Internet Basics

The Interstate system consists of roads that connect different states, allowing travelers to access different points across the United States. The traveler has many opportunities to enter and exit the Interstate system at any given point and time. The Internet is similar to the Interstate system since both are designed for high-speed travel and have the potential for easy access and successful navigation. The intent of the Internet Basics chapter is to assist you in having a more successful journey.

What is the Internet?

The Internet is a worldwide telecommunications system that provides connectivity for millions of other, smaller networks; therefore, the Internet is often referred to as a network of networks. It allows computer users to communicate with each other across distance and computer platforms.

The Internet began in 1969 as the U.S. Department of Defense's Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA) to provide immediate communication within the Department in case of war. Computers were then installed at U.S. universities with defense related projects. As scholars began to go online, this network changed from military use to scientific use. As ARPAnet grew, administration of the system became distributed to a number of organizations, including the National Science Foundation (NSF). This shift of responsibility began the transformation of the science oriented ARPAnet into the commercially minded and funded Internet used by millions today.

The Internet acts as a pipeline to transport electronic messages from one network to another network. At the heart of most networks is a server, a fast computer with large amounts of memory and storage space. The server controls the communication of information between the devices attached to a network, such as computers, printers, or other servers.

An Internet Service Provider (ISP) allows the user access to the Internet through their server. Many teachers use a connection through a local university as their ISP because it is free. Other ISPs, such as America Online, telephone companies, or cable companies provide Internet access for their members.

You can connect to the Internet through telephone lines, cable modems, cellphones and other mobile devices.

What makes up the World Wide Web?

The Internet is often confused with the World Wide Web. The misperception is that these two terms are synonymous. The Internet is the collection of the many different systems and protocols. The World Wide Web, developed in 1989, is actually one of those different protocols. As the name implies, it allows resources to be linked with great ease in an almost seamless fashion.

The World Wide Web contains a vast collection of linked multimedia pages that is ever-changing. However, there are several basic components of the Web that allow users to communicate with each other. Below you will find selected components and their descriptions.

TCP/IP protocols
In order for a computer to communicate on the Internet, a set of rules or protocols computers must follow to exchange messages was developed. The two most important protocols allowing computers to transmit data on the Internet are Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP). With these protocols, virtually all computers can communicate with each other. For instance, if a user is running Windows on a PC, he or she can communicate with iPhones.

Domain name system
An Internet address has four fields with numbers that are separated by periods or dots. This type of address is known as an IP address. Rather than have the user remember long strings of numbers, the Domain Name System (DNS) was developed to translate the numerical addresses into words. For example, the address is really

Addresses for web sites are called URLs (Uniform Resource Locators). Most of them begin with http (HyperText Transfer Protocol), followed by a colon and two slashes. For example, the URL for the Florida Center for Instructional Technology is .

Some of the URL addresses include a directory path and a file name. Consequently, the addresses can become quite long. For example, the URL of a web page may be: In this example, "default.htm" is the name of the file which is in a directory named "holocaust" on the FCIT server at the University of South Florida.

Top-level domain
Each part of a domain name contains certain information. The first field is the host name, identifying a single computer or organization. The last field is the top-level domain, describing the type of organization and occasionally country of origin associated with the address.

Top-level domain names include:
.com Commercial
.edu Educational
.gov US Government
.int Organization
.mil US Military
.net Networking Providers
.org Non-profit Organization

Domain name country codes include, but are not limited to:
.au Australia
.de Germany
.fr France
.nl Netherlands
.uk United Kingdom
.us United States

Paying attention to the top level domain may give you a clue as to the accuracy of the information you find. For example, information on a "com" site can prove useful, but one should always be aware that the intent of the site may be to sell a particular product or service. Likewise, the quality of information you find on the "edu" domain may vary. Although many pages in that domain were created by the educational institutions themselves, some "edu" pages may be the private opinions of faculty and students. A common convention at many institutions is to indicate a faculty or student page with a ~ (tilde) in the address. For instance, is a student's personal web page.

Why do I need a browser?

Once you have an account with an Internet service provider, you can access the Web through a browser, such as Safari or Microsoft Internet Explorer. The browser is the application responsible for allowing a user's computer to read and display web documents.

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is the language used to write web pages. A browser takes the HTML and translates it into the content you see on the screen. You will note your cursor turns into a pointing finger over some images or text on the page. This indicates a link to additional information and it can be either a link to additional web pages, email, newsgroups, audio, video, or any number of other exciting files.

For example, if you were to click on Florida Department of Education your browser would link to the Florida Department of Education home page and that web page would open in your screen.

How do I navigate on the Web?

Your browser is equipped with many useful features to assist you in navigating through the Web. Some of these features are:

Menu bar
The menu bar, located at the very top of the screen, can be accessed using the mouse. When you hold down the mouse button over an item in the main menu, a sub menu is "pulled down" that has a variety of options. Actions that are in black can be performed, while actions that cannot be performed will be in gray or lightened. The submenus provide keyboard shortcuts for many common actions, allowing you to implement the functions faster than using the mouse.

Tool bar
The tool bar is located at the top of the browser; it contains navigational buttons for the Web. Basic functions of these buttons include:

Command Function
Home Opens or returns to starting page
Back Takes you to the previous page
Forward Takes you to the next page
Print Prints current page
Stop Stops loading a page
Reload Refresh/redisplays current page
Search Accesses search engine

Location bar
The location bar, below the tool bar, is a box labeled "Location," "GoTo," or "Address." You can type in a site's address, and press the Return or Enter key to open the site.

Status bar
The status bar is located at the very bottom of the browser window. You can watch the progress of a web page download to determine if the host computer has been contacted and text and images are being downloaded.

Scroll bar
The scroll bar is the vertical bar located on the right of the browser window. You can scroll up and down a web page by placing the cursor on the slider control and holding down the mouse button.

|| Contents || Internet Basics || Becoming Good Netizens || Productivity Tools ||
|| Communication Tools || Research Tools || Problem-Solving Tools || Appendices ||

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FCIT Home Publications The Internet: Ideas, Activities, and Resources Last updated 2009 Contents Introduction Previous Next Internet Basics Becoming Good Netizens Productivity Tools Communication Tools Research Tools Problem-Solving Tools Appendices