By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2004-12-01 Print this article Print

-Clad Zombies"> One of the most gratifying, if surprising, aspects of life over the Web years has been the failure of Internet users to become socially isolated zombies in pajamas, Rainie said. In fact, Internet users show "incredibly higher amounts of trust, hope and self-efficacy" than nonusers, he said. That only makes sense—why would someone need to communicate and get information if they didnt think it would help? Figures map the social, gregarious nature of the 10-year-old Web community that now spans the globe. Eighty-four percent of users belong to some kind of community, Rainie said. "Its a joining tool. Americans are joining them because its easy to do online.
"Despite early warnings and concerns about people spending too much time online, … it [actually] helps people grow their social networks."
As people gain experience online, they become more serious in their Internet use, Rainie said. E-mail is the first attraction. Health information is big with women especially. As they get more serious, Internet users use the medium more for work, and to manage and spend their money. They discover health and financial information online. Likewise, as peoples connections get better, their Internet usage changes. Broadband users are essentially different: They spend more time online, they do more things, they consume multimedia publications. Most importantly, they create content. Fifty-seven percent of broadband users contribute content. "They love the two-way feature of this medium," Rainie said. What else has the Internet done? Its created a vibrant civic life, with the recent U.S. election seeing an explosion in political campaigning, joining, Internet-arranged meet-ups, fund-raising and discussion generation. It also has inverted relationships between doctors and patients, Rainie said, from doctors being perceived as demigods to being perceived as dispensers of information about clinical trials and treatments. "Its the industrial model of medical treatment," Rainie said. "Patients are not patients anymore—theyre Net-savvy end-users." Thats where its been, but where is the Internet going? Denis Lacroix, director of product development at Amadeus e-Travel, told following his presentation on the Internets impact on industry and science that his firm is looking forward to the standardization of security. Amadeus e-Travel, which delivers online managed travel services to airlines, corporations, portals, travel management companies and travel suppliers, now has to rely on the lowest common denominator to secure its transactions. For her part, Richman of the National Association of Convenience Stores is hungering for XForms, which will enable retail to define processes "we havent thought of yet," she said. Richmans industry is also anxious for business processes that can save members from drowning in the ocean of data now being produced by RFID technologies. The W3C is working on this and more, particularly in the area of the Semantic Web, a futuristic architecture where its as easy to share and link data as it is to share and link documents. Click here for a column on how the Semantic Web could change the way we do things. It is also looking at a multimodal Web that will "transform how we interact with applications," according to the W3Cs release on the Web of the future. That means a Web that will interact through eyes, ears and touch, in addition to our now-familiar mouse, keyboard and stylus. The Web of the future will be mobile, accessible from a phone as from a desktop. That will entail work on enhancing Web site usability and single authoring for all mobile phones offering Web access. And finally, the future Web will be accessible to all, regardless of disability. How could it be otherwise, Rainie said, when after 10 years, we have finally realized how essential the Internet is? "We never knew how much we needed it," Rainie said. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.

Lisa Vaas is News Editor/Operations for and also serves as editor of the Database topic center. Since 1995, she has also been a Webcast news show anchorperson and a reporter covering the IT industry. She has focused on customer relationship management technology, IT salaries and careers, effects of the H1-B visa on the technology workforce, wireless technology, security, and, most recently, databases and the technologies that touch upon them. Her articles have appeared in eWEEK's print edition, on, and in the startup IT magazine PC Connection. Prior to becoming a journalist, Vaas experienced an array of eye-opening careers, including driving a cab in Boston, photographing cranky babies in shopping malls, selling cameras, typography and computer training. She stopped a hair short of finishing an M.A. in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She earned a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College. She runs two open-mic reading series in Boston and currently keeps bees in her home in Mashpee, Mass.

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