So, you've got your computer all ready for the Internet. You can't wait to send some e-mail, check out the newsgroups, and surf the Net. The problem is that you just barely survived getting to this page. You're thinking "http...what!?!" Well, you have arrived at the right place. We're here to help.
The Internet is a huge mess of computers connected together. The World Wide Web ("WWW", "the web", or "W3") is part of the Internet. The WWW is made up of pages like the one you're looking at now. It is the most popular part of the Net, and is expanding explosively. The Internet includes the WWW, and other things like Newsgroups, e-mail, and FTP, each of which we will explain later. The 'Internet' you've heard about from friends and the TV or radio is really the WWW. These terms are frequently interchanged; just be aware that sometimes you may need to know the difference. To greatly help you on your travels across the Internet, you must first understand the different "protocols" and their uses. You may have noticed that all web page addresses start with "http." That stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol. This tells your computer that the data the modem is recieving is a web page. The Internet is filled to the brim with data flying all over, and your computer has to be able to tell what kind of information it is receiving so it knows what to do with it. Is it an e-mail message? A web page? The latest game? Protocols describe how one type of data is distinguished from another. Other protocols include File Transfer Protocol (FTP), and Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP).
The rest of this section refers to the WWW. Other parts of the Internet are covered later.
A link is a piece of text that connects or "links" you to a new web page, a new web site, or a file available for download. Links are (usually) underlined and set in a different color than the rest of the text. The text that makes up a link will (hopefully) describe where it goes. Links are what makes the WWW so special. You can just click on a link to see more, instead of having to type in a new address.
You access the web with a program called a browser. Some examples of browsers are Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Netscape's Navigator, and browsers built into online services like America Online or Compuserve. All browsers are generally the same; they all have the same core components.
Here are pictures of the button bars of the two most popular web browsers, Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer.
Now that you know how to operate your web browser, you're basically all set to use the web. No, we aren't kidding. That's all you need to know to start surfing the 'net. Now, if you want to know how to do more than look at web pages, say, find what you're looking for, please continue.
|Commercial services:||The Internet:|
|Examples: America Online (AOL), Compuserve (CSi), Prodigy, The Microsoft Network
These companies provide Internet access as well as other services that can only be accessed by subscribers of the particular online services.
|The Internet requires many programs to utilize its different parts.
For example, an email program top handle email, an FTP program to handle FTP, and a web browser to look over the World Wide Web.
Commercial services provide many of the things the Internet can provide, but they are very easy to use, and are relatively easy to find. Right now, you are on the Internet. However, if what you're doing is part of the commercial service, you must have an account with that particular service to use it.
The Internet is made up of thousands of server computers. Server Computers (servers, for short) are special computers designed for the internet, and are very fast and can hold a lot of information. Each server has its own name, called a Universal Resouce Locator, or URL. An example of a (ficticious) URL is http://www.my_server.com. You can tell that a URL refers to the WWW if it begins with "http://". To explain what each part means of a URL means, we will break down a ficticious URL, into its basic parts.
This will be our example URL: http://www.my_server.com
|Part:||Stands for:||What it means to you:|
|http://||Hyper Text Transfer Protocol||Nothing. If you don't see one (for example, on an ad where a URL is given) assume that it's implied.|
|www||World Wide Web||Most URLs that can be found on the World Wide Web contain a "www" in them. This is very common, but not necessary for every URL.|
|my_server||The individual name of the server||The most unique part of the URL. This typically describes the web site (http://www.microsoft.com is Microsoft's, http://www.aol.com is America Online, etc.)|
|com||Commercial. See table below for other||This identifies the type of the server. You can tell what kind of site you're going to is by this part. See the chart below for the meanings of this part.|
This next table lists the other names of server types, and what each stands for.
|com||Commercial: Companies. This is the most common.|
|net||Network: Local ISP's, or internet service providers. ISPs provide people with access to the internet based on a monthly rate or set fee.|
|edu||Educational: Universities, colleges, etc.|
|gov||Government: Maintained by the government|
|mil||Military: For military web pages. These are few in number, and you'll probably never see one.|
|ANY OTHER SERVER TYPE||Specific countries: jp for servers in Japan, fr for servers in France, ca for servers in Canada, etc.|
The parts of the URL are separated by a period (".").
All web pages that you see advertised use HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol). If you see a web page advertised as just "www.company.com," you must add the "http://" before the address given in order tyo get to that site successfully. The "http://" is sometimes assumed to be there.
TIP: If you want to find a company's page, but are not sure of its address, try "http://www.companyname.com" (where companyname is the name of the company you're trying to find.) For example, Microsoft's is http://www.microsoft.com, AT&T is http://www.att.com, and so on.