use the Internet, then you probably use
Internet-based communications to contact family, friends or co-workers. From
sending an instant message to a friend, to e-mailing co-workers, to placing phone calls, to conducting video conferences, the Internet offers a number of ways to communicate.
The advantages of Internet-based
communications are many. Since you're already paying for an
Internet account (or your employer is), you can save money on phone
calls by sending someone an instant message or
by using VoIP instead of standard local telephone services. Of course, no technology is without
a downside and Internet-based communications has plenty, such as viruses, privacy issues and spam.
Like all technologies (and
especially technology tied to the Internet), the way we can
communicate online is constantly evolving . In this
week's "Did You Know...?" article we'll take a look at some of the
most popular forms of Internet-based communications.
One of the fastest-growing forms of Internet communications is
messaging, or IM. Think of IM as a text-based computer conference
between two or more people. An IM communications service enables you to create a kind of private
chat room with another individual in order to communicate in real-time over
the Internet. Typically, the IM system
alerts you whenever somebody on your
or contact list is online. You can then
initiate a chat session with that particular individual.
One reason that IM has become so popular is
its real-time nature. Unlike e-mail, where you
will wait for the recipient to check his or her e-mail and send a reply, if a
person you want to reach is online and available in your IM contact list, your message
appears instantly in a window on their screen.
While IM is used by millions of
Internet users to contact family and friends, it's also growing in
popularity in the business world. Employees of a company can have instant
access to managers and co-workers in different offices and can eliminate the
need to place phone calls when information is required immediately.
Overall, IM can save time for employees and help decrease the
amount of money a business spends on communications.
Key Terms To
Understanding Internet-based Communications.
Short for Session Initiated Protocol, or Session Initiation
Protocol, an application-layer control protocol; a signaling
protocol for Internet Telephony. SIP can establish sessions for
features such as audio/videoconferencing, interactive gaming, and
call forwarding to be deployed over IP networks.
Short for the Wireless Application Protocol, a secure specification
that allows users to access information instantly via handheld
wireless devices such as mobile phones, pagers, two-way radios,
smartphones and communicators.
More Internet-based Communications
While different IM clients offer slightly
different features and benefits, the look and feel of an IM client is
basically the same.
Public IM clients and
services available include
ICQ, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), Microsoft MSN Messenger, and Yahoo!
Messenger. For businesses and enterprises looking for a more secure method
of IM, there are enterprise IM packages available such as
Microsoft Live Communication Server 2005 and IBM Lotus Instant Messaging.
Third-party software is available to help businesses make using public IM services in the workplace more secure.
Some problems and issues associated with
IM include spim and virus propagation. Spim is the IM equivalent of
spam and is perpetuated by bots that
harvest IM screen names off of the Internet and simulate a human user by
sending spim to the screen names via an instant message. The spim typically
contains a link to a Web site that the spimmer is trying to market. Spim is
a bit more intrusive than spam due to the nature of IM itself. These
advertisements and junk messages will pop-up in your IM window and you
need to deal with the messages immediately, where with e-mail you can
usually filter a lot of it out and deal with it later.
Additionally, viruses and Trojans can be spread through IM channels. These
malicious programs are usually spread when an IM user receives a message that
links to a Web site where the malicious code is downloaded. The
message will appear to be from a known IM contact, which is why recipients re more likely to click the hyperlink and download the file. Using safe chat rules (such as never clicking the link) and keeping an
updated anti-virus program on your system will help reduce the chances of
becoming infected by malicious programs being spread through instant
Internet Telephony & VoIP
consists of a combination of hardware and software that enables you to
use the Internet
as the transmission medium for telephone calls. For users who have free, or
fixed-price Internet access, Internet telephony software essentially
provides free telephone calls anywhere in the world.
In its simplest form,
telephony can be as easy as hooking up a microphone
to your computer
and sending your voice through a
to a person who has Internet
telephony software that is compatible with yours. This basic form of
Internet telephony is not without its problems, however. Connecting this
way is slower than using a traditional telephone, and the
quality of the voice transmissions is also not near the quality you would
get when placing a regular phone call.
Many Internet telephony
applications are available. Some, such as CoolTalk and NetMeeting,
come bundled with popular
stand-alone products. Internet telephony products are sometimes called
IP telephony, Voice over the Internet (VOI) or Voice over
IP (VoIP) products.
VoIP is another
Internet-based communications method which is growing in popularity.
VoIP hardware and software work together
to use the Internet to transmit telephone calls by sending voice data in
packets using IP
rather than by traditional circuit transmissions, called
Switched Telephone Network). The voice traffic is
converted into data
routed over the Internet, or any
network, just as normal
data packets would be transmitted. When the data packets reach their
destination, they are converted back to voice data again for the recipient.
Your telephone is
connected to a VoIP phone adapter (considered the hardware aspect). This
adapter is connected to your broadband Internet connection. The call is
routed through the Internet to a regular phone jack, which is connected to
the receiver's phone. Special hardware (the phone adapter) is required only
for the sender.
Much like finding an
Internet service provider (ISP)
for your Internet connection, you will need to use a VoIP provider. Some
service providers may offer plans that include free calls to other
subscribers on their network and charge flat rates for other VoIP calls
based on a fixed number of calling minutes. You most likely will pay
additional fees when you call long distance using VoIP. While this sounds a
lot like regular telephone service, it is less expensive than traditional voice communications, starting with the fact that you
will no longer need to pay for extras on your monthly phone bill.
Short for electronic mail,
e-mail is the transmission of messages over
communications networks. The messages can be notes entered from the keyboard
or electronic files stored on disk. Most mainframes, minicomputers and
computer networks have an e-mail system. Some e-mail systems are
confined to a single computer system or network, but others have gateways to
other computer systems, enabling you to send electronic mail anywhere in
Using an e-mail client (software such as
Microsoft Outlook or Eudora), you can compose an e-mail message and send it
to another person anywhere, as long as you know the recipient e-mail address. All
online services and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer e-mail, and
support gateways so that you can exchange e-mail with users of other
systems. Usually, it takes only a few seconds for an e-mail to arrive at its
destination. This is a particularly effective way to communicate with a
group because you can broadcast a message or document to everyone in the
group at once.
One of the biggest
black clouds hanging over e-mail is
spam. Though definitions vary, spam can be considered any
electronic junk mail (generally e-mail advertising for some product) that is
sent out to thousands, if not millions, of people.
Often spam perpetrates the spread of e-mail Trojans and viruses. For this
reason, it's important to use an updated anti-virus program, which
will scan your incoming and outgoing e-mail for viruses.
For more information on e-mail, see "Deciphering
Internet E-mail", a Webopedia Quick Reference.
Short for Internet Relay Chat,
IRC is a multi-user chat system that
allows to people gather on "channels" or "rooms" to talk in groups or
privately. IRC is based on a client/server model. That is, to join an IRC discussion,
you need an IRC client (such a mIRC) and Internet access. The IRC client is
a program that runs on your computer and sends and receives messages to and
from an IRC server. The IRC server, in turn, is responsible for making sure
that all messages are broadcast to everyone participating in a discussion.
There can be many discussions going on at once and each one is assigned a
unique channel. Once you have joined an IRC chat room (chatroom discussions
are designated by topics), you can type your messages in the public chatroom
where all participants will see it, or you can send a private message to a
single participant. With many IRC clients you can easily create your own
chatroom and invite others to join your channel. You can also password
protect your chatroom to allow for a more private discussion with just
people whom you invite.
Once you become familiar with your IRC client
you'll find many options available to help you moderate and take part in a
channel. One problem commonly associated with IRC is lag. IRC relies on the
connections between the servers, and the connections or the servers can slow
down. If you're in a discussion and people do not respond, or you notice
that people are responding to things you types several minutes ago, then you
can attribute this to lag. If you continue to experience lag, you can try
connecting to the IRC network on a different server.
between two or more participants at different sites by using
transmit audio and
Each participant has a video camera,
microphone and speakers connected on his or her computer. As the two
participants speak to one another, their voices are carried over the network
and delivered to the other's speakers, and whatever images appear in front
of the video camera appear in a
window on the
In order for
videoconferencing to work, the
conference participants must use the same client or compatible software.
Many freeware and shareware videoconferencing tools are
available online for download, and most Web cameras also come bundled with
videoconferencing software. Many newer videoconferencing packages can also
be integrated with public IM clients
for multipoint conferencing and collaboration.
In recent years,
become a popular form of distance communication in classrooms, allowing for
a cost efficient way to provide distance learning, guest speakers, and
multi-school collaboration projects. Many feel that videoconferencing
provides a visual connection and
interaction that cannot be achieved with standard IM or
SMS & Wireless Communications
Short message service (SMS) is a global wireless service that enables
the transmission of alphanumeric messages between mobile subscribers and
external systems such as e-mail, paging and voice-mail systems.
Messages can be no longer than 160 alpha-numeric characters and must contain no
images or graphics. Once a message is sent, it is received by a Short
Message Service Center (SMSC), which must then get it to the appropriate
mobile device or system. As wireless services evolved, Multimedia Messaging
Service (MMS) was introduced and provided a way to send messages comprising
a combination of text, sounds, images and video to MMS capable handsets.
Communication on wireless devices such as
mobile phones and PDAs is frequently changing. Today you can use your
wireless device to not only make phone calls, but to send and receive e-mail
and IM. While you can use e-mail, IRC or IM for
free if you have an Internet account, you will end up paying fees to
you mobile carrier to use these services on a wireless device.
Did You Know...
Ray Tomlinson gave society one of the greatest communication
tools in history. He invented email back in 1971 -- essentially
fostering global business communication and turning the Internet
into a digital kitchen table for far-flung family members.