- THE INTERNET
AND THE WORLD
What is the internet?
- The internet is weird, it is not like anything you can hold
or see or touch. Basically its a vast sea of knowledge and communication.
The net bit is short for network, and really thats all it is, a giant
network of computers, all able to talk to each other.
The whole thing started when the US military wanted to find a way to
distribute its computer resources so as to avoid their traditionally
massive central computers from being blown up during a war. Goodbye
big computers, hello the internet-- lots of small computers far apart
but linked together doing the same work.
The computers mostly "talk" using telephone lines, actually
its pretty horrible to listen to, just a bunch of squeals, clicks and
Well cold war and all that fuss later, we are left with a pretty cool
thing. Its an information resource like books or magazines or libraries
but it is for the most part freely available 24 hrs a day from any computer,
largely uncontrolled by any central bodies like TV or radio, book publishing
are. In short its a place where people can and do chose to share stuff
they know, just for kicks. Just on the off-chance it might be useful
to some one out there.
Its also a communication tool, and again its not really controlled by
anyone like TV or radio is. You dont have to get anyones permission
to put up a website, or start an email list.
- What is
- The world wide web or www or web for short is the biggest
chunk of the internet. (Email is probably the other big piece). The
web came about quite a bit later than the internet, around 1990. It
was a response from the scientific community to their problem of how
to make their research more accessible to each other.
A guy who was working for a swiss particle physics lab (you know, where
they do really interesting things like racing neutrons around olympic
sized underground tunnels at the speed of light) invented the web to
meet their needs. Instead of all those dull dry reports lying buried
in some computers memory, they would be given colour and fonts and formatting,
with links to click to take you to, well, ok, yet more dull and dry
academic reports. But having invented it for academic use, the rest
of the world kinda liked it, and so it just kept growing, and growing.
People from all walks found a use for it, be that sharing cake recipes,
running a government, selling widgets or whatever.
The web is that part of the internet that begins with http://www
, its information that comes packaged as a webpage.
- What is
- A website is made up of webpages. A website is like a book,
filled with webpages. Except that, that book can be sent in a jiffy
across the world in digital form. Except that, that book hasnt killed
any trees. Except that, that book is not read from front to back but
has links which let you follow your interest around it.
Ok, well we could have said all that much shorter, because obviously
the answer to what a webpage is is that you are reading a webpage right
- What is
- Links were mentioned lots above. A hyperlink or link for short
is a piece of text or picture which when clicked takes you to another
page somewhere. It might be another page in the same book or another
page in a completely different book, or completely different country.
Keep an eye on the address bar at the top of the broswer--because that'll
give you an idea of where you are going on your magical mystery tour.
Browing the web as they call it, can be rather chaotic, because you
tend to end up places you didnt plan to go. Just because something caught
you attention. People who have the same interests as you have links
to yet more pages of interest, and so it goes. It can be a bit addictive,
and certainly very time consuming. But most people are richer for it!
Links all used to be blue, and underlined in blue--that was the original
deal. But well chaos took over and now, you have to kindve guess what
colour or thing you have to click.
- So whats
with all the paraphenalia?
- Er, yeah. We agree that all of the https and dot coms and
things take a bit of getting used to. Heres all you need to know it
Heres what an internet 'address' looks like: http://www.ranui.org.nz
/ internet / index.php
The http:// bit is not real important,
in fact you dont need it. Ok that was easy, next. The www
bit just means its a webpage, although some webpage addresses dont have
a www -- dumb, we know.
The .ranui part is called the domain, its
like the book described above, a bundle of pages that relate to one
organisation, in this case Ranui. The .org
part is short for organisation ( there is also
.com or .co for company, and .edu
or .ac for academic of educational bodies,
and .gov or .govt
for government bodies. Theres more but you get the drift). The .nz
is the top level domain.
After that the slash means you are on one computer/website and asking
for access to a different folder in this case its called internet. Lastly
the filename we want to look at is called in this case the rather odd
sounding index.php (index pages are the 'page 1' of each folder)
All those bits of the webaddress are like a road map: you have to go
to the right country, right area, right computer, right folder, right
file. If you get the right address, and the file is still there, then
youll see it come up on your computer screen. If however you took a
wrong turn, or mispelled the address, the computer will probably tell
you that, sorry, the page wasnt found. (Not much help, but then computers
are still dumber than we are.) Also if someone got bored with their
page, while you might have the right address, agian sorry. As its a
free world a person is as free to take their page down as they they
were to put it up. Hint: there a lot of 'Page not found's or broken
links on the web.
Most files on the web end in .html which
is short for hypertext files (neat colorful files with hyperlinks etc)
, this one is only different coz its special, but its still a hypertext
- How does
anyone ever find anything?
- Other than starting somewhere, anywhere and following endless
trails of links, or finding sites by word of mouth, being able to do
a web search is a must. It helps sift the grain from the chaff, find
the needle in the haystack. Theres help on the next page: Searching