How do you characterise online?

The other day I was working on trying to distill the different elements of the online world to help in classifying the benefits it brings.  I came up with core online attributes (i.e. those things that make online what it is) and then the key categories of activities that those attributes have fostered.  I thought you might like to see what I came up with.

Characteristics/attributes of online

So what are the fundamental characteristics of the online world?

online key characteristics

So what do the characteristics they mean?

  • Ubiquity – You can get online from anywhere now.  No longer the desk.  It’s the mobile phone, it’s the aircraft, it’s the airport, it’s the TV, it’s the fridge (what ever happened to that?).  You can get information anywhere now.  It’s also getting closer to real time each day.
  • Equality – The barriers to entering the online world are very low.  Cost and the required knowledge are continually dropping.  One website and/or service is fundamentally (technically) the same as the other.
  • Reach (another word ending in y?) – The sheer volume of individuals that have access to the Internet.  Over a billion at last count.  Borders mean nothing, apart to those still protecting the borders of old.

Online activities

So what are the core activities that I think these attributes foster?  This is really about the uniquely identified activities that happen on the web.  We have a word processor on our computer and one online.  What’s the difference?  Collaboration, ubiquitous availability etc.

online unique activities

The activities are relatively self-explanatory I think but for the benefit of all:

  • Communication and Collaboration – converse and interact using online technology.  This allows businesses and individuals to stay in touch and solve problems without having to be physically present.  Guess what?  The fax is dead (really?).  This is the foundation of Social Media as well.  Maybe I should call it Creation, Communication, Collaboration.
  • Selling – Where people go, the selling follows.  I don’t know if that’s a saying as I made it up.  Just then.  Big bucks are where it’s at, or so you think.  Selling is getting a revamp due to online cutural and social changes (e.g. “Free” by Chris Anderson) .
  • Searching – You need to be able to find and be found.  There is a lot of information online.
  • Outsourcing – I wasn’t sure whether this should be a characteristics.  I put it here because it really is something that you “DO” as a result of online being available.  Why do it yourself when the tools for someone else to do it are far more powerful these days?  I would also consider a lot of services that are online

So what?

I think this kind of structure is important for understanding where to focus your attention if you want to do something with your business using online technology.  It helps structure thoughts as to where to invest your time and effort and some of the reasoning behind it.  I’m sure it will be out of date by tomorrow.

What do you think?