Online services are an important aspect of our modern lives. If you have ever used the internet to instant message someone, looked up the news or weather, bought a product or watched a tv show online then you have been using online services.
We now access all of these things all the time, and not just when sat at our PC or laptop, but wherever we are, on our phones, tablets or even smartwatches.
These online services fall into 9 categories, in this lesson we will learn about the first four of categories. These are:
- Communication Services
- Real-Time Information Services
- Commerce Services
- Government Services
1. Communication Services
When we talk about communication services we are talking about any online method of sharing and transferring data between different people.
Common types of communication services include:
- Email – Short for electronic mail, this lets us send written messages instantly to the other side of the world using a network like the internet. This is much quicker than using traditional mail.
- Instant messaging – This allows us to have private written conversations with an individual or group of people. This is a great way of organising meeting up with a group of friends and is cheaper than a phone call.
- Newsgroups – These are similar to modern day internet forums and are used to discuss topics and share ideas. They are much more public than instant messaging as anyone accessing the newsgroup can read the messages that have been posted.
- Social networking – Websites like “Twitter” or “Facebook” that allow us to share our thoughts, opinions & pictures quickly with all of our friends and family. This helps us to keep in touch with our wider friendship groups who we might otherwise fall out of touch with.
- Web conferencing – Software like “Skype” that allows us to talk with people, much like with a phone, but with video as well, so you can see them as you’re talking. This is a fantastic way of keeping in touch with friends and family that live abroad and much cheaper than an international phone call too.
- Blogs – Short for Web Logs, these are web pages that are regularly updated and typically used as a public online journal. Vlogs, or Video Logs, are a similar idea but are done through the medium of video and usually use sites such as YouTube to share and receive comments on these videos.
What communication services do you use in your daily life?
Think about how they have benefited your life and the reasons why you use them.
2. Real-Time Information Services
Real-time information services are used to get the latest, up-to-date information on a particular topic.
Common types of real-time information services include:
- Train timetables – used to look up the departure and arrival times of trains so we can plan our journeys, ensure we are on-time & check for train delays.
- News services – keeps us informed about the latest information about recent events. The BBC news website for example will give you the very latest news stories on a wide variety of topics.
- Traffic reports – provides information on traffic such as road accidents or congestion. This is now often integrated into route planning websites like Google maps which highlight heavy congestion in red when you plan a route.
- Flight status updates – used to identify flight arrival times, delays etc. This is helpful as if you are going to pick someone up from the airport you want to know if their flight has been delayed so you don’t arrive early.
- Weather reports – provide us with the latest weather updates and forecasts for the week ahead so that we can plan outdoor events, like a barbecue or a school fete.
Have you ever used the internet to look up breaking news or the weather?
How do you think you would find this out if you didn’t have the internet?
Why is the internet better than these other methods?
3. Commerce Services
Commerce services allow us to manage our money as well as buy and sell items over the internet. Commerce services are becoming more commonly used all the time and now form an integral part of how we do business.
Common types of commerce services include:
- Online banking – used to check how much money we have, to pay people or to transfer money into different accounts, such as to a friend or to your savings. This is quicker and easier than banking in person and is available 24/7 rather than just the normal bank opening hours.
- Auction sites – websites such as “eBay” that allow us to sell things we own to other people directly. People bid on your item, such as a jumper, and whoever bids the highest gets the jumper. Obviously we can bid ourselves to buy the items others are selling.
- Retail sales – websites that allow us to do all our regular shopping online. We can buy our groceries, our clothes, our electrical equipment, absolutely anything online from the same stores you might go to on the high street. It’s so common that many shops don’t even have high street stores and just sell online. For example “Amazon”. Buying online gives us access to a worldwide audience and let’s us quickly compare prices from lots of different shops quickly to get the best deal.
- Electronic publishing – allows us to produce digital publications such as books & magazines so that you can buy them online and instantly download them to your computer, tablet, smartphone or specialist e-reader such as the Amazon Kindle.
Have you ever bought something online?
Why did you decided to buy it online instead of in a classic “brick and mortar” shop?
4. Government Services
Government services are where the local and national government allow you to perform common tasks online rather than at council offices, the post office or polling stations.
Common types of government services include:
- Online tax returns – allows business’ to complete tax returns online to make sure you’ve paid the right amount of tax to the government. This is quicker, easier & can check for mistakes automatically which makes it beneficial to traditional paper-based tax returns.
- E-voting – allows us to cast our votes in elections without having to visit polling stations. This allows people who live in remote areas or have mobility issues to cast their votes without difficulty.
- Online application for grants and benefits – housing benefit, car tax or tv licenses can be applied for online instead of at council offices, post offices etc. This saves a lot of time, both in travelling and in avoiding the long queues.
Ask your parents if they have ever used an online government service.
Did they find it much quicker and easier? Were there any other benefits?
So to summarise what we’ve learnt in this lesson:
- Online services form a key part of our modern lives.
- We use online services for communication such as with email, instant messaging, newsgroups, social networking, online conferencing & blogs. They are often quicker and cheaper than traditional communication methods.
- We also use online services for real-time information such as train timetables, news services, traffic reports, flight status updates & weather forecasts. These let us make better future plans by avoiding delays, traffic & poor weather.
- We use online services for commerce such as internet banking, online auction websites, retail sales & publishing. These give us much greater access to commerce services as they are open 24/7 and don’t require any travel.
- Finally, we use online services for government such as online tax returns, e-voting & applications for services & grants. These can save on travel and the long wait times we often have at the council office, post office, etc.