What is Downloading?
Downloading is just the technical term for copying something from the internet to your computer, tablet or smartphone. For example, when you download an app from the app store for your phone, what you’re doing is copying the app from the internet onto your device. And when you download software from a website to install on your laptop, you’re copying the software onto your computer.
In fact, anytime you look at a webpage you’re downloading photos and text to your device. They aren’t saved on your device though, they’re just stored temporarily so you can read the page. After you’ve finished looking at the page the files are deleted.
So whenever you surf the web you’re downloading things, but if there’s a “download” button, clicking or tapping on it will save a copy on your device. For example, if you download a film a full copy is saved on your device. Usually what happens when you watch a film on the internet is something called streaming – a copy is downloaded bit by bit onto your device and stored temporarily while you watch it.
The advantage of downloading and saving a full copy is that you can watch it when you’ve got no internet connection (e.g. on the bus or in the park). It’s also handy if your internet connection is quite slow and the film keeps stopping – if you download and save a copy, once it’s on your device you can watch it smoothly. Although it might take quite a while to download if your internet connection is rubbish!
The disadvantage of downloading and saving copies is they take up room on your device. Now, this isn’t usually a problem with computers and laptops, which have lots of storage space, but phones and tablets don’t have a lot of storage so can get full quickly.
By the way, the opposite of downloading is uploading – copying something from your device to the internet. For example, when you put a photo on Facebook, you’re copying that photo to the internet. Or when you send an email to someone you’re uploading the text to the internet to be sent on to whoever’s email address it is.