Magazine article American Libraries

Internet Librarian: This, Too, Is the Internet

Magazine article American Libraries

Internet Librarian: This, Too, Is the Internet

Article excerpt

While I was watching the news coverage of Hurricane Katrina coming onshore last August, I heard, among a great many shocking things, something that made me do a double take: One of the news anchors on CNN, during the height of the storm, said that they were about to show footage they had received via FTP.

FTP? Really? That FTP? (According to the blogosphere, at some point people on CNN made it sound either like FTP was brand-new or that CNN invented it; amusing though that is, I'd chalk it up to crisis journalism.) I know FTP is still around, and I even use it now and again. But to hear it mentioned on international cable news? Freaky.

For those of you too young to remember, FTP stands for file transfer protocol, and it's, well, exactly what it sounds like--a fairly simple protocol for transferring files. (Saying that makes me feel even more aged than having to describe Gopher to my fresh-faced class of new grad students last quarter.) Anyway, this got me to thinking about "the internet" and all its myriad and varied components.

It's very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that "the internet" is the same thing as "the Web," largely because so much has happened there and so much attention has been paid to it over the last several years. I certainly do, even though I know there is a great deal more to it, visible and invisible. Consider the following semirandom and highly idiosyncratic menu of denizens of the internet world:

* A wide variety of communication tools, including instant messaging, chat, webcams, Skype and other telephony systems, plus, of course, our beloved electronic mail, and old standbys like Usenet and IRC.

* Ways for people to share their ideas, thoughts, and lives: blogs, podcasts, scrapbooks, photo sharing, MySpace.com, the new Yahoo 360.

* A large and still growing amount of electronic commerce, including much that is not obvious to the average person, taking place between companies and businesses.

* Ways to interact with governments to get information and conduct transactions, sparing at least some of us from those joyous trips to the DMV.

* Pornography, gambling operations, sites to purchase pharmaceuticals of all kinds, sites run by conspiracy theorists who deny that the Holocaust happened or question the truth behind 9/11.

* Arabic websites often referred to in the news; I took the plunge last year and found a streaming video of what very much appeared to be a beheading of a kidnapped American--I don't recommend that for family viewing. …

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