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Industries & Professions /
Internet Services and Security
The Internet is a network of computer networks that provides a broad range of products and services. The Internet enables people to shop, keep in touch with others, pay bills, do research, take classes, enjoy entertainment, plan trips, play games, and even work from almost anywhere they can access an Internet connection. Common Internet services include chatting, e-mail, maps and directions, media downloads, real-time streaming audio and video, social media, and video-conferencing among many others. Although the Internet started as an experimental government computer network, it has evolved into a global communications system that allows people from different parts of the world to interact instantaneously.
Use of the Internet has increased dramatically as user demands for more and different products and services have grown. At the same time, businesses have come to rely more and more on online advertising, communications, and transactions. Some businesses today even exist only online. The Internet has shaken the foundations of traditional media, particularly that of books, magazines, newspapers, and other forms of print, and has also sharply changed how the film, recording, and television industries operate. In fact, change is one of the few constants connected to the Internet as technology continues its brisk evolution, providing people with new, different, and often better ways to communicate and conduct business.
Today the Internet is an inextricable part of the fabric of modern society. As of January 2014, 87 percent of American men and 86 percent of American women used the Internet as did 97 percent of all people ages 18 to 29. Seventy-six percent of adults engage in social media, as of 2013. Social networking apps, such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Yahoo! Answers, and Pinterest were the third most popular type of app used by U.S. smartphone owners. Around the world, social media was even credited with playing a role in organizing protests in the Middle East that led to revolutions in Egypt, Libya, and other nations in the region in 2010.
Nearly all aspects of modern life are touched by the Internet. In 2013, 78 percent of adults in the United States downloaded or watched video content on blogs, social networks, and other Web sites. Approximately 41 percent of 2012 college graduates used social media to help them land a job—34 percent more than in 2008. The same year, revenue from Internet advertising in the U.S. reached $36.6 billion. And in 2013, Forrester Research projected e-commerce spending would reach $262 billion that year, a rise of more than 13 percent from 2012.
To support this vast array of commerce and culture, the Internet industry requires workers with wide range of skill sets, personality types, and educational backgrounds. There are opportunities in advertising, business management, content development, cybersecurity, design, finance, hardware and software engineering, human resources, marketing and public relations, quality control, and many other areas.
Technical professionals—such as software engineers, applications developers, network administrators, and programmers—construct and maintain the platforms and networks that enable the Internet and the World Wide Web to operate. They program software for e-commerce, media, games, and all the other services people use online. Workers who design user interfaces and Web sites are Internet developers (also known as Web site developers), Web designers, usability specialists and engineers, and quality assurance specialists. These people perform the bedrock work that keeps the Internet running and makes it accessible and useful. Their work relates in some manner to every kind of Internet service and Web site.
E-commerce workers, such as Internet transaction specialists and Internet store managers, create e-commerce sites, develop financial processing software, set up and run businesses on the Web, and perform other tasks. Additionally, many companies rely on search engine optimization (SEO) specialists to help ensure that their Web sites rank high in search results and promote their business. Digital advertising and marketing workers develop online marketing campaigns and techniques that help sell their products and services.
Security is a major concern online. Billions of financial transactions are made each day on the Internet, all of which have the potential to expose sensitive financial and personal data of companies and individuals. In addition, users are sharing more and more personal information on social media sites and storing it in profiles for online services. Keeping this information private and protected from hackers trying to steal it is one of the biggest challenges the industry faces. Hacker groups also often target the social media accounts and Web sites of major companies or organizations for cyberattacks. All computers and devices connected to the Internet are vulnerable to viruses and other malicious software. Internet security specialists and consultants work to keep the Internet safe by building more secure networks and servers. They also strive to provide protections against threats such as bullying and harassment that cross over with the physical world and to deal with issues such as copyright infringement and digital piracy.
Overseeing and managing Internet business are Internet executives, who plan, organize, and coordinate e-commerce retailers, social media sites, such as Facebook, online media providers, and other digital services. Presidents, chief operating officers, vice presidents, and other high-level workers lead all types of companies from small, start-ups with a handful of employees to billion dollar empires such as Google.
Providing safe, reliable Internet service is essential now that millions of people rely on the Internet for everything from sending e-mail and researching health information to getting directions and buying clothes and much more. Internet companies not only provide services today but must also always look ahead to future needs, new technologies, and innovative ideas.