In digital communications media, the vast majority of participants are active creators of information as well as recipients. This type of symmetry has previously only been found in media like the telephone. But while the telephone is almost entirely a medium for private one-to-one communication, computer network applications such as electronic mailing lists, conferences, and bulletin boards, serve as a medium of group or ‘many-to-many’ communication.
The new forums atop computer networks are the great levelers and reducers of organizational hierarchy. Each user has, at least in theory, access to every other user, and an equal chance to be heard.
– Mitchell Kapor, Electronic Frontier Foundation Information, 1993.
The Internet provides universal access, giving the same powerful capabilities to everyone who has access to the network no matter where they are.
The Internet is based on a common standard, the TCP/IP network protocol, which provides all computers with access to the network with the same technical interface and capabilities. This common foundation makes all of the internet technologies equally available to anyone connected to the Internet.
This architecture gives everyone the ability to make information like text, audio, and video accessible to a world wide audience at an extremely low cost, since website storage space and lots of bandwidth can be rented from web hosting providers for low fees. Because the Internet has a “many-to-many” architecture, with everyone having the same capabilities as anyone else, it allows anyone to become a global publisher.
The earlier Citizen’s Band radio and Amateur Radio technologies provided a similar ability to share a common space across geographical distances. The Internet is the current such frontier. You should feel free to approach the Internet with a spirit of exploration, and don’t need to have a task or a question to answer — you can surf from link to link or try random searches just to see what turns up, like exploring a new city. If you feel moved to set up a website about your favorite hobby, go ahead. The Internet is universally empowering – everyone can participate.
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