Understanding the Very Basics of the Internet

E-Mail, Network, Internet, World Wide Web, Internet Service Provider, Browser….the list goes on and on of words and catch-phrases that have developed because of the Internet. Even the term “Internet” did not exist prior to the 1980’s. How much do you know and understand about the Internet?

This article is designed to briefly help you understand some terms and concepts that are now a part of our everyday lives. Even if you don’t use a computer every day, you most likely see web page addresses on TV commercials, delivery vehicles and even billboards. So, it is important to at least understand some of the basics of this world-wide phenomenon.

It all starts with computers. A group of 2 or more computers that are linked (by wires, cables and / or wireless connections) is called a network. A large group of specific, interconnected computer networks is what makes up the Internet. Below is a graphical representation.


computer network

representation of Internet




Now that you know what the Internet is, you can understand another important term – World Wide Web. Although the terms Internet and World Wide Web are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. As noted above, the Internet is a collection of interconnected computer networks. The World Wide Web is a collection of interconnected documents and resources. The Internet is the infrastructure; the World Wide Web is the content. In order to have access to the information that makes up the World Wide Web, you must be connected to the Internet.

To be connected to the Internet, you will need to use an Internet Service Provider (abbreviated “ISP”). This company, for a price, will allow you to use your computer (with a modem) to access their network which is connected to the Internet. This can be done through phone lines (dial-up or DSL), cable-TV lines and wireless methods (satellite & other Wi-Fi connections). Once you are able to connect to the Internet Service Provider’s network, you can access the Internet to get e-mail, use the World Wide Web, share files and even listen to music and make phone calls!

One other important aspect of understanding the basics of the Internet is the web browser.  Nearly every computer made in the last 10 years has at least one free browser program included. Some of the most popular browsers are Internet Explorer, Mozilla FireFox, Safari, Netscape and Opera. These browser programs allow the user to see and interact with text, images and other information located on web pages.

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