapted electronic mail (e-mail) for data sharing across the globe. From e-mail, a system of discussion groups which became known as USENET emerged. The need later arose to have more secured private network using internet technology and restrict access to the network to a particular organization. This gave rise to intranet and from intranet, extranet evolved. An extranet is a private network that uses internet technology and the public telecommunication system to securely share part of a business's information or operations with suppliers, vendors, partners, customers, or other businesses. It can be viewed as part of a company's intranet that is extended to user's outside the company.

The World Wide Web (WWW) otherwise called the Web is a collection of all browsers, servers, files, and browser-accessible services available through the Internet. It was created in 1989 by a computer scientist named Tim Berners-Lee. Its original purpose was to facilitate communication between research scientists. Berners-Lee working at the Conseil European pour la Reherche Nucleaire (CERN), the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, located in Geneva, Switzerland, designed the Web in such a way that documents located on one computer on the Internet could provide links to documents located on other computers on the Internet. It is a TCP/IP based collection of all web servers on the Internet that in the words of Tim Berners-Lee comes as close to containing the "sum of human knowledge" as anything available on any network anywhere. The reason being that the Web in practice is a vast collection of interconnected documents spanning the whole wide world. It can be likened to a situation where thousands of spiders fill a room with each spinning its own web. The webs are so connected that the "spiders" can travel freely and quickly within the network.

The advent of the Web necessitated the development of browser. The browser is the user's window to the Web, providing the capability to view web documents and access web-based services and applications like web site download and web based e-mail package otherwise called web mail. The Web's basic unit is the web page. Within the page are links related to pages and other web sites. This system of embedded links in the text on a page is called hypertext. The hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP) enables you to link to many sites on the Net. Links are underlined in graphical browsers and they enable you to fetch a hypertext document from a server and display it for you. It was originally intended for text links only, but as it was further developed, multimedia links were added too. Now you can see pictures, listen to audio, and watch video. With the addition of sound and graphics and fast modems to carry these large files, the Web has grown to be the dominant medium for mass communication on internet since its public introduction in 1991 even though it came after e-mail, Usenet, FTP and other internet services that had long been in existence. Moreover, the Web led to the emergence of a new generation of software: web-based application software like banking and stock broking software. Because of its ability to reach out to a very wide audience, we started witnessing gradual movement from off-line applications to on-line applications and increasing preference for networking technology for data processing tasks as opposed to stand-alone systems.

The world is now a small community through the Internet, that is, a global village and globalization is tremendously thriving as a result of it. Distance is no longer a barrier to social interaction, communication, learning, trade and commerce across the world. Let us see examples of activities demonstrating the world as a global village-

Through social network sites like Facebook and Twitter, you can socialize at global level.
International trade is possible through e-commerce sites like eBay and Amazon.
Banking can be done globally by internet banking. For instance, customers from anywhere in the world can check their account balance, transfer money from their account to another account through the bank's web site.
Mails can be sent internationally through web mails like Yahoo, Gmail, and Hotmail.
Human resources can be hired from anywhere in the world through online outsourcing.
With teleconferencing, a meeting can be held at the same time among people in different countries interactively.
Through e-learning centers on internet, you can receive training in many disciplines regardless of your location.

Globalization has continued to be enhanced through the Internet. There are many definitions of globalization. One definition defines it as the process of increasing the connectivity and interdependence of the world's markets and businesses. Another one defines it as the process by which regional economies, societies, and cultures have become integrated through a global network of political ideas through communication, transportation, and trade. Whatever the definition, there is the portrayal of one thing- internationalization. E-business is a veritable tool for the enhancement of globalization. With e-business technology, business can be transacted between different countries on the Web. For instance, a company can locate in another country a new source of supply of materials through the Web and start placing orders. There is trade and interdependence between both countries in the process and that is globalization. Also, companies outsourcing over the Web by giving out jobs like data entry to people in other countries of the world are globalizing by internationalizing their business and promoting interdependence among nations. An effect of globalization is culture, particularly business culture, becoming similar among nations due to similar ways of doing things. E-business culture has been imbibed in many parts of the world which has to a large extent facilitated standardization of business operations globally. Large multinationals via e-business technology are enjoying uniform and well integrated means of operation across the globe and they are reaping the huge benefits of globalization in the areas of reduction in costs and increased profit margins.