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In computer technology and
telecommunications Telecommunication is the transmission of information by various types of technologies over wire, radio, Optical system, optical, or other Electromagnetism, electromagnetic systems. It has its origin in the desire of humans for communication ov ...
, online indicates a state of connectivity and offline indicates a disconnected state. In modern terminology, this usually refers to an
Internet connection Internet access is the ability of individuals and organizations to connect to the Internet The Internet (Capitalization of Internet, or internet) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet protocol ...
, but (especially when expressed "on line" or "on the line") could refer to any piece of equipment or functional unit that is connected to a larger system. Being online means that the equipment or subsystem is connected, or that it is ready for use. "Online" has come to describe activities performed on and data available on the Internet, for example: "
online identity Internet identity (IID), also online identity or internet persona, is a social identity Identity is the qualities, beliefs, personality, looks and/or expressions that make a person (self-identity One's self-concept (also called self-cons ...
", "
online predator Online predators are individuals who commit child sexual abuse that begins or takes place on the Internet. Conceptions Internet-facilitated crimes against minors involve deceit and begin with adults communicating with children over the Internet w ...
", "
online gambling Online gambling (or Internet gambling) is any kind of gambling Gambling (also known as betting) is the wagering something of ("the stakes") on an with an uncertain outcome with the intent of winning something else of value. Gambling thus ...
", "
online shopping Online shopping is a form of electronic commerce E-commerce (electronic commerce) is the activity of electronically The field of electronics is a branch of physics and electrical engineering that deals with the emission, behaviour and eff ...
", "
online banking Online banking, also known as internet banking, web banking or home banking, is an electronic payment system An e-commerce payment system (or an electronic payment system) facilitates the acceptance of electronic payment for e-commerce, online ...
", and "
online learning
online learning
". Similar meaning is also given by the prefixes "cyber" and "e", as in the words "
cyberspace Cyberspace is a concept describing a widespread interconnected digital technology. "The expression dates back from the first decade of the diffusion of the internet. It refers to the online world as a world 'apart', as distinct from everyday rea ...
", "
cybercrime Cybercrime is a crime that involves a computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to Execution (computing), carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can perform generic sets of op ...
", "
email upThe email_address.html"_;"title="at_sign,_a_part_of_every_SMTP_email_address">at_sign,_a_part_of_every_SMTP_email_address Electronic_mail_(email_or_e-mail)_is_a_method_of_exchanging_messages_("mail")_between_people_using_electronic_dev ...

email
", and "
ecommerce E-commerce (electronic commerce) is the activity of electronically The field of electronics is a branch of physics and electrical engineering that deals with the emission, behaviour and effects of electrons using electronic devices. Electronics ...
". In contrast, "offline" can refer to either computing activities performed while disconnected from the Internet, or alternatives to Internet activities (such as shopping in
brick-and-mortar Brick and mortar (also bricks and mortar or B&M) refers to a physical presence of an organization or business in a building or other structure. The term ''brick-and-mortar business'' is often used to refer to a company that possesses or leases r ...
stores). The term "offline" is sometimes used interchangeably with the acronym "IRL", meaning "in real life".


Antecedents

During the 19th century, the term "on line" was commonly used in both the railroad and telegraph industries. For railroads, a signal box would send messages down the line (track), via a telegraph line (cable), indicating the track's status: "Train on line" or "Line clear". Telegraph linemen would refer to sending current through a line as "direct on line" or "battery on line"; or they may refer to a problem with the circuit as being "on line", as opposed to the power source or end-point equipment.


Examples


Offline e-mail

One example of a common use of these concepts with email is a
mail user agent The mail or post is a system for physically transporting postcards, letters, and parcels. A postal service can be private or public, though many governments place restrictions on private systems. Since the mid-19th century, national postal sy ...
(MUA) that can be instructed to be in either online or offline states. One such MUA is
Microsoft Outlook Microsoft Outlook is a personal information manager software system from Microsoft, available as a part of the Microsoft Office suite. Though primarily an email client, Outlook also includes such functions as Calendaring software, calendaring ...
. When online it will attempt to connect to mail servers (to check for new mail at regular intervals, for example), and when offline it will not attempt to make any such connection. The online or offline state of the MUA does not necessarily reflect the connection status between the computer on which it is running and the internet.i.e, the computer itself may be online—connected to Internet via a
cable modem A cable modem is a type of network bridge A network bridge is a Networking hardware, computer networking device that creates a single, aggregate network from multiple communication networks or network segments. This function is called netw ...
or other means—while Outlook is kept offline by the user, so that it makes no attempt to send or to receive messages. Similarly, a computer may be configured to employ a dial-up connection on demand (as when an application such as Outlook attempts to make connection to a server), but the user may not wish for Outlook to trigger that call whenever it is configured to check for mail.


Offline media playing

Another example of the use of these concepts is
digital audio Digital audio is a representation of sound recorded in, or converted into, Digital signal (signal processing), digital form. In digital audio, the sound wave of the audio signal is typically encoded as numerical Sampling (signal processing), s ...
technology. A tape recorder,
digital audio editor Audio Audio most commonly refers to sound In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowledge of nature, from ''phýsis'' 'nature'), , is the natural science that studies matter, it ...
, or other device that is online is one whose clock is under the control of the clock of a synchronization master device. When the sync master commences playback, the online device automatically synchronizes itself to the master and commences playing from the same point in the recording. A device that is offline uses no external clock reference and relies upon its own internal clock. When many devices are connected to a sync master it is often convenient, if one wants to hear just the output of one single device, to take it offline because, if the device is played back online, all synchronized devices have to locate the playback point and wait for each other device to be in synchronization. (For related discussion, see
MIDI timecode MIDI time code (MTC) embeds the same timing information as standard SMPTE timecode SMPTE timecode ( or ) is a set of cooperating standards to label individual frames of video or film with a timecode. The system is defined by the Society of Mot ...
,
word sync Word sync is a technique for synchronizing digital audio Digital audio is a representation of sound recorded in, or converted into, Digital signal (signal processing), digital form. In digital audio, the sound wave of the audio signal is typica ...
, and recording system synchronization.)


Offline browsing

A third example of a common use of these concepts is a
web browser A web browser (commonly referred to as a browser) is application software for accessing the World Wide Web. When a User (computing), user requests a web page from a particular website, the web browser retrieves the necessary content from a web ...

web browser
that can be instructed to be in either online or offline states. The browser attempts to fetch pages from servers while only in the online state. In the offline state, or "offline mode", users can perform offline browsing, where pages can be browsed using local copies of those pages that have previously been downloaded while in the online state. This can be useful when the computer is offline and connection to the Internet is impossible or undesirable. The pages are downloaded either implicitly into the web browser's own
cache Cache, caching, or caché may refer to: Places * Cache (Aosta) Cache is a frazione of the city of Aosta, in the Aosta Valley region of Italy. Frazioni of Aosta Valley Aosta {{Aosta-geo-stub ..., a frazione in Italy * Cache Creek (disambi ...
as a result of prior online browsing by the user or explicitly by a browser configured to keep local copies of certain web pages, which are updated when the browser is in the online state, either by checking that the local copies are up-to-date at regular intervals or by checking that the local copies are up-to-date whenever the browser is switched to the online. One such web browser is
Internet Explorer Internet Explorer (formerly Microsoft Internet Explorer and Windows Internet Explorer, (from August 16, 1995 to March 30, 2021) commonly abbreviated IE or MSIE) is a discontinued series of graphical user interface, graphical web browsers develo ...
. When pages are added to the Favourites list, they can be marked to be "available for offline browsing". Internet Explorer will download local copies of both the marked page and, optionally, all of the pages that it links to. In Internet Explorer version 6, the level of direct and indirect links, the maximum amount of local disc space allowed to be consumed, and the schedule on which local copies are checked to see whether they are up-to-date, are configurable for each individual Favourites entry. For communities that lack adequate Internet connectivity—such as developing countries, rural areas, and prisons—offline information stores such as WiderNet's
eGranary The eGranary Digital Library is a product of the WiderNet Project, a non-profit aimed at providing access to information technology and library services in developing countries 450px, Example of Older Classifications by the IMF and the Unite ...
Digital Library (a collection of approximately thirty million educational resources from more than two thousand web sites and hundreds of CD-ROMs) provide offline access to information. More recently, the
Internet Archive The Internet Archive is an American digital library A digital library, also called an online library, an internet library, a digital repository, or a digital collection is an online databaseAn online database is a database In computing ...
announced an offline server project intended to provide access to material on inexpensive servers that can be updated using USB sticks and SD cards.


Offline storage

Likewise,
offline storage Computer data storage is a technology consisting of computer components and Data storage device, recording media that are used to retain digital data (computing), data. It is a core function and fundamental component of computers. The cent ...
is
computer data storage File:Maxell DVD-RW 4.7GB crop 20051120.jpg, A spindle of DVD-RWs Computer data storage is a technology consisting of computer components and Data storage device, recording media that are used to retain digital data (computing), data. It is a ...
that is not "available for immediate use on demand by the system without human intervention". Additionally, an otherwise online system that is powered down may be considered offline.


Offline messages

With the growing communication tools and media, the words offline and online are used very frequently. If a person is active over a messaging tool and is able to accept the messages it is termed as online message and if the person is not available and the message is left to view when the person is back, it is termed as offline message. In the same context, the person's availability is termed as online and non-availability is termed as offline.


Generalisations

Online and offline distinctions have been generalised from computing and telecommunication into the field of human interpersonal relationships. The distinction between what is considered online and what is considered offline has become a subject of study in the field of
sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the branch The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the scie ...
. The distinction between online and offline is conventionally seen as the distinction between
computer-mediated communication Computer-mediated communication (CMC) is defined as any human communication that occurs through the use of two or more electronic Electronic may refer to: *Electronics Electronics comprises the physics, engineering, technology and applicatio ...
and face-to-face communication (e.g.,
face time Face time is an English idiom for direct personal interaction or contact between two or more people at the same time and location (geography), physical location. Face time therefore occurs in "real life" and contrasts primarily with interaction or ...
), respectively. Online is virtuality or
cyberspace Cyberspace is a concept describing a widespread interconnected digital technology. "The expression dates back from the first decade of the diffusion of the internet. It refers to the online world as a world 'apart', as distinct from everyday rea ...
, and offline is reality (i.e., real life or "meatspace"). Slater states that this distinction is "obviously far too simple". To support his argument that the distinctions in relationships are more complex than a simple dichotomy of online versus offline, he observes that some people draw no distinction between an online relationship, such as indulging in
cybersex Cybersex, also called computer sex, Internet sex, netsex and, colloquially, cyber or cybering, is a virtual sex encounter in which two or more people connected remotely via computer network A computer network is a group of computers that us ...
, and an offline relationship, such as being
pen pal Pen pals (or penpals, pen-pals, penfriends or pen friends) are people who regularly write to each other, particularly via postal mail The mail or post is a system for physically transporting postcard A postcard or post card is a piece of ...
s. He argues that even the
telephone A telephone is a telecommunication Telecommunication is the transmission of information by various types of technologies over wire A wire is a single usually cylindrical A cylinder (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anyt ...

telephone
can be regarded as an online experience in some circumstances, and that the blurring of the distinctions between the uses of various technologies (such as
PDA PDA may refer to: Science and technology * Patron-driven acquisition, a mechanism for libraries to purchase books *Personal digital assistant, a mobile device * Photodiode array, a type of detector * Polydiacetylenes, a family of conducting polym ...
versus mobile phone,
internet television Streaming television is the digital distribution Digital distribution (also referred to as content delivery, online distribution, or electronic software distribution (ESD), among others) is the delivery or distribution of digital media Dig ...
versus internet, and telephone versus
Voice over Internet Protocol Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), also called IP telephony, is a method and group of technologies for the delivery of voice communications and multimedia Multimedia is a form of communication that ...
) has made it "impossible to use the term ''online'' meaningfully in the sense that was employed by the first generation of Internet research". Slater asserts that there are legal and regulatory pressures to reduce the distinction between online and offline, with a "general tendency to assimilate online to offline and erase the distinction," stressing, however, that this does not mean that online relationships are being reduced to ''pre-existing'' offline relationships. He conjectures that greater legal status may be assigned to online relationships (pointing out that contractual relationships, such as business transactions, online are already seen as just as "real" as their offline counterparts), although he states it to be hard to imagine courts awarding
palimony Palimony is the division of financial assets and real property on the termination of a personal live-in relationship wherein the parties are not legally married. The term ''palimony'' is currently not codified as a legal term, but rather it remains ...
to people who have had a purely online sexual relationship. He also conjectures that an online/offline distinction may be seen by people as "rather quaint and not quite comprehensible" within 10 years. This distinction between ''online'' and ''offline'' is sometimes inverted, with online concepts being used to define and to explain offline activities, rather than (as per the conventions of the
desktop metaphor In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentation of algorithmic processes and development of both computer hardware , hardware and soft ...
with its desktops, trash cans, folders, and so forth) the other way around. Several cartoons appearing in ''
The New Yorker ''The New Yorker'' is an American weekly magazine featuring journalism Journalism is the production and distribution of report Image:Hurt Report cover page.png, 220px, Example of a front page of a report A report is a document that pr ...

The New Yorker
'' have satirized this. One includes
Saint Peter Saint Peter; he, שמעון בר יונה, Šimʿōn bar Yōnāh; ar, سِمعَان بُطرُس, translit=Simʿa̅n Buṭrus; grc-gre, Πέτρος, Petros; cop, Ⲡⲉⲧⲣⲟⲥ, Petros; lat, Petrus; ar, شمعون الصفـا, Sham ...

Saint Peter
asking for a username and a password before admitting a man into Heaven. Another illustrates "the off-line store" where "All items are actual size!", shoppers may "Take it home as soon as you pay for it!", and "Merchandise may be handled prior to purchase!"


See also

*
Computer networking A computer network is a set of computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can perform generic sets of operations known as Computer ...
*
Extremely Online#REDIRECT Extremely online {{Redirect category shell, {{R from move {{R from alternative capitalisation ...
* NLS, or the "oN-Line System" *
Offline reader An offline reader (sometimes called an offline browser or offline navigator) is computer software that downloads e-mail, newsgroup posts or web pages, making them available when the computer is Online and offline, offline: not connected to a server ...
* On the fly § Computer usage *
Online algorithm In computer science Computer science deals with the theoretical foundations of information, algorithms and the architectures of its computation as well as practical techniques for their application. Computer science is the study of Algori ...
* Online and offline algorithms * Online editing and offline editing – the online/outline distinction in
video editing Video editing is the manipulation and arrangement of video Video is an electronic Electronic may refer to: *Electronics Electronics comprises the physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and ...
*
Online game An online game is a video game#REDIRECT Video game A video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface or input device such as a joystick, game controller, controller, computer keyboard, keyboard, or motion s ...
s *
Online identity Internet identity (IID), also online identity or internet persona, is a social identity Identity is the qualities, beliefs, personality, looks and/or expressions that make a person (self-identity One's self-concept (also called self-cons ...
* ''Online'' (magazine) *
Online volunteering Virtual volunteering refers to volunteer activities completed, in whole or in part, using the Internet The Internet (Capitalization of Internet, or internet) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Interne ...
*
Open access (publishing) Open access (OA) is a set of principles and a range of practices through which research Research is "creative and systematic work undertaken to increase the stock of knowledge". It involves the collection, organization and analysis o ...
*
Presentity The term presentity is a combination of two words - " presence" and "wikt:entity, entity". It basically refers to an entity that has presence information associated with it; information such as status, reachability, and willingness to communicate. ...
*
Reputation The reputation of a social entity (a person, a social group, an organization, or a place) is an opinion about that entity typically as a result of social evaluation on a set of criteria, such as behaviour or performance. Reputation is a ubiquitou ...

Reputation
*
Website mirroring software An offline reader (sometimes called an offline browser or offline navigator) is computer software Software is a collection of Instruction (computer science), instructions and data (computing), data that tell a computer how to work. This is in c ...


References

* {{refend Computer jargon
Internet terminology Internet, Terminology Computing terminology World Wide Web, Terminology Internet culture, Terminology {{CatAutoTOC ...