The Internet is no longer just a place of content. It is the latest technological breakthrough in communication following the telegraph and the telephone. Internet users are able to communicate with each other from all around the world instantaneously. With the necessary tools, users can share photos, send virtual birthday and Christmas cards and develop better relationships with family and friends.
A shortened form of "electronic mail," an email works much like traditional mail in that messages are still sent by one person, received and sometimes saved by another, but the process is instantaneous. Users are given a unique email address from which messages are passed back and forth. Additionally, one message can be sent to several recipients simultaneously.
An instant message, or IM, is the process of sending real-time messages from one user to another. One user types a message that is conveyed over a network and received by the other user. Instant messaging can be between two or more people using a specific program such as Yahoo Messenger or Windows Live Messenger.
A chat room is an "area" on the Internet where groups of people come together to communicate. A user types a message that is seen by all other users currently online in the same "room." Users can see a list of all other users online. If a user right-clicks another user name, they are able to view his profile and send a private message.
Social networking allows members to reconnect with old friends, make new friends and come together with members of similar interests. A user creates a profile and is granted access to the site where he can view other user profiles and connect with them. Popular social networking sites include Myspace, Facebook and Twitter.
A forum is a part of a website that allows for group discussion. Members have the ability to start a discussion and read and reply to other ones. Each individual discussion is called a thread. A forum is usually monitored by a moderator who has the ability to edit forum posts.
Dating sites are websites typically dedicated to matching singles with other singles. Often for a fee, a member creates a profile that can be viewed by other members, who have the ability to contact other members the person through the website in hopes of making a romantic connection.
A blog is an online journal, or diary, of an individual. Typically written by one person, a blog can be used to tell about an individual's life, to promote products, provide information, make political statements and give tutorials. Readers of the blog -- which can often be subscribed to -- can read the content and typically leave comments.
Audio conferencing is a connection between two computers that requires participants to have a microphone and speakers. Using an instant messaging program, such as America Online Messenger (AOL), or an audio conferencing software, such as Skype, users speak into the microphone and the dialogue is heard through the speakers of the other users.
Video conferencing works much like audio conferencing. The differences are that the users are able to see each other -- and for this a webcam is needed by all parties -- and that depending upon the service used, multiple people can see and be seen at the same time.
Voice over Internet protocol, or VoIP, is phone service through an Internet connection. Users are given an adapter and a unique phone number. The user can then send and receive phone calls using a computer, a VoIP phone or a traditional phone, to and from other people, whether or not they use VoIP themselves.