Online – definition and meaning

Online, in telecommunications and technology, indicates a state of connectivity. It is the opposite of offline, which indicates a disconnected state. We commonly use the two terms for Internet connections.

If something is online, it could mean that it is under the direct control of something else. In other words, another device. It may also mean that something is under the direct control of a system.

For example, a computer that is online has a connection to a network. This network could be the Internet. Put simply; it means that the computer is ready for us to use, or for other computers or devices to use.

When I use the term for a web page, file, or database, I mean that it is available for reading or downloading.

If I say that a service is online, I mean that it is available for immediate use on demand.

However, if a device or service is offline, it means the opposite. In other words, it is unavailable, off-power, turned off, or disconnected.

According to Wikipedia:

“In computer technology and telecommunications, online indicates a state of connectivity. Offline indicates a disconnected state, specifically an internet connection.”

Online - image with meaning and examples
To be online could mean to be on the Internet, part of a network and ready to use, or available for download.

‘Online’ meaning becoming specific

If a network printer, for example, is online, other devices with a connection to that network can print from it. The others devices may be laptops, desktops, tablets, smartphones, cameras, or scanners.

However, over the past few years, the term has become more specific. Most of us today understand the term as just meaning ‘connected to the Internet.’

The connection to the Internet may be via a wireless connection, cable line via a cable modem, or using a dial-up.

The term ‘online’ is not new

During the nineteenth century, people commonly used the term ‘online’ in the telegraph and railroad industries.

Originally, people wrote it as two words, either with or without a hyphen. In other words, they wrote ‘on line‘ or ‘on-line.’

The railroad signal box would send messages ‘on line’, which meant via a telegraph line. ‘Train on line‘ meant that the train was traveling on the railway line. It was the opposite of ‘line clear.’

When telegraph linemen said ‘direct on line,’ they were referring to sending current through a line.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, it was not until the 1950s that ‘online’ referred to computers and peripheral devices. Etymology is the study of the origin of words and how their meanings changed over time.

Online services

There are many services today that we can access via the Internet. For example, online banking refers to conducting banking operations through the Internet. We can do this with a computer, tablet, or smartphone.

We can pay bills, transfer money, check our account balance, and set up regular payments.

All banks today offer the service so that their customers can conduct their financial affairs through the Internet.

The Internet is a global network of networks that interlinks billions of devices. It connects, for example, computers, smartphones, tablets, medical devices, robots, and hundreds of other devices. We also call it the Net.

Formal business meetings are taking place online with growing regularity. We refer to them as ‘e-meetings.’

There are hundreds of other services which we can do on the Internet. For example, if you have an account with your local supermarket, you can do your shopping via the Internet.

After placing your order, the supermarket delivers your groceries to your house.

Courses on the Internet

Regarding courses on the Internet, Thomas Friedman once said:

“I can see a day soon where you’ll create your own college degree by taking the best online courses from the best professors from around the world.”

“Some computing from Stanford, some entrepreneurship from Wharton, some ethics from Brandeis, some literature from Edinburgh – paying only the nominal fee for the certificates of completion.”

Thomas Friedman is an American author and journalist. He is a 3-time Pulitzer Prize winner. He currently writes a column for the New York Times.

What is an Internet Community?

An Internet community or online community is a virtual community. In this virtual community, members interact with each other through the Internet.

For many members, Internet communities feel like home. They feel like home because they consist of a family of invisible friends.’

If you want to become part of an Internet community, you typically must become a member through a specific website. You also need an Internet connection.

In an online community, members can post, comment on posts, enter discussions, and collaborate. Members can also give advice.

In fact, most people now communicate through social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram. We also communicate through discussion boards, forums, and chat rooms.

Online games

Up to about twenty-five years ago, children went out and played with their friends. I remember as a boy coming home from school, grabbing something to eat, and going straight out again to meet my friends. Sometimes my mother would catch me in time and insist I did my homework first.

Today, however, most children come home from school, grab something to eat, and stay at home. They play video games with their friends, but each child is at home.

To play an online game, you need to have an Internet connection. However, you do not need to have the other players physically nearby. In fact, some of them might be thousands of miles away from each other.

For example, one game participant may be in his bedroom in Chicago, another in London, another in Seoul, etc.

Online addiction

There is concern that some Internet games are addictive. In fact, there are now self-help groups where parents learn how to deal with their children’s addiction.

The Mirror, a British tabloid, reported on a woman who became partially blind. She had been on an online game binge.

The 21-year old woman had spent an entire 24 hours playing Honor of Kings. In other words, she had played, non-stop, for twenty-four consecutive hours!

Suddenly, during her binge, she lost the vision from her right eye.

Doctors in her native China diagnosed her with Retinal Artery Occlusion. Retinal artery occlusion refers to oxygen deprivation of the retina caused by poor blood flow. This is a condition more common among elderly patients.