The internet has become one of the most important and influential technologies in the 21st century. This chapter will help introduce you to the concept as well as teach you how to find your way around on the internet, or as it is often said, "online."
What is the Internet?
As explained in the general introduction to computers, the Internet is a global system of interconnected computer that make up networks. These networks and computers exchange information with one another by using rules or standards. In some sense the Internet is a "network of networks" that consists of millions of private and public, academic, business, and government computer networks that are linked by copper wires, fiber-optic cables, wireless connections, and other technologies (Referenced from Wikipedia). Fundamentally the internet includes technologies, communication processes, and social norms or context (situations) that surrounds these.
There is really only one 'big' internet but there are many examples of things that exist and happen on the internet, like web pages, blogs, conversations over email or instant messaging, etc...
Where does it begin? Does it end? How do we navigate/operate on the internet?
The Internet is known by many names. Sometimes it is called the "world-wide-web" or "web" for short. When something is said to be "online" this means it is on the Internet. The Internet actually includes more than just the web, however, it also involves services, like email, message boards, file sharing, games, chat conversations and more. For this tutorial we are just going to talk about the "world-wide-web" part of the internet.
From the perspective of most users the Internet is a series of webpages (places that you can see on your screen) that connect (link) to one another. There is no top or bottom or beginning or end to the internet. Think of it more like a bunch of cities connected by roads. The distance between the cities doesn't have anything to do with real distance, however, instead distance on the internet is usually measured in time. Just like different forms of transportation can get you between cities faster or slower your connection to the internet determines how fast you can move around it. Your connection speed is determined by a number of factors, including your physical connection (modem, wireless, broadband) and condition of your computer (fast, slow, which programs you use to access and travel the internet). Different places on the internet have different addresses, much like buildings in a city. These addresses usually begin with a "http://" or a "www." and end with a ".com", ".net" or ".org" but this may vary by country. You can go from website to website by using links. You can search for websites using search engines (the most famous one is Google). We will explain how to do this in a moment.
Who makes the internet?
There is no single maker or manufacturer of the internet. Just like a city different places (websites and webpages) are owned by different individuals, and the roads (physical internet connections) are also owned by different people. Anyone who has access to the internet can help to make it. You too can create your own part of the internet, if you like. We will explain how in later tutorials.
Privacy and Safety Online
Just like a big city, the internet can be a dangerous place. You should be careful about the type of information about yourself you put online, and where you put it. Until you become more familiar with the internet you shouldn't put any important personal information online.
- Many webpages will have advertisements. You will have to learn to identify what is an ad and what is not. If you're not sure if something is an ad have your instructor or a friend help you to figure it out. Advertisements will usually be flashy and obvious.
- Some websites will ask you to "download" software. This means to put information and programs on your computer. While you are learning to use this internet this is a bad idea.
- Just like you might be skeptical of the tabloid newspapers in the check-out line in the grocery store there are websites on the internet that you may not want to trust. Go about looking at the internet like you would most things in life - don't be afraid to question them or be skeptical of what you read or hear. Sometimes people lie, sometimes books and magazines have false information, and sometimes information on the internet is incorrect. Most of the time this is not the case, but just remember to think about and question what you see on the web.
- While you are learning to use the internet avoid gambling, pornography, and free software websites. You may want to explore these sorts of websites later but while you are learning to use the internet they are dangerous and should be avoided.
- You can usually trust a website with an address that ends in ".gov" or ".edu", these are websites run by the government and universities.
- Sometimes webpages might be out of date. Try to look around for date and author information when reading a website, much like you would when looking up information in a book.
The above items are just pointers. If you're confused or unsure about any of these go ahead and ask your instructor or a librarian.
Before we go on to learning to use the internet it's probably a good idea to learn some basic terms:
Hyperlink (or "link," for short) - A connection from one website to another. Links can take the form of text or pictures. You usually activate a link (travel from one place to another) by clicking on it with your mouse.
URL (Uniform Resource Locator) - In short, a fancy name for the address (location) of a website.
Domain Identifiers (Extensions) - the last two or three characters following the "." in a URL help to identify what type of site it is. Sometimes they can identify the country a site is hosted by. The most common ones you will see using the internet in the US are as follows:
- .com - Commercial sites, which may include corporate homepages or individual users's homepages.
- .net - A website that is supposed to be a network of some kind, though .net gets used in many of the same ways as .com.
- .org - These are associations or other non-commercial organizations that maintain internet sites, though like .net, .org sometimes gets used like a .com.
- .gov - This extension identifies the information server as a government entity.
- .edu - Addresses ending in this extension indicate that you are connecting to a university, college, or other school computer system.
Web Browser - A computer program that can help you to travel (see/explore/use) the internet. Web browsers are the main way people "surf" the internet (or as it is sometimes said, "web").
Homepage - Can refer to two things: the start page of a website (the introduction or 'top') or the webpage first displayed when you open a browser to surf the web.
Search Engine - a website used to find other websites... and potentially anything on the internet. The most famous one in the US is Google.
Email (Electronic Mail) - The process of sending text messages and files electronically using computer networks. Email can be an activity (verb, "I will email you!") or a thing (noun, "Where is my email?").
Using a browser to surf the Web
Before you can do very much on the internet you have to understand how to get around. Most people "surf" (operate/travel) the internet by using a program called a web browser. Most computers come with web browsers already set up, but you can also add them on later.
Types of Browsers
There are several types of web browsers available. Don't worry if your computer has more than one of these browsers. It is suggested you use Firefox or Internet Explorer 7. Find the web browser you would like to learn below and click on its name or icon.
Internet Explorer 7 (microsoft.com )
Safari (apple.com )