The advent of the Internet has been almost universally heralded. It has been compared to most of the important technological milestones in human history, from the capture of fire to the development of electricity, the steam engine, and the telephone. The Internet's dynamic, even explosive, growth is often described using biological metaphors (e.g., “a squirming, protoplasmic nexus of informational activity”) that suggest the development of a nascent hypertrophic organism of uncertain but highly promising ontogeny (Valovic, 2000, p. 24).
Indeed, the Internet, as a technology platform, is having a significant, even revolutionary, impact on communications, on the flow of and access to information, on the speed and efficiency of many types of transactions, and on connectivity between and among an ever-growing mass of electronically networked individuals, organizations, and systems. It is affecting everything from the behavior of individuals to the conduct of commerce. “The Net” has spawned whole industries and transformed others. It has created new categories of jobs and career paths, while making others obsolete. It has affected many aspects of our culture, from language, to customs, to the meaning of symbols. Its ubiquity crosses national borders and political boundaries. It has created untold thousands of virtual or cyber communities and has forever transformed many real communities. It sparked “irrationally exuberant” activity in the nation's stock market, catalyzing the creation (and then subsequently destruction) of new wealth.
Novel applications of Internet-based technologies are found or created almost daily.