The Internet has become a vital resource for information throughout the world. This simply shows how fast our world is changing, considering the Internet was unheard of 20 years ago. Communication is one of the most prominent uses of Internet services and computers today, and we’ve come so far from our earliest records of communication. The following posts will share some of our greatest events in the history of communication, and compare it to our high-tech, high-speed transfer of information today. Here is a look at a well known establishment that enabled and revolutionized communication, how it started, and where it is today.
The Post Office
Then: The very first postal service was in China in 900 BC and was for government use. The Romans established their first post office in 14 AD.
In the US, the first post office was in Boston, starting in 1639. Of course, the Pony Express is a well known early mail delivery system, which began in 1861. In 1918, scheduled airmail began.
Now: The US Post Office launched its Internet site in 1994. The Internet continues to play a significant role in the post offices. On their website, you can report a change of address, track packages as they are being shipped, create personalized stamped envelopes, and print postage labels, or shipping supplies, and look up shipping information.
Email and business websites have eliminated the need for countless items at one time handled solely by the Post Office. Personal letters to friends, billing statements, reciepts, newsletters, and catalogs are often only transferred online. Many companies encourage their customers to do most of their business online to avoid the abundant use of paper and save the cost of postage.
A recent article stated that this drop in mail volume has strongly effected the US Postal Services. Staff was cut by 25,000 this year alone, routes are being dropped and combined, and the price of postage was raised in efforts to cover losses. Competitors like UPS and FedEx handle many shipping items once handled by the USPS. The economy has also caused a major drop in advertising by mail, which is another major factor in the reduced mail volume.
Even after the economy bounces back, mail volume is not expected to increase. In the near future, some small town post offices and branch offices may close, and delivery may reduce to 5 days a week.
In my search of news and blogs related to my niche, I run across articles discussing the billions of stimulus dollars being given to telephone and Internet companies to get broadband access to rural America. Yes, that would be nice. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 31% of rural America has broadband—that’s more than 2 out of every 3 rural homes are on dial-up or don’t have Internet services at all. Of course people who use the Internet prefer broadband over dial-up (assuming we don’t discuss costs). But why spend all that government money on getting broadband in the middle of a recession? I am one of those people who lives in the country and I have dial-up, but I oppose these gargantuan spending moves.
For one, many rural people are farmers and have other outdoor occupations. That’s what you do when you have the outdoors all around you! Sure, there’s probably a lot of people that would enjoy having broadband in their homes, but how will that improve the economy?
In every article that I read about increasing broadband availability and how it will boost the economy, there is a story about Mrs. So-and-so who needs broadband Internet to improve her online business, etc. Is that a substantial justification for spending billions of dollars to make broadband available—the presumption that entrepreneurs all over rural America need to get their online business off the ground?
This got me thinking. What is the Internet for, to the majority of America? What do people spend the most time doing when they are online? Is it work and business related? I will discuss my research over the next several posts, and I hope you find them as interesting as I did.
First, I ran a search query for the top most popular websites. The first result was blocked on my work computer for nudity and the like. Well that’s inspiring! Moving on.
Here’s a list of most popular websites according to Alexa.com. NOTE: I did not include any search engine websites, like Google (which is number one), because we can’t tell whether it was used for work or pleasure (I may research most popular search queries later).
Facebook—Hmm… social networking! Ok, sure, some people are using Facebook for work and advertising, but it’s mainly used for personal, social, and entertainment purposes.
Youtube—Watching movies? Yes, this should boost our economy.
Blogger.com—Another form of social networking, focused on posting opinions and stories.
Myspace—Anyone see a pattern?
Twitter—…billions of dollars so more people can tweet! How exciting!
Rapidshare—A website where you can upload and share large files. Could be work-related.
Microsoft Corporation—Now here’s a possible serious, work-related site—than again, you’re probably doing window’s updates, or trying to fix your Windows computer…again.
WordPress.com—Oh cool! I’m on wordpress.com right now!
Ebay—now this site could definitely be a small business/work related site! …and also a very popular shopping site.
Craigslist—see entry above.
I’m sure that the argument could be made that businesses can benefit from social networking sites, which is clearly at an all time high. I could be wrong, but I wouldn’t go as far to suppose that even half of the social networking going on every day has anything to do with entrepreneurship, job seeking, or business advancement.
We also see a clear trend in online shopping and advertising, which can help improve the economy in some ways. I would agree with the theory that making broadband more widely available would increase the amount of money spent on online purchases, or as a result of online advertising. While spending and ecomonic success are correlated, it’s not a causal relationship. I would venture to say that we’ve already learned our lesson in that area–but that is for another discussion!
More research to come! Please feel free to comment!