The Internet has been full of discussion forums from the very beginning, and in some ways, for better or for worse. Some of us remember the old bulletin boards you could dial into with a modem and chat; nowadays, we are probably all familiar with the discussion sections of online newspapers and media, as well as Facebook and Twitter timelines.
State of the Arts Tech Talk
My columns for the Montana Arts Council's Bi-monthly newsletter
The news is rife with Bitcoin stories these days, and it will only get better, or worse, depending on your interest in decentralized digital currencies. If that’ phrase is too much to think about, I understand. But if you’re interested, a good place to start is the Wikipedia page for Bitcoin.
I’ve covered Internet and personal security issues here in the past because it’s a fact of life that you simply can’t know too much about how to be secure online. We all should know how to be careful with logins and passwords, be able to identify sketchy websites, and not open email attachments from people we don’t know. But there’s an extra step you may want to take when using wireless internet away from home.
But your web usage is still tracked by webservers and other parts of the internet’s structure and by your internet or phone service provider, because every time you get on the internet, your device has a unique, numerical address called an IP (Internet Protocol) number. You have an IP address everywhere you connect: at home, office, on your smart phone and on the free wi-fi at the coffee house.
In past Tech Talk columns I have covered the ways your web browsing habits are tracked, such as when search engines record your visits and track what you search for, how the companies (and individuals) behind the websites you visit track your usage, and how advertising networks follow your browsing habits around the web. And I’ve covered how to protect yourself by being careful on how data is collected on your web usage, how to control browser cookies that track you, and how to use the private browsing features of web browsers.
There’s an old saying that goes “never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” I used to think that was true during every election season and hunting season. But now, since word “post-truth” was the 2016 word of the year at Oxford Dictionaries, we now have to be careful about everything we read and believe on the web the year around.
We don’t have to look very far to find news of the latest website hack that reveals private financial and bank account data. But you may not know that data from your own web searches can be legally collected, sold and can follow you around.
A few years back, I wrote a series of Tech Talks about a free website service called WordPress and how to get started with it to build a website. WordPress still has the dominant market share when it comes to free (or nearly free) website services, but there are other website builder offerings around these days.
Last year – or even years before, depending on the web traffic stats you read – total web traffic from mobile devices, such as smart phones, tablets, and others tipped over the 50% mark. That means more people are using their mobile devices rather than full size Macs/PCs for web access. And that trend will continue; there is no going back.
If auto-play videos on websites are annoying (which I covered last issue), in general, advertisements on websites can get that way, too. When ads are flashy and animated, they are distracting. Sometimes a site is so loaded with ads the whole page loads slowly. And on mobile devices, ads can overwhelm the content.