Online

The term online has a specific meaning in regards to telecommunication and computer technology. In these contexts, online means a state of connectivity. The opposite of online is "offline" which means a state of disconnect. People generally use the term online to indicate their availability on a computer system or telecommunication platform – especially in regards to an internet connection. The term can also be used to indicate the accessibility or functionality of a computing system. For example, a system that stops transmitting data can be considered to be offline while one that is still actively transmitting data is online.

Definitions of online

Within the context of telecommunication and computer technology, online is defined by the Federal Standard 1037C. It is defined therein as the condition or state of an “equipment” or "device” or a "functional unit". To be considered as being in an online state, one or some of the following will have to occur to a system;

  • The system is directly under the control of another device;
  • The system is directly under the control of another system which it is associated with;
  • The system is currently available for immediate use on demand by another system without the need for human intervention.

On the other hand, a device or system that is offline will be unable to meet all of the criteria above. For example, a personal computer that is turned off will be unable to satisfy any of the above criteria.

According to the Oxford dictionary, "online" (also at times referred to as "On the Line") can mean being "connected to or controlled by a computer". It can also mean a service or activity which can be performed on or is accessible by making use of the Internet or a different computer network. The term is used with terms like; "online identity", “online shopping”, "online gambling", "online banking", and "online learning".

Generalizations concerning the term Online

Online has been generalized from within the context of computing and telecommunication into the context of interpersonal relationships among humans. So much so that it is now a subject of study within the field of sociology.

Typical online activities

With the use of computer systems becoming more widespread and access to the internet made easier, a lot of people now perform various activities “online”. These online activities usually involve networking with other computers, or internet users to fulfil a particular purpose. With advances in technology, being online is no longer restricted to those with a computer system but also anyone with any form of device that makes internet access possible. Everyday online activities that involve the internet in present day include;

Social Networking

Social networking is arguably now the most popular online activity. Having an online presence in other to communicate and network using the internet has been made easier with the availability of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and so on. Popular online communicating and networking activities include:

  • Instant Messaging

This refers to sending and receiving messages in real-time with the use of the internet. This sort of messaging is not limited to text content but can also have audio content, video content, images, and other form of media. Popular platforms for instant messaging include; WhatsApp, IMO, WeChat, and so on.

  • Social Networking

With over one billion users, Facebook is currently the most popular social networking platform. An individual can use a social networking platform to connect with anyone, anywhere in the world as long as they are also registered on the platform. Those using such platforms can share messages, interests, personal updates about themselves, and various forms of media. It’s impossible to connect to a social network platform if one isn’t online (connected to the internet).

  • Blogging

Blogging is now used as a tool for advertising and marketing and not just as a personal diary. A variety of text and media can be uploaded on a blog and is accessible by anyone who visits the website. Microblogging is a relatively new form of blogging where users share very short posts or simply media documents or website links. The most popular microblogging platform at the moment is Twitter.

  • Communications
  • File Sharing

A lot of people and organisations take advantage of the connectivity provided by the internet by using it store, share, and receive files. These files can be found in a wide variety of formats and come in various sizes. The most common form of file sharing is emailing which allows for sending texts in the body of the email as well as sending file attachments. There are also platforms such as Dropbox which make it possible to upload files and give either specific people or the public access to it.

  • Entertainment

A common online activity is sourcing for entertainment from the internet. This type of entertainment can be in the form of streaming music or videos online, playing games, or any other possible online activity.

  • Transactions

A fast rising online activity is e-business. A person can buy or sell goods and services online, market products and services, send and receive money, and perform a host of other transactions.

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