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Are We Heading for One Big LAN?

The web is becoming more like one big local area network.
With the Internet acting more like a handy local area network, surfers need to be more aware of protecting their privacy.

The days of the isolated PC are over. No longer do we set up a PC to work independently with desktop applications. Even dedicated desktop apps generally want to connect to the web to download updates or validate the registration, a far cry from my first computer which didn’t have hard drives or even a modem.

Face it. If you sit down at a computer these days and the Internet access is down or there isn’t any, you feel totally lost. I sure do. Fire up a tired old desktop app to try to get some work done? How archaic!

More and more, our PCs or Macs insist on an Internet connection to fully function, meaning we are connected in ways never dreamed of just a few years ago. Yes, we had some online service providers pop up in the late 1990s with dreams of providing software that would work online through a browser, but, thanks to broadband, we are beginning to see the transition from solo desktops to what I see as more of a worldwide local area network.

We’re beginning to work together through online applications like Google Docs, where we can share calendars and documents with ease. No more emailing the docs to other team members in far off places and then trying to walk through them over the phone. Even those phone calls can be made with voice over IP software like Skype with simultaneous video and online chat.

And, of course, the social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook make sharing a snap. Got a new favorite video? Just share it and all of your friends will know about it. Moving from the UK to Australia? Your friends will all know instantly (I just had this happen). No more change of address letters, cards or even email. I just log into any given social network and find out this stuff, even on my iPhone!

And then there’s Twitter. If you aren’t familiar with it, you’d best sign up for it now and learn about it. I truly feel that Twitter is where the rest of the web is heading. With Twitter, you simply type in a 140 character or less description of what you are currently doing and all of your “followers” see it immediately. Many of the social networks have similar functions, some even use Twitter, but I can see where they will all move into this “instant” updating arena, particularly for mobile platforms.

I haven’t even scratched the surface. Folks are sharing audio and video through sites like YouTube. There are apps that run online and allow a team to work on white boards at once from all over the world. You name it and there’s an online version up or in the process of getting there.

The price we pay for all of this online networking and sharing?

Privacy.

Face it folks, you can’t get something for nothing. You’ve got to give up some information to any of these services to use them. It’s like you are working on your office local area network. If you share folders with everyone on the network, some folks you’d rather not share with will also have access. You’ve got to be selective.

For instance, understand that by signing into Google to use Google Docs, your moves are being tracked for marketing purposes. If that’s OK with you, that’s cool. If not, don’t sign up or log in, just move on.

This is something I really believe most everyday surfers fail to grasp. What you do on the Internet is not private. It is tracked and traced.

So be prepared. As we moved into a world where the web is one big local area network, expect to be more responsible for your own privacy. Don’t expect the social networking and applications sites to do it for you. Read the agreements before you sign up and understand what you are getting into.

No one can protect you better than you!

 

 

 

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