Something that is online exists on the web and must be accessed over an Internet connection.
When a website, social media network, or web application is said to be online, it means that the resource can be accessed by using an Internet-connected device. On every Internet-connected device, certain activities and applications happen offline, others happen online, and still others blur the line that draws the online/offline distinction.
Offline activities include things such as taking a picture with a smartphone, create a document using a desktop word processing application, adjusting device settings, and listening or viewing media files that are saved to a local hard drive.
Online activities include things such as using a web browser to visit Learn the Net, posting a status update to a social network, using a VoIP service such as Google Hangouts or Skype to place a video call, and uploading files to a cloud storage service such as Google Drive or Dropbox.
There are a number of activities that have both online and offline components, although functionality is typically reduced when the activity is completed while offline. For example:
- Email: If you use a desktop application like Microsoft Outlook to check your email, there are certain things you can do while offline, such are organize and archive downloaded messages and draft new emails that will be sent once you establish an Internet connection.
- Browsing: If you know you will need to use your computer while offline as some point in the future, you can instruct your browser to store specific webpages for offline viewing. You will then be able to view copies of these web pages while offline.
- Storage: Many online cloud storage services offer the ability to install a folder directly on a computer. Changes can be made to the contents of this local folder while offline, and the changes will be synced to the online service once an Internet connection is established.
- Messaging: With some messaging services you can access downloaded messages while offline and compose new messages. However, you cannot download new messages or send new messages until an Internet connection is established.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it necessary for something to exist “offline” for it to be real?
As time goes by the distinction between online and offline events is becoming increasingly blurred. Consider the following examples:
- Offline relationships often include an online component. It is probable that your online social media connections, messages in your email inbox, and VoIP connections mirror your offline relationships to a certain extent. Are the communications you have online any less real than the communications you have offline?
- Actions taken online often have offline consequences. As many people have learned the hard way, what you say and do online can come back to haunt you.
- Online romantic relationships are on the rise. When online dating sites first launched, they weren't all the rage, and using them pegged you as somewhat desperate. However, times have changed, and most web users now consider it perfectly acceptable to use online dating sites to look for your next significant other.
- Many applications offer a blended online/offline model. Applications that make use of your Internet connection may also offer some functionality while offine.
As human relationships and applications get better at blurring the line between online and offline activity, and as Internet connectivity becomes increasingly unavoidable, it's likely that in the not-too-distant future we'll have a hard time pointing out the difference between things that are online and their offline counterparts.