The Internet and Its Future
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I'm Doug Johnson. And I'm Faith Lapidus with Explorations in VOA Special English. Today we tell about the Internet computer information system and its progress and problems.
Last month, thousands of government representatives and information experts met in Tunis, Tunisia to discuss the future of the Internet. The United Nations organized the World Summit on the Information Society to discuss Internet growth in developing nations. But the three-day meetings also developed into a struggle over who controls the Internet.
The Internet grew out of research paid for by the United States Defense Department in the nineteen sixties and seventies. As a result, the United States government still has some control over it. In nineteen ninety-eight, the Commerce Department set up a non-profit organization to supervise the domain name system of the Internet's World Wide Web. The Web is a major service on the Internet. The group, based in California, is called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN.
A domain name is a series of words separated by dots. It identifies an Internet Web site. ICANN also operates a list of Web site owners and approves new endings for Web addresses, such as dot-com, dot-net or dot-gov. The group guarantees that Internet users around the world do not visit different Websites using the same Web address.
For example, thanks to ICANN, a person in Cuba will see the same voaspecialenglish.com Website as someone in Belarus. ICANN also has some Internet policy powers. It can remove Web sites from the Internet. It also decides who can sell and list domain names.
The European Union, China, Brazil, India and other countries want the United States to release at least some control over the World Wide Web. They believe that the Internet is an international resource that should be supervised by the United Nations or some other independent organization. The Bush Administration disagrees. It says that ICANN is the best way to guarantee an open, secure and dependable online environment. Heavy governmental controls, it says, would suppress Internet growth and development.
Hours before the start of the Tunis conference, negotiators agreed to leave day-to-day supervision of the Internet with ICANN. The compromise proposal from the European Union calls for the creation next year of an international governance committee.
Governments, businesses and organizations will be able to discuss public policy issues, including Internet crime, junk mail and viruses. The committee, however, will not have powers to make rules.
The World Future Society estimated last year that about nine hundred fifty million people around the world were using the Internet. That number is expected to rise to more than one thousand million people within the next two years.
Most Internet communication is business-to-business, instead of personal electronic mail. Buying and selling goods and services over the Internet is growing around the world. The World Future Society estimates that two-point-seven million million dollars was earned through Internet commerce last year. But, there are risks involved with this e-commerce.
For example, the Federal Trade Commission estimates that more than fifty-two thousand million dollars in goods and services were purchased last year through identity theft. Identity thieves steal personal information from Americans. They collect Social Security numbers, banking records and telephone numbers. They use this information to request loans, or to get credit cards in the name of the victim.
Identity thieves often use computer viruses to collect a victim's personal information. They may also use spyware. These are programs that are loaded onto a computer without the owner's knowledge. Spyware follows the computer user's online activities. Identity thieves also use another method called Internet "phishing." These e-mail messages attempt to collect an Internet user's personal information, such as credit card numbers, by acting like a real business.
People can protect themselves from identity theft in several ways. Anti-virus and anti-spyware computer programs can help. So can firewalls. These are programs or devices that limit information coming through an Internet connection. Banks and individuals can also use Fob technology. A fob is a small device connected to a computer.
Every sixty seconds it creates a special series of numbers, or a code. A computer user must type the code created at the exact minute that the user she wants to see his or her online financial information or bank records.
Advertisers interested in selling products over the Internet may use adware to identify possible buyers. Adware is a software program sent with free files or programs to a computer. Once loaded onto a computer, adware can collect information about a person's interests. Adware can use this information to provide targeted sales messages to the computer user.
These unwanted sales messages are sent through a person's e-mail. They can also be a problem for people using an Internet browser to find information. In this case, pop-up blockers can help. A pop-up blocker is a computer program that prevents unwanted sales messages from opening.
One of the most popular kinds of communication on the Internet is through personal Web sites called blogs. Blog is a shortened name for a Web log. Anyone can create his or her own blog. A blog may contain stories, pictures, links to other Web sites and comments from visitors. Some people add information to their blogs every day.
Blogs offer a way to present news and political or personal information. Blogs have become a place for public expression on many subjects. The Blog Herald estimates that there are more than sixty million blogs around the world. People who have blogs are called bloggers. In the United States, many well known people have blogs. So do many other Americans, including teenagers and college students.
Even United States soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are blogging. Troops are using their milblogs to share opinions, emotions and memories of lost soldiers. The United States military restricts troops from writing personal information about other soldiers. It also restricts operational security information from being published in a blog.
You can find blogs about a subject by using a special search engine created by Google. The Web address is blogsearch.google.com. That is b-l-o-g-s-e-a-r-c-h-dot-g-o-o-g-l-e-dot-com. Google is one of the most popular "search engines" for the Internet. People use a search engine to find information about almost any subject on the Web.
There are many ways to link computers with other forms of communication. For example, mobile telephones can send voice messages, color photographs and written information called text messages. They can even receive electronic mail. Small hand-held computer devices can store and read electronic books.
Starting next year, the world's largest software company -- Microsoft -- will offer one hundred thousand books from the British Library's collection. People will be able to search and read the literature on the Internet for free. Amazon.com -- the largest online bookstore -- plans to sell individual pages or parts of books over the Internet.
Google has started its own project. The company has put thousands of library books and documents on the Internet. Last month, Google gave three million dollars to help the United States Library of Congress create a World Digital Library on the Web. This will be a collection of rare books, documents, maps and other materials from America's library and other national libraries. The head of the Library of Congress says people will be able to learn about other cultures without traveling farther than the nearest computer.
This program was written by Jill Moss. It was produced by Mario Ritter. I'm Doug Johnson. And I'm Faith Lapidus. Join us again next week for Explorations in VOA Special English.