"Hey, wait a sec! We can do all that right here with America On line in almost no time. Why, with America Online, you can do everything from selling your car to getting the latest headlines. You can surf the World Wide Web and you can even send e-mail over the Internet. I did that, really!..."
STOP! No, no no, back up and try that again.
Ok, so how many of you know what the Internet really is? There are so many misconceptions and rumors these days that it's hard for the average person to know what's true and what isn't. Well, it's time to change some of that...
What is the Internet
Welcome to Internet 101. Let's start off with what the Internet is not. The Redwood Free-Net is not the Internet. The Microsoft Network is not the Internet. America Online is definitely not the Internet. And finally, the Internet is definitely not some cyber wasteland where the people wear big plastic helmets and gloves, having "virtual sex" with total strangers.
Really, the Internet is just a whole lot of large, powerful and small not-so-powerful computers, each assigned an identification, and connected to the rest by some means or another.
That is one way to define the Internet. However, the Internet is more than the sum of it's parts. It is based on a set of concepts and ideas that, once learned, will help the average user to navigate better and with more understanding.
How the Internet works
In order to use Internet effectively, one must understand how the Internet works. Here are the basics.
Let's start with names. Every computer on the Internet is distinguished from the others by a designation. This designation is expressed in two ways. One of the ways is called a domain name. An example of a domain name is "pacific.net" or "zapcom.net" or "mendocino.cc.ca.us."
A domain name is always a set of characters separated by a period (pronounced as "dot"). It would be read as pacific dot net, or zapcom dot net, or mendocino dot cc dot ca dot us. In navigating the Internet, you will see many different domain names of all lengths and variations.
The other form of designation is called an IP number. An IP number is a string of four numbers separated by dots. Examples of this are 184.108.40.206 or 220.127.116.11.
Most of the time, a computer on the Internet, sometimes called a site, can be referred to by it's domain name thanks to a thing called a DNS, or domain name Server. A domain name server is a piece of software on a remote computer that translates domain names to IP numbers and vice versa, and helps your software to connect to the remote site as quickly as possible.
In regard to names, you might have heard of URLs or E-mail addresses. Well, they are different.
An e-mail address consists of two parts. A user name and a domain name. They are separated by an @ symbol. Some examples are firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. The username is the person or mailbox that you would be trying to reach and the domain name is where they receive their mail.
A URL is also in two parts, the protocol and the domain name. The protocol part dictates the type of connection that your software will use to connect to the remote site. Examples are http://www.mendocino.cc.ca.us/ or
ftp://ftp.apple.com/. The "http://" and, "ftp://" are the protocol parts of these two URLs.
Now let's talk about software and hardware. You've probably heard of a server. A server is a remote computer that a person would connect to. A server can be the actual physical computer that you are connecting to or it can also be the software on the computer that responds to your request to connect to it. Unfortunately the only way to tell the difference is by what context the server is referred to. Examples; "Hey, we're getting a couple more servers down here, so connecting should be a lot faster," or "This computer houses our web server, our news server, and the mail server."
Let's talk about different parts of the Internet. The Internet consists of many different services that are offered by different servers. The main ones are e-mail, web, and news.
I'm sure you know that e-mail is the sending of a letter to a person at a remote address over the Internet.
The Word Wide Web
The "web," as it is commonly referred to, is by far the most popular portion of the Internet. It is the place with all the graphics and sounds that is so advertised about. When you see a URL or a domain name that starts with www on television, it is almost always a web page. Places on the web are referred to as pages, by the way.
News is something entirely different. Think of news as a giant building with over ten-thousand rooms. Each room is a public meeting place for people of a certain interest. These people in these rooms place messages in the room that relate to the subject of the room for anyone else to read.
What Netscape is
I'm sure that most people have heard of Netscape at one time or another. Unfortunately, people also get the wrong idea of what Netscape is also. Netscape is a corporation. The corporation Netscape puts out software called Netscape Navigator. People usually call Netscape Navigator just Netscape. Netscape is currently the most popular "browser" for accessing the web and sets the standard to which browsers are judged. However it is certainly not the only browser out there. There is also a browser made by Microsoft called Microsoft Internet Explorer or 'IE,' which offers almost all the features of Netscape but is still not as popular.
I personally despise Microsoft because of their dominating business practices but their browser is still a very good one. Unfortunately the full-featured version of IE is not yet available for the Macintosh, but of course the latest Netscape is. (I only use Netscape anyhow.)
Since the web is the part of the internet that is the most appealing to the eye, some people think that it is the Internet, but that is very far from the truth. The Internet is really much more.
Well, unfortunately I'm out of space for this issue. Perhaps next issue I'll continue where I left off because there is so much more I can talk about here. Have fun...
Copyright Mendocino College Eagle
Permission granted to excerpt or use this article if source is cited.