tons of newsprint and billions of data-bytes have been used up detailing the impact of the internet on our lives.
when i think about it, i realise the impact in our own personal lives is so immense and so pervasive that very often we are not even aware that we are experiencing one of the benefits of the internet.
the internet (and the more popular 'world wide web') is a phenomenon that we have witnessed in our own lifetimes and is something that has touched all our lives in some form or other.
let me list out some of the benefits of the internet that i have personally experienced. i am sure you would be able to add to this list. please do so and lets see how many diverse benefits we are able to come up with!
1. communication - do you remember the time when we used to write letters (i mean the handwritten ones!) to our friends and relatives all over the world? and i also remember wincing at the cost of sending a birthday card by courier to a friend in the us.
the internet has changed all that, and how!
today i can not just write instant emails which i can zap to a mailing list, but i can also talk to friends and even see them through a web-cam. and all this for free. i can send virtual cards for all occasions for free. some sites also remind me of birthdays/anniversaries for all the people (including my own!).
2. business - in my line of work the internet allows me to sit in office and get information on new markets that i would like to enter, i can identify business partners, i can contact potential clients, demonstrate our solutions and make presentations, send proposals, send and receive payments, etc. all this through the internet.
our software team is able to do product implementation, provide support by tracking the functioning of the application at client end and fix problems without having to move out of our office premises. all through the internet!
when i am travelling the internet allows me to keep in touch with office, clients, my team and my family on a real-time basis. i am also able to keep in touch with all the news through the net.
3. collaboration - i personally know a few medical cases where my friends and the doctors sent across all the test results and images across to doctors in the us or other countries who in turn have sent it to a network of other specialists and have got advice on the best course of action to adopt. all this through the internet and without spending a single rupee.
4. entertainment - today i am able to use the internet to download/share/swap music, videos, films, books using sites like napster, limewire, etc. and this has had a tremendous impact on the media and entertainment industry. (no, not because of the fact that i am doing this, but because such services exist and are being used extensively!)
what i've found even more fascinating is the phenomenon of MMOGs (massively multiplayer online game - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massively_multiplayer_online_game) where millions of people across the globe are playing online games where they take on 'avatars' and interact with each other in virtual worlds. i've never tried my hand at these but i can imagine how addictive they can get.
5. social networking - here i would include all the sites focused on dating, online communities, matrimonials, jobs, etc.
i personally know at least 5 people who have married people they have met through the internet, including a friend who married a bulgarian! if that doesn't count as significant social impact of the internet, then i wouldn't know what does!
most of the hiring that we are doing in our company today is through the services offered by various online job sites.
8. finance - when was the last time you visited a bank branch? i haven't been to one for almost 8-10 years! haven't ever felt the need to go to one. almost everything i ever needed, i could manage through the atm, phone or the internet.
i can pay for transactions online, i can send money online, i can request for a cheque book online, etc.
i can even (if i had the money :-) ) do all my stock market/mutual fund investments online and keep track of these investments online!
9. travel - one of the biggest benefits of the internet i have personally experienced is in the area of travel. i can plan my trip online, do all my train and flight bookings online (and get much cheaper fares), pay for them online and even do hotel bookings online.
10. charity/ religious activities - now i can make donations to various charities online, i can book poojas at key temples online, and even do online darshan!
11. information - there's more information out there than i can handle in my lifetime. my wife was able to help my son with his project on bears thanks to the internet with most of the credit going to google.
i found the lyrics to some of my favorite songs (which i couldn't decipher when listening to them) on www.lyricsfreak.com.
i believe we are experiencing only the tip of the iceberg here. in the near future, during our own lifetimes, i'm sure the internet will be impacting our lives in a far greater manner than we can even imagine!