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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The terms online and offline (also on-line and off-line) have specific meanings with respect to computer technology and telecommunication. In general, "online" indicates a state of connectivity, while "offline" indicates a disconnected state. In common usage, "online" often refers to the Internet or the World Wide Web.

The concepts have however been extended from their computing and telecommunication meanings into the area of human interaction and conversation, such that even offline can be used in contrast to the common usage of online (e.g., "I bought those Marcus Fenix figurines offline").


Standard definitions

In computer technology and telecommunication, online and offline are defined by Federal Standard 1037C. They are states or conditions of a "device or equipment" or of a "functional unit". To be considered online, one of the following must apply to a device:

  • Under the direct control of another device
  • Under the direct control of the system with which it is associated
  • Available for immediate use on demand by the system without human intervention
  • Connected to a system, and is in operation
  • Functional and ready for service

In contrast, a device that is offline meets none of these criteria (e.g., its main power source is disconnected or turned off, or it is off-power).

Offline mail

One example of a common use of these concepts is a Mail User Agent that can be instructed to be in either online or offline states. One such MUA is Microsoft Outlook. When online it will attempt to connect to mail servers (to check for new mail at regular intervals, for example), and when off-line it will not attempt to make any such connection. The online or offline state of the MUA does not necessarily reflect the connection status between the computer on which it is running and the Internet. That is, the computer itself may be online—connected to Internet via a cable modem or other means—while Outlook is kept offline by the user, so that it makes no attempt to send or to receive messages. Similarly, a computer may be configured to employ a dial-up connection on demand (as when an application such as Outlook attempts to make connection to a server), but the user may not wish for Outlook to trigger that call whenever it is configured to check for mail.[1]

Offline media playing

Another example of the use of these concepts is in the world of digital audio technology. A tape recorder, digital editor, or other device that is online is one whose clock is under the control of the clock of a synchronization master device. When the sync master commences playback, the online device automatically synchronizes itself to the master and commences playing from the same point in the recording. A device that is offline uses no external clock reference and relies upon its own internal clock. When a large number of devices are connected to a sync master it is often convenient, if one wants to hear just the output of one single device, to take it offline because, if the device is played back online, all synchronized devices have to locate the playback point and wait for each other device to be in synchronization.[2] (For related discussion, see MIDI timecode, word sync, and recording system synchronization.)

Offline browsing

A third example of a common use of these concepts is a web browser that can be instructed to be in either online or offline states. The browser only attempts to fetch pages from servers whilst in the online state. In the off-line state, users can perform offline browsing, where pages can be browsed using local copies of those pages that have previously been downloaded whilst in the on-line state. This can be useful when the computer is offline and connection to the Internet is impossible or undesirable. The pages are either downloaded implicitly into the web browser's own cache as a result of prior online browsing by the user, or explicitly by a browser configured to keep local copies of certain web pages, which are updated when the browser is in the online state, either by checking that the local copies are up-to-date at regular intervals or by checking that the local copies are up-to-date whenever the browser is switched to the on-line state. One such web browser capable of being explicitly configured to download pages for offline browsing is Internet Explorer. When pages are added to the Favourites list, they can be marked to be "available for offline browsing". Internet Explorer will download to local copies both the marked page and, optionally, all of the pages that it links to. In Internet Explorer version 6, the level of direct and indirect links, the maximum amount of local disc space allowed to be consumed, and the schedule on which local copies are checked to see whether they are up-to-date, are configurable for each individual Favourites entry.[3][4][5][6]

Offline browsing known as "Offline favourites" was removed as a feature in Internet Explorer 7, which now only supports saving single web pages, but not an entire site.


Similarly, offline storage is computer data storage that is not "available for immediate use on demand by the system without human intervention."


Online and offline distinctions have been generalized from computing and telecommunication into the field of human interpersonal relationships. The distinction between what is considered online and what is considered offline has become a subject of study in the field of sociology.[7]

The distinction between online and offline is conventionally seen as the distinction between computer-mediated communication and face-to-face communication (e.g. face time), respectively. Online is virtuality or cyberspace, and offline is reality (i.e., Real life or meatspace). Slater states that this distinction is "obviously far too simple".[7] To support his argument that the distinctions in relationships are more complex than a simple online/offline dichotomy, he observes that some people draw no distinction between an on-line relationship, such as indulging in cybersex, and an offline relationship, such as being pen pals. He also argues that even the telephone can be regarded as an online experience in some circumstances, and that the blurring of the distinctions between the uses of various technologies (such as PDA and mobile phone, television and Internet, and telephone and Voice over Internet Protocol) has made it "impossible to use the term on-line meaningfully in the sense that was employed by the first generation of Internet research".[7]

Slater asserts that there are legal and regulatory pressures to reduce the distinction between online and offline, with a "general tendency to assimilate online to offline and erase the distinction," stressing, however, that this does not mean that online relationships are being reduced to pre-existing offline relationships. He conjectures that greater legal status may be assigned to online relationships (pointing out that contractual relationships, such as business transactions, online are already seen as just as "real" as their offline counterparts), although he states it to be hard to imagine courts awarding palimony to people who have had a purely online sexual relationship. He also conjectures that an online/offline distinction may be seen by people as "rather quaint and not quite comprehensible" within 10 years.[7]

This distinction between online and offline is sometimes inverted, with online concepts being used to define and to explain offline activities, rather than (as per the conventions of the desktop metaphor with its desktops, trash cans, folders, and so forth) the other way around. Several cartoons appearing in The New Yorker have satirized this. One includes Saint Peter asking for a username and a password before admitting a man into Heaven. Another illustrates "the off-line store" where "All items are actual size!", shoppers may "Take it home as soon as you pay for it!", and "Merchandise may be handled prior to purchase!".[8] [9]


PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from the General Services Administration document "Federal Standard 1037C" (in support of MIL-STD-188).

  1. ^ Bill Mann (2003). How to Do Everything with Microsoft Office Outlook 2003. McGraw-Hill Professional. pp. 76–77. ISBN 0072230703.  
  2. ^ Bill Gibson (1998). Audiopro Home Recording Course: A Comprehensive Multimedia Audio Recording Text. Hal Leonard. pp. 155. ISBN 0872887154.  
  3. ^ Arabella Dymoke (2004). "an a to z of internet terms". Good Web Guide. The Good Web Guide Ltd. pp. 17. ISBN 1903282462.  
  4. ^ Paul Heltzel (2002). "Wireless Road Tricks". The Complete Idiot's Guide to Wireless Computing and Networking. Alpha Books. pp. 205. ISBN 0028642872.  
  5. ^ Glen Waller and Vanessa Waller (2000). The Internet Companion: The Easy Australian Guide. UNSW Press. pp. 110–112. ISBN 0868404993.  
  6. ^ Brian Barber (2001). "Configuring Internet Technologies". Configuring and Troubleshooting Windows XP Professional. Syngress Publishing. pp. 285–389. ISBN 1928994806.  
  7. ^ a b c d Don Slater (2002). "Social Relationships and Identity On-line and Off-line". in Leah, Sonia, Lievrouw, and Livingstone. Handbook of New Media: Social Shaping and Consequences of ICTs. Sage Publications Inc. pp. 533–543. ISBN 0761965106.  
  8. ^ Rosabeth Moss Kanter (2001). "Introduction". Evolve: Succeeding in the digital culture of tomorrow. Harvard Business School. ISBN 1578514398.  
  9. ^ The "off-line store" cartoon from The New Yorker

See also


Up to date as of January 15, 2010
(Redirected to online article)

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Wikipedia has an article on:


See also on line




  • ŏn'līn", /ˈɒnˌlaɪn/, /"Qn%laIn/
  •  Audio (US)help, file

Alternative spellings


on + line


online (comparative more online, superlative most online)


more online

most online

  1. Describes a system which is connected (generally electrically) to a larger network.
    1. Describes a generator or power plant which is connected to the grid.
    2. Describes a computer which is connected to the Internet or to some other communications service.
      Is this modem online?
  2. Available over the Internet.
    I prefer to read the online newspapers.
  3. Available on a computer system, even if not networked.
    Press the F1 key to access the online help.
  4. A system that is active.
    The power is online.




online (comparative more online, superlative most online)


more online

most online

  1. Describes actions performed over the internet.
    He works online.

See also






online inv. (Also: on line, on-line)

  1. online



Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Wikia Gaming, your source for walkthroughs, games, guides, and more!

In gaming, Online is a term that refers to a games ability to be played over the internet. It is connected to a larger network. Xbox Live and Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection are online services.

Free Flash Games An example of an online game site.

This article uses material from the "Online" article on the Gaming wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

Simple English

Online means on the internet. For example, games like Webkinz are online.

Online can also mean that something is set up correctly and ready to what it is susposed to do. For example:

  • A computer printer is online if it has electricity, is turned on, is connected to the computer and has paper in it. Once each of those things is true, then the printer is online and ready to print.
  • A government program is online when it has the equipment and people it needs to do whatever job it was created to do.

If something is not online, it is offline.

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