What is “online?” In computer parlance, online means a condition of connectivity, and “offline” means a closed or disconnected condition. In modern parlance this means an Internet connection, though (again, especially when expressed as “on line” or “off the net”) it could also refer to any physical piece of equipment connected via a cable, telephone wire, or similar medium. It is worth distinguishing that online and offline are not necessarily synonyms. For instance, while an email server is an online computer system, a fax machine is offline.
In order to understand the difference between online and offline, we first need to understand what the former term covers. Simply put, in order for something to be online, it must be capable of receiving and transmitting data. Now, while most forms of Internet access use a lot of data transmission capabilities, it would be hard pressed to say that every online service is, in fact, capable of transmitting data. Of course, there are many, if not all, kinds of online browsing available that can do just that, including social networking sites, discussion forums, blogs, news letters, and even file sharing. But even in these online state, data transmission capability isn’t fully implemented, as there are still inherent problems such as slow connection speeds, data lost due to network congestion, and so on.
So, then, does the term “online” simply mean “connected,” or does it include other conditions? In the context of the internet connection, online means any web-based program that requires a user to interact with other people through one form of electronic media – typically a web browser or a similar interactive media agent. Offline, online means any kind of computer activity that requires a user to be connected physically to the machine on which that activity occurs, either by connection to a computer, to a telephone line, or by another means. It could also mean any kind of non-electronic media connection, including satellite television, radio, and television reception, or any information processed via physical means.
In other words, when we talk about online shopping, we are really talking about any activity that a user would do if she were able to go to a physical location and actually purchase things. We can further define online shopping as any purchasing activity that takes place on the internet, as long as the parties involved have a connection to each other. For example, when you order certain items from a website, you are engaging in online shopping, no matter if you do so via a credit card, through a wireless internet connection, through a landline phone connection, or some other arrangement.
In terms of the mobile phone in this example, it would be more accurate to say that the mobile app is the device that allows you to do online shopping, because that’s the manner in which the internet connection is established between you and the retailer. This is not the same as a web browser on your computer, or a mobile phone with a web browser. The mobile app connects you to the retailer’s website, and it uses the connection that you have to the internet to allow you to do some online shopping. This is why it’s called a “mobile app.”
Online shopping is not limited to just mobile devices. There are still plenty of opportunities to use online shopping whether you’re on the internet or offline. Consider news and magazines, for example. Some news publications are now delivering content in a “local” form across the internet, rather than just online. Even newspapers are starting to consider offline versions of their daily newspaper.