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Online service provider

What is Online Service Provider?
      It is no doubt that our world deeply depends on the internet now. In the daily life, we have to get online to check our emails everyday. We also need to pay our bills and book our hotels through internet. Now the question comes, who makes us access to the internet? The answer is that  Internet Service Provider (ISP) and Online Service Provider (OSP). People often think that  the Online Service Provider (OSP) is the synonym of Internet Service Provider (ISP).  But actually there is big difference between the definitions of ISP and OSP. Generally speaking, the ISPs only provide the services to make the customers connect to internet. The well known Internet Service Providers, for example, are AT&T providing the internet connection by telephone lines and Comcast providing the internet connection by TV cable. Whereas the companies identified as OSPs generally support an extensive of "online" services of their own besides the rest of the internet. So we can say that the services coming from OSPs are based on ISPs. We have to make our PCs online through ISPs first, then we can enjoy the online services supported by OSPs. Usually the ISPs don't support any online services or just provide a little. There are only a few ISPs in the world to support the internet connectivity. They are generally some big telecommunication companies that own the backbone networks to build up the internet. But there are thousands of OSPs in the world to provide all kinds of online services to the customers. 
    we can list some famous Online Service Providers easily in the following like,
  • GOOGLE and Yahoo providing the online searching services
  • Ebay and Amazon providing online shopping, auction and Ebusiness 
  • Expedia and Travel supporting online air ticket and hotel booking
  • Craglist providing apartment renting and car transaction  
    Early the ISPs can only support the dial-up internet access and the network speed is very limited. Meanwhile the early online service interfaces are all based on text-only terminals. These limits technically prevent the online service from developing rapidly. After decades of improvement in computer and network techniques,  most of the customers shift to broadband service for faster Internet connections.Some customers can even get access to the internet by wireless connection. In the same time,  the advent of the Apple Macintosh and MS Windows-based PCs reduces the computer price vastly and  the Graphic User Interface (GUI) provides a nicer interface between users and the internet. All these improvements make online service develop rapidly now.
The OSPs already make the online service an important part of the Information technology industry. The online services even form an independent industry now. By the late 1990s there are approximately 10,000 OSPs in the world, more than half located in the United States. Nowadays some of these small to medium sized companies merge into larger OSPs, or some of them are acquired by larger OSPs. Meanwhile, many new OSPs enter the business in large national markets, such as China and India. 
What online services the Online Service Provider can provide?

    In the modern society, internet totally changes our life style and the business operation style, which is unimaginable in the past. Online Service Providers are vital links between their users and the internet. Only through Online Service Providers, one can enter the internet world. We almost can say that the internet makes no sense without the OSPs. 
    1 .As an intermediary, the OSPs provide the customers (generally the paid subscribers) the online service like electrical mail (email), websites, discussion forums, downloading files, news articles and chat rooms.The services either provide Web access to their specialized databases or added general-purpose Internet access. in addition to providing access to the internet, OSPs can also provide software packages, email accounts and some personal web page. The OSPs make our lives more comfortable and convenient than before. Through the OSPs, we can
  • communicate easily with the others at every corner in the world
  • work at home by online services like video telephone
  • shop at home by online shopping service
    2. The OSPs also make the revolutionary change in the business operation. Almost every company, organization or government office needs their own website. Most of these websits are hosted by OSPs. Especially for those companies that can not afford to purchase their own servers and hire computer experts to maintain their websites, OSPs are the best choice to solve the problem. for example, yahoo and Google  can build and maintain websites for their customers. They put these websites on their own servers. They also build the database for the customers. At the same time, OSPs can be connected to each other through networks to support more extensive online services. Through the OSPs, one companies can
  • save the money used for network build-up and maintenance
  • build their websites
  • build their database, collect and store large amount of information  
  • achieve online sale like Ebusiness, Eshop 
  • share and exchange their data with the partners and customers (Electronic data interchange)
  • reduce the labor and overhead 
  • speed up the operation   
Some critical issues Online Service Providers face
    Today Online Service Providers not only provide the internet access to the customers, but also provide the customers to the internet. Although the OSPs provide lots of convenient and important services to personals and companies, the OSPs also face some critical issues with the development of internet.
  • Information Security
    As an intermediary, the Online Service Providers are becoming more and more important to collect and store detailed information about their users and their online activities. Those user information and activities can be of great interest to some third parties. It is very easy for the OSPs to support online service for their customers, just a username and a password.  But it is a big challenge that how to protect the private information of the customers. Because of their centrality, however, OSPs face legal pressures from all sides: from users, industry, and government. The network security technologies can be used to prevent the information from stealing. But sometimes these information has to be accessed by outside legally. For example, by law (like The USA PATRIOT Act) government has the right to request these information. Yet, compliance with these demands conflicts with an OSP's goal of providing customers with reliable, secure network services.   
  • Business fraud
   Business credit is another critical issue that OSPs have to solve now, especially for those OSPs supporting Ebusiness like Ebay and Amazon.  Because the online transactions are completed through internet, it is hard to identify those users. Usually it takes several days to get the money and ship the products. So somebody can take the chance to cheat. Each user just uses the username as the ID to deal with each other. you find no way to track them after the cheating. More techniques and legislations are needed to solve this problem.
  • Professional ethic

    There are some OSPs providing indecent or illegal services through internet, adult websites for instance. It can not be denied that internet makes these services easier and hard to be punished than before. So how to cope with them is a key issue today. Now some OSPs provide the software to filter some specific contents for the specific users. For example, some website browsers make the options to prohibit the access to adult websites.