As technology becomes more and more a part of our lives, there are seemingly ever-increasing methods of communicating instantaneously with friends, family, business partners and strangers around the world. Electronic communications are varied in intent, execution and scope, from the ever-popular e-mails to the new real-time project boards that allow for millisecond sharing of data and multimedia.
E-mail was the first method of communication utilising the Internet, and remains the most popular. Users now can choose from a multitude of free e-mail providers, including Yahoo!, Google Mail and Hotmail, and sometimes their Internet provider will offer an address using their domain name. E-mail offers (usually) instantaneous delivery of messages to their recipient, a single or list of other e-mail users. Attachments can be made to e-mails to share photos, document files or audio files, though there is usually a limit to the size of these attachments. E-mail addresses have become disposable, with many people creating a new account to serve a certain purpose, then disabling it after their aim has been accomplished. These addresses also have a high instance of "spam" (junk e-mail) and potential for hacking and viruses transmitted through e-mails. Use caution.
Listserv and Discussion Boards
Discussion boards also popped up early in Internet development as a means for people to discuss topics and interact, though not in real time. Sites offering Listserv, discussion boards or forums usually divide up their forum into multiple different sub-boards, which are then further divided into topic to keep things organised. As a member of a given board, you can post new topics and replies (subject to the site's regulations), which will remain on the board for others to respond to at their leisure. Boards can have different privacy settings, allowing or prohibiting non-members from viewing their content.
Many companies are starting to utilise real-time (meaning no noticeable delay) methods for coordinating long-distance projects and employees. This is also starting to gain popularity with lay-users, for personal communications and sharing. Google offers a suite, including Wave and Documents, that allow you to share and update files, discuss improvements and create tests, all from one interface. Skype is gaining popularity as a personal and professional Internet-based audio and video chat program, and continually adds features to allow for more depth in distance communication.
Starting with college students, the idea of social networking has exploded in the last decade, now being used for business as well as personal purposes. Facebook, MySpace and Twitter offer a multitude of features, combining all of the above into a single personal profile one can set up to showcase themselves, their business or their ideas. The primary idea is for networking with friends and family, but many of these sites can now be used for numerous purposes.
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