Throughout this post, I will be using the term "Internet" to refer to the World Wide Web.
First, there was no Internet. This is Stage 0. It was a horrid time. I can't seem to remember how people found phone numbers or directions or encyclopedic information or news or congregated with like-minded individuals on common sets of interest or, even, coordinated a night out. Frankly, I don't like to think about it.
Then... then, there was the Internet. And, it was glorious. You could sit down at a computer and access the wealth of information (and a bunch of geocities.com web sites).
Stage 2. Wireless Internet. The Internet was good, but you still had to sit down at a computer to access it. That was before wireless. Now, the Internet is all around us. The world is my connection. I no longer have to tether myself to anything to access the Internet. Right now, for example, I am sitting on my couch writing this blog entry with the Internet flowing around me and into my laptop. Nowadays, I won't even go to coffee shops and the like if they don't offer freely available and ubiquitous wireless Internet. I scoff at airports that don't offer wireless. University campuses that don't have wireless... luddites.
But, the Internet could do one better; it had one more trick up its sleeves. News aggregator software and RSS. Even with the power of wireless where I could access the Internet from anywhere, I still had to go to those web sites. Slashdot. Perl Monks. O'Reilly Network. OSNews. OSDir. Etc. There was probably over 50 web sites I regularly tracked. It was a hassle to collect all those bookmarks and remember to visit them and check to see if there was new content. Well, that happens no more. The Internet now comes to me! I track 150-170 web sites via my news aggregator, Bloglines (you can see the sites I track at http://www.bloglines.com/public/jms18); and it could not be better. This stage, Stage 3 of the Internet, has changed the way I use the Internet — even moreso than wireless changed it. I cannot be more of a proponent of news aggregator software. You will wonder how you ever used the Internet beforehand.
Bloglines isn't the only news aggregator software out there. There's a lot of them, and I have heard good things about NetNewsWire (Mac Only), NewsMonster, FeedDemon, AmphetaDesk, and NewsGator (requires Outlook).
This has been one of the harder points when I try to "sell" the Blog@Case system as a way to effectively communicate to customers. People don't seem to get it. They usually ask something like, "you mean they have to check a web site... how do they know when to check the web site?" I, then, try to explain RSS and I usually spin it as something people can include on the portal. But, they are usually stuck on, "but how do I force people to receive the content?"
Regardless, the Internet is moving on. We are finding better ways to communicate. Ways that are more effective and occur at a personal level. And, we are finding ways to virally spread the goodness.
In summary, in conclusion, and as a final note, give news aggregator software a try.