T214: Activity 1.1

The entry is for logging my work on one of my OU activities – this will probably not be very interesting…

Five questions

  1. What are the ten most commonly used languages on the internet?
  2. Find an estimate for the portion of the web that is indexed by search engines. Does the size of the indexed web provide a good indication of the total size of the web?
  3. Roughly how many internet users are there across the world?
  4. Which regions of the world have the most internet users? Which have the fewest?
  5. Which region is most underprivileged in terms of the imbalance between its number of internet users and its population?

1.  From the website Internet World Stats: English, Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, German, Arabic, French, Russian and Korean (in order). Not many surprises there, I think.

2.  From WorldWideWebSize: the number of indexed web pages is at least 14.55 billion pages. The web is probably bigger than this, as it’s likely that many web pages aren’t yet indexed. Also, what is meant by “size”? The number of pages, number of individual sites or the total data storage requirements?

3.  From Internet World Stats: There are nearly 2 billion internet users out of a total world population of over 6.8 billion people. That’s a lot of people!

4. From Internet World Stats: There are over 1.3 billion internet users in Asia and Europe alone, whereas Oceana and the Middle East can’t even scrape 85 million between them.

5.  From Internet World Stats again: Africa has only a 10.9% penetration of internet users, compared to 77.4% in North America.

Uses of the Internet

The task here is to visit one site in each category and make notes about the following:

  • what service or information is provided by the site
  • how the site provides that service or information
  • your reflections on your experience of using or visiting it
  • whether or not it would be possible to provide an equivalent service or experience without the internet.

Information services

I’ve gone for the Internet Movie Database (IMDB).

This site provides encyclopaedic details related to films and television; anything from cast, production crew and reviews, the information is in here. There are discussion forums for registered users and galleries of photos of just about every film and television star.

IMDB provides various top ten lists and each film, tv programme and actor have their own pages. These are all interlinked (a bit like a wiki, but not editable by the general public) and everything is easily searchable.

This site has been around, it seems, since the very beginnings of the Internet. The design has been spruced up over the years but it’s kept generally quite simple and everything is easy to navigate and find. There’s a HUGE amount of information on here and it’s an easy site to use.

This is the sort of information repository that can only be done – with any justice – on the internet. You could collect all the information into a book but it would be gigantic, or in many volumes, and as information is being added every day it would be impossible to keep in order.

Communication services

For this category, I’m chosing Twitter.  I’ve been a twitter user for a few years now and find it an incredibly useful source of amusement and information. It’s a tool for people to splurge out short messages (140 characters or less) on any subject they like. Your network is formed by “following” people you know, like or admire and every time someone in your network enters a status update it appears, chronologically, in your timeline.

Users can access the site directly from the website or via numerous applications that use the Twitter API (such as Tweetdeck) from their computers or mobile phones.

I find it very useful for hearing about technology news, or even just news in general (I follow a lot of tech accounts). I also follow a number of comedians, many of whom use Twitter for their own amusement and provide endless witty updates. It’s probably my favourite site.

You could, theoretically, do something similar on a smaller scale. It would be like having a room full of people all standing in a room, grouped together with people they know or admire, all shouting at once, or whenever they think of something to say. It would be a hideous experience and I’m not sure why anyone would bother. Twitter is a service that works perfectly on the Internet.

Publication and sharing services

For this category I’m choosing Flickr. I’ve been on Flickr probably as long as I’ve been using the Internet. It’s a photography-related social network that allows users to share photos and short videos with people within their network.

Flickr allows users to upload photos from the website, or from a variety of photography applications that use the Flickr API. These photos are then shown in upload order in that user’s photostream. Users can create sets and collections (like albums) and “send” them to groups for other members to see. Photos can be tagged with textual descriptions as well as geotagged by location, along with “machine tags” that are used by some applications.

Users create their own networks by adding other users as contacts. You can view photos from anyone that displays publically-available photos but you can also see photo feeds of your contacts, by tag, locations or keywords.

Flickr is one of my favourite sites. The design has been kept nice and simple and it’s easy to find contacts – either people who’s photographs you admire or people you know. The social aspect of the site enhances the experience – if it was just a photo repository with no social aspect I would never bother to visit.

You could easily keep all your photos on your computer but how would anyone else see them short of coming around to your house? This site is only possible on the Internet.

Commerce

I’ve chosen Amazon for this category. This is a shop that sells stuff. It sells nearly anything – from the latest technological gizmos to comfy sofas – and it even allows users to sell their own stuff via the Amazon Marketplace (not that I’ve tried that part).

Amazon arranges its good in categories and you find what you want by searching. You can filter these searches by category, manufactorer etc and even leave reviews of things that you’ve bought previously.

I have bought many items from Amazon (mostly books, CDs and DVDs) and they’ve always been well-priced and delivered quickly (apart from one item that arrived six weeks after despatch and two weeks after it was refunded). I only ever visit the website to buy anything or read reviews on various products.

There are a few ways that the site links outwards. It’s easy to create wishlists so that your friends and family know what to buy you for birthdays and Christmas, and you can email a link to these lists. You can also create “badges” for your website that show what you’re reading, or your favourite books, or even what you’re selling. Many other websites link directly back to Amazon, such as review sites or price comparison sites.

You could create a similar service in real life – it’s called a shop! Some of the review features might be more difficult to provide but there are plenty of similar services to Amazon to be found on High Streets.

The network as computer

I’ve chosen Google Docs for this category. This service enabled users to perform  similar activities  to those using Microsoft Office but entirely on-line. No software needs to be downloaded – everything is done – and stored – in the “cloud”.

Cloud computing is a term that describes the use of the web, or some other computer network, to store or do work. With Google Docs all you need to do is use an Internet-enabled computer (or even a smartphone) and login to begin work. Everything you do – documents, spreadsheets, presentations etc – is stored on-line and can be accessed from anywhere – assuming you have an Internet connection.

You can share your documents publically if you want, either read-only or in a collaborative way, so that others can also update them.

Google has a massive internal network – thousands upon thousands of servers and related interconnectivity – that provides this cloud service.  I often use it when I want to be able to access my work from anywhere – such as my OU assignments – and I’ve always found it to be a bit lacking in features, but always useful.

You can do anything that Google Docs does on a standalone PC with Microsoft Office installed, but sharing requires people to come to your computer. The Internet has made this service far more useful as a collaborative tool.

News

I’ve chosen BBC News to be discussed in this category.

Is there anyone in the UK that hasn’t used the BBC News website? It needs little introduction other than to say it’s the one of the oldest-running and popular news websites in the world. It provides local, national and world news of varied topics (sport, entertainment, weather etc) and provides this via category-based web pages.

The BBC website is one of my first “go to” sites for news information. It can lack detailed analysis more easily found in broadsheet newspapers but is probably more impartial than other news sources (although you’ll find a few politicians that would argue about BBC bias towards one party or the other).

Commenting on news stories isn’t possible (like you can with the Guardian website and others) but comments are possible on the various BBC blogs.

It is obviously possible to provide a news service without the Internet (newspapers have been around for centuries) but the web allows news sites to update minute by minute and the scale and distribution is much larger than has ever been possible with other media.

Personalised information

There’s only one choice for this category: Page Flakes.

This is a website that takes some information about you (location, interests etc) and creates a personalised page of news, weather and gossip based on these settings. It generates the webpage by inserting little boxes of information by category and resembles the iGoogle homepage quite a bit.

I’ve signed up and I’m immediately disappointed. It seems very US-centric, failed to find any local news for my area and doesn’t seem to have much use as a social tool. I probably won’t be bothering to use it again.

Similar information could be provided by a local paper.