Those of us who have adopted Internet slang like "LOL" as a part of our regular vocabulary and take pictures solely for the purpose of posting them on Facebook know that online technology can change our day-to-day lives.
Whether or not telling people you are audibly laughing with three letters can be considered a positive effect of technology is up to you, but three Web sites are attempting to generate social change on a global scale in an effort to make the world a nicer place.
The nonprofit organization Tech Soup recently held a competition to find online projects that best use technology in the pursuit of changing our lives for the better. Sometimes called the "American Idol" of the Internet, the winners of Tech Soup's NetSquared Innovation Awards were nominated and voted upon by the public.
"The NetSquared project is about bringing together people with resources and projects with folks working hard in nonprofits to create social change in a way that helps accelerate those projects and move them forward," said Marnie Webb, vice president of Knowledge Services at Tech Soup.
The top prize went to political site MapLight.org, which tries to educate voters by connecting campaign donations and the voting process in a completely new way.
"MapLight.org takes all the money given to politicians and puts it on one Web site [along] with how every politician votes on every bill so you as a citizen can see the pattern of money and votes in Congress and hold your legislator accountable," co-founder and executive director Dan Newman told ABC News Now.
It can be extremely difficult to track the political money trail that runs through Congress and MapLight.org can save you hours of research. They currently provide statistics for the California Legislature and United States Congress in a completely legal and nonpartisan way.
"Where the politicians get their money and how they vote is public information," Newman said. "Now did the money cause a vote or did a vote cause the money or is there some other connection? That is up to the people who visit our site to interpret, but we provide the facts that previously would have taken days or weeks to dig up."
Newman hopes to soon expand the site to make a bigger impact on the 2008 elections.
"Our aim is to add a presidential section, but some of the candidates that currently or in the past have served in Congress are on our site right now -- for example, Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama," he said.
While Web surfers are taking a break from connecting money to congressional votes, they can enjoy some free online television from GetMiro.com, the NetSquared Innovation Awards' runner-up.
"Miro is desktop software that ... lets you connect to hundreds of thousands of Internet TV channels that individuals or organizations are making," Nicolas Reville, the executive director of GetMiro.com said. "We're really trying to create an open system for video online that anybody can participate in."
One goal of GetMiro is not only to provide a more open Internet, but to give people a way to get their messages out to a large group of viewers.
"If you have an organization and you're trying to do work in your community and get [the word] out ... this is a way you can do that," Reville said.
GetMiro.com also provides viewers with some cable and online entertainment shows in high resolution.