In only 20 years there has been a profound and dramatic change in the way we use the internet in our everyday lives. For some, it is an important lifeline which reaches out to a wider social network; for others the internet is a vital tool to access and provide crucial information, including researching and emailing, in order to undertake our business.

And it is this thirst for formal and informal knowledge - whether it's identifying sales trends, or keeping up with friends and family - that has spurred on the development of bigger and better ways of using the internet. Our need to link pages with other sources and references, for example, directly influenced the development of hyperlinks and the ability to learn across a diverse platform of resources.

Social networking sites have never been more populated. But, even with the support of a loyal following, it has not been an easy growth. One of the founders of a popular social networking site admits that, in the early days even while the community members were forward thinking and prepared to use the internet as a new tool to enrich learning, they were not always receptive to change.

While adapting the site to make it easier for users to pick up on threads of interest, the technical team decided that instant updates were an essential part of better communication. But the community reaction was unprecedented. They hated it and did not like their conversations being broadcast to other users. Indeed, by the end of the first day of the change, most of the hub was on the brink of rioting on the college campus. But the mavericks were determined to stick to their guns and knew that eventually the reason why they had created the site - to bring people into the learning loop - would win through.

Now, it is impossible to comprehend how such a site could work without real-time updates and status reports. Messages flow between connected users and this network of sharing is now how we prefer to operate. Our thirst to learn has been the motivation to use this public space in order to share ideas. With any new or developing program a natural stage of growth and development means that it will come up against much criticism - both positive and negative.

But being better informed means that we can make better decisions; and network collaboration is just one of the areas Microsoft Office 2010 will offer new capabilities. One of the most far reaching improvements to Office 2010 is the introduction of Office Web Apps -lightweight versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote that are all accessible via desktop, mobile devices, and web browsers Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari.

Microsoft has assured document fidelity between the online and desktop versions of the Office 2010 apps. This will allow users to open Office documents even if they don't own the correct version of the suite. Mobile versions of the suite will also be available in the future.

When Office web applications launch, they will be free and available through Microsoft's Windows Live set of online services. Businesses will be able to choose an Office 2010 licensing option that allows them to host their own Office web applications.

Particularly powerful in Word and several other Office apps are the Backstage sharing features. Using the sharing area of Backstage, you can send an open file as an email, save it to a SharePoint server, save it to your online storage account and publish it as a blog post. And making Backstage potentially more useful will be its extensibility - companies can build Backstage add-ins for their own employees, for their customers or for others.

A company could build buttons into its version of Office that integrate with its business processes - for example, sending a file to a manager for review, exporting data to a database, and so on.

By far the most significant changes, however, will be the changes that convert the Office suite to a fully networked work group infrastructure system. Communication and collaboration features will be part of every application in the Office 2010 family.

It's now not just convenient to consume - it's also convenient to create and consume. For example, new co-authoring features in Excel, OneNote, and Word allow you to publish documents for collaboration. Similarly, PowerPoint users can broadcast their slideshows over the internet. This will mean an end to sending slide stacks as email attachments for long-distance presentations.

By making use of Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 and Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 R2 with Office 2010, you will be able to see the availability status of other people with whom you work and ways to contact them, using email and instant messaging.

SharePoint is even more intimately tied to Office, and allows people to collaborate on Office documents. For individual users, these and other collaboration features are made possible through Microsoft's Windows Live online hub. But for business users, the real heart of Office 2010's new networked capabilities is SharePoint Server 2010, which plays host to workgroup functions behind the firewall.

A platform for linking creative intelligence, Office 2010 will help you become more efficient, more engaged, more informed and, ultimately, allow you more contact with others. If you want to be part of the learning loop, make sure you find out about a formal training course in Microsoft Office 2010 and stay part of that network of sharing.