What is the Internet?
There are a lot of terms surrounding the concept of the Web, and it can get confusing quickly! First, it's important to know what the Internet is. The Internet and the Web are two terms that used interchangeably referring to the same thing; however, they are definitely two different entities.
The Internet refers to the global network of computer systems all over the world that are connected via cables, wireless, or via the cloud.
So the Web's not the same as the Internet?
Many people use these two terms to refer to the Web, and that's not quite correct. The Internet and the Web are two very different things.
The Internet is the underlying foundation that makes all this activity possible. It is a vast network of smaller networks. People, organizations, and businesses connect to the Internet in order to access the resources made available on the Web.
The Web is what we are familiar with in our daily lives: it's what we use to find something, check the weather, or connect with other people.
How big is the Internet?
This is a difficult question since there are several different possible answers! Let's look at a few possibilities:
- According to the latest Internet statistics, there are more than seven trillion people currently connected to the Internet in some way (Feb. 2013)
- Asia makes up almost half of the total Internet users in the world, followed by Europe and North America (as of Feb. 2013).
How many websites are there?
This number changes all the time, but according to the latest statistics, there are more than half a billion active websites currently available on the Web. This is expected to continue to grow rapidly as the Web is adapted by more and more people all over the world.
How do I see all these websites; in other words, how do I connect to the Internet?
There are a number of ways you can connect to the greater Web, and there are several different types of Internet connections. For example, a dial-up connection connects to your phone line, and is the slowest of possible online connections. DSL and cable connectivity provide more speed and access to data; DSL connects via your home phone line, and a cable connection is part of your television's cable data connection. These are both known as broadband connections, and work very well for the majority of what Web searchers need to do.
If you're looking for something even faster and flexible, than 3G and 4G are what you need. These are wireless connections, great for connecting any kind of device (including smartphones and tablets), but you can also get these kind of connections for your home internet you use on a PC.
Whichever one you choose, you'll need to purchase access to this connection from an ISP, or Internet Service Provider. Usually, you can access an Internet connection from your home phone or cable company, and many times, you can "bundle" services together for an even better deal.
Once you've decided what kind of service you need and you've selected an ISP, your provider will walk you through everything you need to know about connecting to the internet. A modem - a device that enables your Internet connection - is usually provided with your subscribed service (you can also purchase one yourself).
How we connect to the Internet varies, but the basics are as follows:
- The modem is connected to your phone line or cable connection.
- the computer is connected to your modem using a cable.
- Once the connection is active, you can choose a Web browser, a graphical user interface that makes using the Web as user-friendly as possible using images and links to navigate.
As already mentioned, there are several different ways to connect to the Internet. if you'd rather not have to deal with cables and connect several different devices to the Internet at the same time, than a wireless home network (wi-fi) is what you're going to need. in order to this, you'll need a wireless router, which processes the Internet connection from your modem and makes it available to more than one device. Many modems already have this capability built in. Setting up a wireless network varies by user needs, but the basics can be found here: What is Wireless Networking?
What is a Web browser?
A Web browser is a tool that helps us access the Web. A Web browser is quite different from an operating system, such as Windows or Mac; i.e., it's not a system that helps you manage programs. It's also not the same as a search engine, which is a very complicated program that helps people find what they're looking for on the Web. A Web browser allows you to visit websites and access the vast storehouse of what's available to you online. You can access your Web browser by clicking on the icon (small graphic that represents the program) on your computer or other device with an Internet connection. From there, you can enter a Web address, aka a URL, and the Web browser displays the Web pages associated with that address for you.
Every single Web page on the Internet is displayed via a web browser, so it's a very important piece of software. There are several different types of Web browsers available to you depending on what you're looking for:
Who invented the Web?
A scientist named Tim Berners-Lee came up with the concept of the World Wide Web while at CERN in the late 80's. He originated the idea of linking documents to each other via hypertext, aka HTML (hypertext markup language). The Internet - in a very elementary form - had been around for a few decades before the Web came into being. You can read more about these events at the following links:
What are some basic Web terms that everyone should know?
There are many important terms relevant to the Web, but here are the basics:
What is a URL?: A URL, or Web address, is something that every website has. If you look at any web address, for example, www.widgets.com, this is how it breaks down:
- www: This stands for "world wide web".
- widgets: That's the name of the website.
- .com: This part of the URL is a top-level domain. The ".com" indicates that this is a commercial domain, which occupies the largest presence on the Web.
Address bar: The address bar is at the top of your Web browser, and tells you the address (or URL) of the website you're currently visiting.
Web browsing: Also known as "web surfing"; this is what we do when we are looking at the Web and jumping from link to link.
Link: A link can be a lot of things on the Web: text, image, even within a video. Links are usually highlighted on a web page by being blue and underlined to make them easier to see and click. Once you move your mouse over a link, the mouse's graphic changes from an arrow to a hand; that's another way you know that you're currently looking at something you should click on.
Web browser buttons:
- The home button: Takes you to the page you've designated as your home page within your Web browser.
- The back button: Takes you the previous page you just visited.
- The forward button: Takes you to the page you were just on after you click on the Back button.
- The refresh button: Used to renew the data of the page you're currently looking at.
A website is a collection of individual web pages.
What is a search engine?
A search engine is a tool we can use to search the vast collection of Web pages available to us on the Internet. For more about search engines, read How Does A Search Engine Work? Examples of popular search engines are:
Got more questions about the Web?
This article barely skims the surface of what there is to learn about the Web! Here are a few more resources that will help you learn the basics of being on the Web:
- Web Search Glossary: A comprehensive glossary of basic Web terms.
- How to Pick the Right Search Engine for Your Needs: There are a lot of search engine available to you. Find out which one might serve your unique search needs.
- The Top Ten Web Search Tricks: Now that you've got the basics of being on the Web under your belt, it's time to see what you can do with a search engine.
- What is the Invisible Web?: There is much more to the Web that what can be covered by a simple Web search, and it's called the Invisible Web.
- Ten Ways to Keep Your Search History Private: One of the most basic things we need to do during our time on the Web is to keep ourselves safe and private.