E-Mail? But It's Just So PasseThe World Wide Web is no longer the exclusive domain of technology geeks out to prove themselves. Rapidly evolving technologies have made it simpler than ever for the average person to be part of the current multimedia frenzy.
In fact, the Internet has now become a stage for anyone who wants to display multimedia prowess. Self-recorded songs, poetry readings and impressions of famous personalities are now the norm on bulletin boards at sites such as www.freechal.com and www.sayclub.com, as people seek outlets for their creative talents.
They have even updated the word "netizen," which only yesterday was itself a neologism. Today's "multimedia-competent netizens" style themselves "multizens."
The phenomenon is made possible by a technology that has gotten increasingly simple to use. Couple that with widespread broadband Internet connection, which makes high-quality Internet multimedia services possible, and you have the Internet multimedia boom.
Streaming media players such as RealPlayer and Windows Media Player allow you to watch videos and listen to audio on your computer without storing huge files on your hard drive. You get to watch and listen almost instantly as the files filter into your computer. Streaming also allows live Internet broadcasts, also known as Webcasting. Streaming is theoretically more efficient than downloading files, although changing network conditions can cause transmissions to cut out. When there is heavy traffic, for example, video transmission can be interrupted or terminated.
Despite the technical glitches, people are taken by multimedia applications. One application that has been enjoying a large following is online video chatting. Popular among teens, the service allows those far apart to talk face-to-face. Although online video chatting is open to abuse just as many other applications of the Internet are － streaming is most widely used for transmission of pornography － it is still a practical application for a wide range of commercial services such as remote education and matchmaking services.
Text-only e-mail got boring quite some time ago, with more and more people turning to e-cards and multimedia e-mail containing music video clips. However, if you feel your creative juices flowing, you might want to send off a self-produced video e-mail. Many portals, such as www.simmani.com, www.lycos.co.kr and www.ccemail.com have features that allow you to video e-mail. The video e-mails are stored in servers dedicated to streaming, and the recipients can view the video in real time when they open the mail.
Online music chatting is a recreational application of streaming that is currently popular. While the service that allows you to open up your own music chat room and become a CJ (cyber jockey) has been around for a while, recent court disputes involving Napster and Soribada, a Korean music file-sharing community, are driving an increasing number of Netizens to online music chatting.
At www.skylove.co.kr, members can open their own music chat rooms by simply downloading and installing Winamp, the popular MP3 player for Windows, Shoutcast Server, and Shoutcast DSP Plug-in for Winamp. The whole process should take no more than 30 minutes, and you are ready to spin some tunes. People entering the room, after downloading and installing Winamp, merely need to press the "Listen" button to listen to music while typing away on their keyboards to chat.
The music chat rooms have obviously caught the fancy of the online population, accounting for about 30 percent of all chat rooms at the Skylove site. The number of music chat rooms soars in the evenings when more than half of all chat rooms turn into virtual radio stations.
According to the company, this service does not infringe upon copyrights because music chatters log on to the room master's IP (Internet protocol) address, and the room master plays music for non-commercial purposes.
Each host selects his own music, playing the role of a CJ, much like the disc jockeys of yesteryear. Some CJs will take requests while others choose not to go on air at all, just sending streams of music. Yet others revel in the free airtime, cracking jokes, singing along to the tune or abruptly cutting the music if it is not to their liking.
Most rooms specialize in a particular music genre. If you are jaded by all the techno, hip-hop or top-10s that have come to monopolize airtime on network and cable stations, you will like having the choice of chat rooms that focus on your favorite type of music. There are chat rooms that feature solely rock, jazz, alternative or ballads.
"Music chat rooms have the potential to draw people who have similar tastes and interests," said Rhu Chang-ha, general manager at Skylove.com.
One drawback of these online music chat rooms is that people expect you to "talk" when you may prefer not to. Keep silent for a few minutes and people will start pressuring you to say something. Make up an excuse as to why you cannot type right now and they will let you off. If you really do not want to be bothered, you can always log on to Internet radio stations.
by Kim Hoo-ran
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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