Welcome to the Internet!

  • The current state of the web
  • A quick cheat-sheet for new users
  • Multimedia and Social Networking - the real internet for most

It’s easy to think that by now, everyone is a veteran with the internet. But there are many people for whom an internet connection is a brand new thing- they may have previously only used a connection at work, or been in an area where no connections are available. For those people – welcome! For people who want a quick ‘cheat sheet’ to what’s what on the world wide web, this can also be handy.

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Video and Multimedia

This is where the internet is at right now: almost 90% of all traffic on the information superhighway is of the high definition, moving kind. Whether you’re downloading movies and TV shows from iTunes, or streaming (that is, watching in real time) from YouTube or the ABC’s website, you’re chewing up a lot of gigabytes as you do it. There’s also video calling via Skype, online games and animation, and Internet radio- this is where a radio station simultaneously broadcasts (“Simulcast”) their shows over the normal radio airwaves in their city, and digitally on their website. In the years to come, everything that used to rely on an analogue broadcast will switch to digital, and distributed via your internet connection.

It’s important to know the difference between downloading and streaming. Downloading is specifically requesting a file from a website or program, to be saved into a folder of your choice on your computer. Streaming is when you’re watching or listening in ‘real time’, so you’re not saving the content to be used later. Both use a lot of data, which is why companies like TPG, Club Telco and Eftel offer big, unlimited data plans these days.

For unlimited Club Telco plans, call on 1300 138 155.


Also, no-one really says “information superhighway” any more :)

Social Networking

The online definition of social networking is pretty similar to the real-world definition- using a network of friends, and friends of friends, to stay in touch with what’s going on. Sites like Facebook and Google Plus allow you to stay in touch with far-flung friends and families, without needing to make expensive phone calls. Facebook is used by, wait for it, 1 in every 7 people on the planet. Twitter, a texting service which allows users to just post a quick update on their current status, is popular as well, and services like Instagram and Tumblr use pictures and video more than text. Some social networking sites are set up for specific communities, like artists and musicians, while others are more open and general. Facebook is almost a necessity these days. But note- the current big concern over these networks is the invasion of your privacy that they entail. Tread carefully, and make sure to treat online social networking like real world social networking – because it is real world social networking.

Compare Broadband tip: Optus offers free access to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter on its mobile broadband plans. For more details, call Optus on 1300 768 194.

Online Shopping

 

Music, television, movies and books are quickly becoming digitized, doing away with the need for CDs, DVDs, books and magazines. While many of us are going to miss the tangible beauty of album artwork and the crisp pages of a new book, it will overall be a good thing- fewer natural resources being used and less clutter in our landfills. It also makes a lot of our entertainment much cheaper. But some things simply can’t be digitized- electronics (ironically enough), perfumes, clothes, food – anything that still requires physical shipping, can now be bought online. Online megastores like Amazon (general entertainment goods) and Etsy (artwork and designed consumables) are well set-up to offer free shipping and massive discounts from retail stores. But most bricks and mortar retail companies have jumped on the online bandwagon, even your local supermarket. Coles and Woolworths both offer online shopping now, with low or free shipping and websites packed with bright, high definition pictures to assist you in choosing.

Some people may bemoan this shift. Retail employs millions, and for a lot of people, window shopping is a real delight. But shops aren't going to disappear entirely, and the benefits are huge. Busy mums, the elderly, people without a car and many, many more benefit enormously from online shopping. As the delivery infrastructure (shipping companies, Australia Post, etc) become more and more efficient, small business owners will benefit as well, using cheap shipping to reach many more customers, and using social networks to promote their wares.

Online Shopping also promises a future where shopping is a 30 minute task done in our homes, with no worries about parking or hauling heavy bags. That leaves a lot of extra time to spend with family and friends doing things other than pulling out our wallets.

Club Telco, Telstra, Eftel and Internode are all inching towards being involved in the online shopping revolution.

E-mail

The original “killer app” of the internet, the service that took computer networking out of the lab and into the home and office. E-mail may as well be called mail these days. The major thing to consider with e-mail is portability. When you sign up with a service provider, you are provided with an email address in the following format – [email protected] That’s all well and good, but what happens when you want to try a different service provider? Unfortunately, e-mail porting isn’t available the way mobile number porting is. If you leave BigPond, you lose your Bigpond email address.

One way to get around this is to use a web-based email service. The original king is Hotmail, now owned by Microsoft. Hotmail is a free email service that is accessed via the Hotmail website. Yahoo also has an email service, but Google’s Gmail service is by far the most popular in the world. Most of these services can also be accessed through an email client like Microsoft Outlook.

The big advantage of these services is that they can go with you when you move to another service provider, and that they usually offer better protection from spam emails. The downside is that you’ll get targeted ads running down the side of the page. But this is a small price to pay for the extra freedom.

Browsing

Using a browser to look at websites is, for all intents and purposes, what the internet is, for most people. At one point, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was the gold standard, but that popularity has a price – the makers of viruses targeted Internet Explorer, simply because everyone used it. This led to the emergence of alternatives like Firefox and Google Chrome, and now a host of others. Each browser has its fans, with Firefox the fastest growing. Some do things differently, like the Opera Browser, which downloads a whole page before displaying anything (so you don’t scroll down and find half a page missing). Chrome is famously lightweight, meaning that it has very few features, making it run quickly and with less confusion. But it’s worth trying a few different ones to find one right for you.

On the provider side, things get a little more complicated. Big providers like Telstra, Optus, TPG and Internode engage in what’s called mirroring, meaning that they host a ‘mirror’ of millions of popular sites here in Australia, to make pages load quicker. This is one of the benefits of going with a larger service provider, who may be more expensive, but partakes in several little improvements along the way to make your internet experience more enjoyable.

That’s it for now – browsing, email, multimedia, social networking and online shopping are the main drivers of the internet today. There’s a lot more stuff to do out there, and we hope we’re able to put you in touch with the best service provider to get you on your way to finding it. Call us on 1300 106 571 today for comparisons on over 1000 plans across 15 providers.

Quick guides to finding a broadband plan
: How much data will I need?
How do I find out which internet providers are in my area?