What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word ‘internet’? Websites and email are the most common replies, but there is much, much more out there to help us. Over the past few years online applications, also known as webapps, have been steadily progressing from being simple webmail readers to full blown applications you’d expect to see on your desktop.

Here at Imre, our lives our made much easier by using these webapps. Gone are the days where we would write to-do lists in an email or jot meetings down on paper. Using online applications such as Basecamp and Backpack by 37 Signals, we can now assign to-do lists to specific projects, and to specific people. These lists are shared between all of us, even including our clients if need be. We each have our own calendar which is aggregated into a central company calendar so we can quickly see who is doing what, and when.

This philosophy of online applications extends in many different directions, and education and research institutes have always been at the leading edge. My girlfriend has just started University and is using an online application called Blackboard. After each of her lectures she can pull down the associated notes, powerpoints etc. straight into her Blackboard and access them wherever she may be.

As well as online applications, there are other interesting ways in which the internet can help speed up research by spreading processing power across a global network of computers. An interesting research project called Folding@Home is being conducted by Stanford University. Focusing on the area of protein folding, users can download software to their computer (or access it on their Playstation 3 console, where it is already installed), link up to the network and the software will then use their computer to help process the simulations. The more people that use the software, the more powerful this global supercomputer becomes. This kind of power that would run into the millions, even billions, of pounds to acquire is now free thanks to the global network and is already accelerating research by literally years.

A similar approach has been taken by CERN to collect particle collision data from the Large Hadron Collider experiment which will allow them to collect more than 15 million Gigabytes of research data per year.

The future of computing and the internet is very exciting. Imagine not only being able to access all your files online and share them with anyone you wish, but being part of a global supercomputer where everyone is helping eachother to work faster and more efficiently. This future is already being born. Even Microsoft, who have a long history of keeping things locked down, are developing a cloud computing operating system which installs a core operating system onto your machine and then links you up to online applications. Of course there’s also Google, who with their already impressive line up of online applications have really helped to push things forward.

If you have any thoughts on the internet as a platform, software as a service, or any other clever phrase to describe using the full potential of the internet, please drop us a comment using the form below. We’d love to hear what you think!