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Introduction to the Internet

Read about the History of the Internet

We are in an information age. Now more than ever, moving vast amounts of information quickly across great distances is one of our most pressing needs. From small one-person entrepreneurial efforts, to the largest of corporations, to educational institutions, more and more people are discovering that technology is advancing at a break-neck pace --- and they must somehow keep up. Likewise, researchers from all corners of the earth are finding that their work thrives in a networked environment. Immediate access to the work of colleagues and a "virtual" library of millions of volumes and thousands of papers affords them the ability to use a large body of knowledge. Work groups can now conduct interactive conferences with each other, paying no heed to physical location---the possibilities are endless.

You have at your fingertips the ability to talk in "real-time'' with someone in Japan, send a 2,000-word short story to a group of people who will critique it for the sheer pleasure of doing so, see if a computer sitting in a lab in Canada is turned on, and find out if someone happens to be sitting in front of their computer (logged on) in Australia, all inside of thirty minutes. No airline could ever match that travel itinerary. The largest problem people face when first using a network is grasping all that's available. Even seasoned users find themselves surprised when they discover a new service or feature that they'd never known even existed. Once acquainted with the terminology and sufficiently comfortable with making occasional mistakes, the learning process will drastically speed up.

Key Questions and Answers:

What is the Internet?

In a simple sense, the Internet is simply millions of computers (actually networks of computers) linked to one another. The Internet means literally, a network of networks. It is a collection of computers linked by software and transmission lines. If your computer is linked to the Internet, you can retrieve information from computers throughout the world. The Internet is an amazing story of worldwide collaboration that has benefited students, universities and colleges, the medical communities, businesses, organizations, clubs, libraries, and individuals.

Often when we think about the Internet, we think of the World Wide Web (WWW), the ability to view web pages that include text, graphics, sound, and video. Yet the Internet is much more than the WWW and many of the uses of the Internet predate the WWW. One of the most popular uses of the Internet is email, but the Internet is also used for File Transfer Protocol (FTP), Telnet, Usenet Newsgroups, and Gopher, among others.

The Internet is a rapidly evolving collection of networked networks which may, some day, allow everyone access to digital information and communication world-wide. It does not do so yet because many people around the world lack the equipment and ability to access networks. Yet things are improving daily. A few short years ago it was thought that men would always significantly outnumber women on the Internet, but recent statistics suggest that the numbers are equalizing fast in North America: an estimated 48% of Internet users are women.

What does the Internet offer?

The positive side: The Internet has the ability to shrink the world and bring information (even knowledge) on almost any subject imaginable directly to an individual. Some claim that the Internet is the most significant achievement in the history of humankind and that it will change civilization permanently. "What happens when millions of people gather in a safe place to talk and share?" (Harley Hahn, The Internet Complete Reference, Second Edition, 1996)

The negative side: The Internet may be creating a rift within the human family. Increasingly there will be two kinds of people: those who understand the Internet and have access to it, and those who do not. How can we deal with this potential problem?

How much do I need to know?

How much detailed, technical information must one have to use the Internet? Hint: The Internet is easy to use but it is not easy to use well. To maximize the benefit of Internet access, we must dedicate ourselves to learning at least the basic skills and concepts involved.

How does the Internet work?

Here's a brief diagram to help illustrate how the Internet works. Click on any individual area for a more in-depth description.

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What is the history of the Internet?

The history of the Internet begins in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Computers were large, heavy and very expensive and used many different operating systems. Because of these features and the limited access many people had to travel far to use computers and often time was limited. Thus scientists wanted to find a way to network computers and ease access as well as create a scholarly network. J.C.R. Licklider was one of the early pioneers of the Internet. In 1960 he wrote the seminal paper, "Man-Computer Symbiosis," that inspired many working on the networking of computers. From 1957 to 1963, Licklider worked for Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN), the company that would successfully bid to build the first Internet. In 1962, Licklider was recruited by the Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) and was a critical force behind the development of ARPANET. In a 1968 essay entitled "The Computer as Communication Device," Licklider argued that "in a few years, men will be able to communicate more effectively through a machine than face to face."

Created in in 1969, ARPANET linked four mainframe computers at Stanford Research Institute, the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah. The network was designed to be like a distributed web with several nodes that branched off rather than one central communication center. This design was developed almost simultaneously by three researchers who all had knowledge of each other's work: Leonard Klienrock of MIT, Paul Baran of Rand Corporation and Donald Davies of the British Particle Physics Laboratory. The design was based on the technology of packet switching. This technology meant that instead of having each computer connected with every other computer moving data between them in a steady flow, packets of information were sent. Data was broken into chunks or packets and the packets were sent on a number of lines to reach the final destination. This allows a number of users to be using the same line at the same time. By June 1970, MIT, Harvard, BBN, and Systems Development Corp (SDC) in Santa Monica, California, were added. By January 1971, Stanford, MIT's Lincoln Labs, Carnegie-Mellon, and Case-Western Reserve U were added. In months to come, NASA/Ames, Mitre, Burroughs, RAND, and the U of Illinois plugged in. After that, there were far too many to keep listing here. For a few of the companies involved, the Internet was designed in part to provide a communications network that would work even if some of the sites were destroyed by nuclear attack. If the most direct route was not available, routers would direct traffic around the network via alternate routes (however, most of the researches were more interested in connecting computers).

The early Internet was used by computer experts, engineers, and scientists. There was nothing friendly about it. There were no home or office personal computers in those days, and anyone who used it, whether a computer professional or an engineer or scientist, had to learn to use a very complex system. The Internet matured in the 70s as a result of the TCP/IP architecture first proposed by Bob Kahn at BBN and further developed by Kahn and Vint Cerf at Stanford and others throughout the 70s. It was adopted by the Defense Department in 1980 and universally adopted by 1983. Ethernet, a protocol for many local networks, appeared in 1974, an outgrowth of Harvard student Bob Metcalfe's dissertation on "Packet Networks." The dissertation was initially rejected for not being analytical enough. It later won acceptance when he added some more equations to it. The Unix to UNIX Copy Protocol (UUCP) was invented in 1978 at Bell Labs. Usenet was started in 1979 based on UUCP. Newsgroups, which are discussion groups focusing on a topic, provided a means for exchanging information throughout the world . While Usenet is not considered as part of the Internet, since it does not share the use of TCP/IP, it linked UNIX systems around the world, and many Internet sites took advantage of the availability of newsgroups. It was a significant part of the community building that took place on the networks. Similarly, BITNET (Because It's Time Network) connected IBM mainframes around the educational community and the world to provide mail services beginning in 1981. Listserv software was developed for this network and later others. Listservs provided a way to do mass emailing to groups of users. Gateways were developed to connect BITNET with the Internet and allowed exchange of email, particularly for email discussion lists. These listservs and other forms of email discussion lists formed another major element in the community building that was taking place.

In 1986, the National Science Foundation funded NSFNET as a cross country 56 Kbps backbone for the Internet. They maintained their sponsorship for nearly a decade, setting rules for its non-commercial government and research uses. As the commands for email, FTP, and telnet were standardized, it became easier for non-technical people to learn to use the nets. It was not easy by today's standards by any means, but it did open use of the Internet to many more people in universities. Other departments besides the computer, physics, and engineering departments found ways to make good use of the nets--to communicate with colleagues around the world and to share files and resources. Libraries, which had been automating their catalogs went a step further and made their automated catalogs available to the world.

While the number of sites on the Internet was small, it was fairly easy to keep track of the resources that were available. But as more and more universities and organizations connected, the Internet became harder and harder to track. There was more and more need for tools to index the resources that were available.

The first effort to index the Internet was created in 1989, as Peter Deutsch and his crew at McGill University in Montreal, created an archiver for ftp sites, which they named Archie. This software would periodically reach out to all known openly available ftp sites, list their files, and build a searchable index of the software. The commands to search Archie were UNIX commands, and it took some knowledge of UNIX to use it to its full capability. McGill University, which hosted the first Archie, found out one day that half the Internet traffic going into Canada from the United States was accessing Archie. Administrators were concerned that the University was subsidizing such a volume of traffic, and closed down Archie to outside access. Fortunately, by that time, there were many more Archies available.

At about the same time, Brewster Kahle, then at Thinking Machines Corporation, developed his Wide Area Information Server (WAIS), which would index the full text of files in a database and allow searches of the files. There were several versions with varying degrees of complexity and capability developed, but the simplest of these were made available to everyone on the nets. At its peak, Thinking Machines maintained pointers to over 600 databases around the world which had been indexed by WAIS. They included such things as the full set of Usenet Frequently Asked Questions files, the full documentation of working papers by those developing the Internet's standards, and much more. Like Archie, its interface was far from intuitive, and it took some effort to learn to use it well.

In 1991, the first friendly interface to the Internet was developed at the University of Minnesota. The University wanted to develop a simple menu system to access files and information on campus through their local network. A debate followed between mainframe adherents and those who believed in smaller systems with client-server architecture. The mainframe adherents "won" the debate initially, but since the client-server advocates said they could put up a prototype very quickly, they were given the go-ahead to do a demonstration system. The demonstration system was called a gopher after the University of Minnesota mascot--the golden gopher. Gopher proved to be very prolific, and within a few years there were over 10,000 gophers around the world. It takes no knowledge of UNIX or computer architecture to use. In a gopher system, a user would type or click on a number to select the menu selection he/she wanted. You can use the U of Minnesota gopher today to pick gophers from all over the World

Gopher's usability was enhanced much more when the University of Nevada at Reno developed the VERONICA searchable index of gopher menus. It was purported to be an acronym for Very Easy Rodent-Oriented Netwide Index to Computerized Archives. A spider crawled gopher menus around the world, collecting links and retrieving them for the index. It was so popular that it was very hard to connect to, even though a number of other VERONICA sites were developed to ease the load. Similar indexing software was developed for single sites, called JUGHEAD (Jonzy's Universal Gopher Hierarchy Excavation And Display). Peter Deutsch, who developed Archie, always insisted that Archie was short for Archiver, and had nothing to do with the comic strip. He was disgusted when VERONICA and JUGHEAD appeared.

In 1989 another significant event took place in making the nets easier to use. Tim Berners-Lee and others at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, more popularly known as CERN, proposed a new protocol for information distribution. This protocol, which became the World Wide Web in 1991, was based on hypertext--a system of embedding links in text to link to other texts. The text pages of the Internet are called lexias. Although started before gopher, it was slower to develop. The development in 1993 of the graphical browser Mosaic by Marc Andreessen and his team at the National Center For Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) gave the protocol its big boost. Later, Andreessen moved to become the brains behind Netscape, which produced the most successful graphical browser and server until Microsoft declared war and developed its MicroSoft Internet Explorer. A browser is an application that allows users to "browse" the Internet by downloading web pages onto their computers. A browser is used by a client (you) to access the web pages on the Internet. A server (a regular computer but often faster and with larger memory and storage capacities) "serves" the pages to clients. The web pages are stored on the hard drive of the server and through the use of server software it is able to do its work.

Since the Internet was initially funded by the government, it was originally limited to research, education, and government uses. Commercial uses were prohibited unless they directly served the goals of research and education. This policy continued until the early 1990s, when independent commercial networks began to grow. It then became possible to route traffic across the country from one commercial site to another without passing through the government funded NSFNET Internet backbone. Delphi was the first national commercial online service to offer Internet access to its subscribers. It opened up an email connection in July 1992 and full Internet service in November 1992. All pretenses of limitations on commercial use disappeared in May 1995 when the National Science Foundation ended its sponsorship of the Internet backbone, and all traffic relied on commercial networks. AOL, Prodigy, and CompuServe came online. Since commercial usage was so widespread by this time and educational institutions had been paying their own way for some time, the loss of NSF funding did not change costs.

Today, NSF funding has moved beyond supporting the backbone and higher educational institutions to building the K-12 and local public library accesses, on the one hand, and the research on the massive high volume connections, on the other hand. Microsoft's full scale entry into the browser, server, and Internet Service Provider market completed the major shift over to a commercially based Internet. The release of Windows 98 in June 1998 with the Microsoft browser well integrated into the desktop shows Bill Gates' determination to capitalize on the enormous growth of the Internet. Microsoft's success over the past few years has brought court challenges to their dominance.

A current trend with major implications for the future is the growth of high speed connections. 56K modems and the providers who support them are spreading widely, but this is just a small step compared to what will follow. 56K is not fast enough to carry multimedia, such as sound and video except in low quality. But new technologies many times faster, such as cable modems, digital subscriber lines (DSL), and satellite broadcast are available in limited locations now, and will become widely available in the next few years. These technologies present problems, not just in the user's connection, but in maintaining high speed data flow reliably from source to the user. Those problems are being worked on, too.

By 1989, 100,000 computers were linked to the Internet, but this would soon be dwarfed by the explosive growth of the 1990s. Today, there is really no accurate count of the number of individual machines connected to Internet. Recent figures place the number Internet users worldwide at 150 million. It is estimated that by the year 2000, 327 million people around the world will have Internet access. The top 15 countries will account for nearly 82% of the these worldwide Internet users (including business, educational, and home Internet users). By the year 2000, there will be 25 countries where over 10% of the population will be Internet users.

Brief Internet Timeline

1957: USSR launches Sputnik, the first satellite. In response, the U.S. forms the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) within the Department of Defense to establish a US lead in science and technology.

1962: The first theoretical paper is published by a US scientist dealing with the creation of a communications network using a revolutionary new computer networking technology. This leads to the first discussion of an "Inter-networking" of computers connecting the nation's research centers and colleges.

1969: ARPANET is commissioned by the Defense Department to begin research into computer networking. Later that year, the first portions of the experimental system go online at UCLA, Stanford Research Institute, the University of Utah, and the University of California at Santa Barbara.

1971: 23 computers are now connected to the early Internet, and can exchange information between each other in experimental ways.

1972: The first email program is created to send messages across the network. Thus, email holds the title as being the first official Internet communications tool.

1973: First international connections to the ARPANET go online in Norway and England.

1979: Usenet newsgroups established between Duke and the University of North Carolina.

1982: The Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) is approved as the communication standard for ARPANET. This leads to the first definition of an "Internet" as a connected set of networks using the protocol, which remains in use today.

1983: Desktop computers become widely available to the public at somewhat affordable prices.

1984: Number of computers on the ARPANET breaks 1,000.

1986: The National Science Foundation creates a new part of the ARPANET which allows for nongovernment online traffic (NSFNet). Later that year, the first nongovernment citizens begin to hook up to the ARPANET.

1987: Number of computers on ARPANET breaks 10,000.

1988: First K-12 schools in the United States connect to the system, mostly to utilize its email capabilities.

1989: Number of computers on ARPANET breaks 100,000. First email relay begins between a commercial online service (CompuServe) and the ARPANET goes live.

1990: ARPANET ceases to exist. The network is now officially referred to as the Internet.

1992: The World Wide Web is created by a research facility in Switzerland. Number of computers on the Internet breaks 1,000,000. First audio multicast (March) and video multicast (November).

1993: US White House comes online just after the National Information Infrastructure (NII) Act is passed. Stephen King is the first author to publish a short story via the Internet (September). Businesses and media start to take an interest in the Internet as the number of users climbs above 10 million. The World Wide Web grows at a 300,000 percent annual growth rate of service traffic.

1994: US Senate and House bring information servers online. First flower shop (Grant's Florist in the US) begins taking orders via the Internet. Shopping malls, advertising, and mass marketing find their way online. Total number of computers hooked to the Internet: 2,864,000. Number of countries reachable by email: 140. Total Internet users by the end of the year: 14 million.

1996: The controversial US Communications Decency Act becomes law in the US in order to prohibit distribution of indecent materials over the Net. A few months later a three-judge panel imposes an injunction against its enforcement.

1997: US Supreme Court declares Communications Decency Act unconstitutional and unenforceable.

1998: Compaq, Intel, and Microsoft team up with major local phone service providers GTE and four of Bell companies (all except Bell Atlantic) to develop technology that would improve Internet access to a speed of 1.5 million bits a second.

Further information about the World Wide Web is available at these sites:

Who runs the Internet?

The Internet is a massive, cooperative enterprise run by lots of people -- and nobody. It has no president, no CEO, no single authority figure. The lack of a strict, centralized focus of power means that the Internet can be described as a free-spirited, creative environment, as well as the ultimate in disorganization and chaos.

The Internet Society

So far, the ultimate source of guidance for the Internet rests with a voluntary membership organization - the Internet Society. The Internet Society is a nongovernmental, International organization for global cooperation and coordination for the Internet and its internetworking technologies and applications. The Society is governed by its Board Of Trustees elected by its membership around the world.

In turn, the Internet Society recruits volunteers to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the Internet Architecture Board (IAB). The InterNIC is a cooperative activity between the National Science Foundation, AT&T, and Network Solutions, Inc. It is a good source for information and the latest news regarding the Internet. As of this writing, it is also responsible for overseeing the domain name system (but this important task will soon be handled by another group).

How do I get connected?

Internet accesses and interfaces vary greatly. How you connect will depend upon your particular situation (i.e., do you work at a university or a large business, or are you an individual wishing to connect from home?). While there are many paths to the Internet, currently there are two basic types of connection: dial-up access (via a modem and telephone line) or a "hard wired" direct connection. To use the Internet you will need: a computer; client program(s) running on your computer; and a way to connect your computer to the Net (communications software and a link to a host computer that is tied to the Internet backbone).

Internet Access via telephone: Dial-up to a local network

What you need:

  • Hardware: a modem and telephone line
  • Shell account (for terminal emulation, text-based interface only)
  • TCP/IP software
  • A PPP account ("Point-to-Point" connection = full-fledged Internet access with a graphical interface)

Example: John attaches a modem to his computer and installs some communication software (so that the modem will dial-up and connect his computer to another computer on the Internet). John may subscribe to an Internet Service Provider (ISP) that will provide his link to the Internet. He may also run TCP/IP software on his computer so that he has full Internet access (a graphical user interface) with a PPP (point to point protocol) connection.

Internet Access via Direct connection ("hard-wired")

What you need:

  • Hardware: Ethernet connection, Ethernet card, drop cable
  • Software: TCP/IP software, FTP Software; MacTCP; Windows
  • An IP (Internet Protocol) Address unique to your computer

Example: A university has set up a local area network (LAN) on its campus, linking all of its computers with an Ethernet system. This LAN gets access to the Internet by making a connection via a leased phone line to a regional network (which has a gateway to the Internet). A student or staff person who has access to the university local area network then has 24-hour access to the Internet.

What is the World Wide Web?

The World Wide Web (variously referred to as "the Web", WWW, or W3) is a part of the Internet that allows users to traverse systems of linked documents simply by clicking on highlighted items. Increasingly, the WWW is becoming the unifying interface of the Internet because of its ease of use, its graphical interface, and its comprehensive coverage of an amazing range of Internet resources. WWW is based on the concept of hypertext data that links to other data.

What is Hypermedia and Hypertext?

Hypertext is the non-linear presentation of text (vs. the more traditional linear approach of the hard-copy print world). Hypertext allows one to jump back and forth between ideas and related resources. Hypertext documents have words that are underlined (and often appearing in a different color or font). Clicking on one of these "links" will move you to another text document (not necessarily on the same machine as the original document), or to a graphic, sound, or full-motion video clip. Like hypertext, hypermedia refers to the nonlinear presentation of a wide range of other media such as graphics and sound.


All Web pages are written in a language called HTML -- Hypertext Markup Language. HTML is also described as a "document page description" and is simply ordinary ASCII (plain text) with embedded codes (called "tags"). These tags give the instructions on how the text is to be displayed by the browser. We will explore HTML in greater detail in later cybermodules.

All Web documents are written in HTML. HTML tags describe the content or structure of a Web document. It is simply a method of marking a document in such a way that Web browser software will display it properly. While HTML seems like a simple language, it is a powerful means of creating your own interactive hypermedia presence on the Internet. An HTML tag is a specific word or abbreviation enclosed between a "lesser than" symbol < and a "greater than" symbol > . Often an HTML tag is actually a pair of tags - the starting tag (a word) and the end tag (the same word preceded by a slash / ). The pair of tags effects everything between them. For example, you will enclose your entire home page between a beginning tag <HTML> and a closing tag </HTML>. [See "A Beginner's Guide to HTML" for a complete list of tags.]

Versions of HTML

HTML was first developed at CERN (European Particle Physics Laboratory) in 1989. There are several versions of HTML in use right now: HTML 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 3.2, various beta versions, etc. The current, official standard is HTML 3.2. Newer, enhanced versions of HTML are always under development and are constantly under consideration by the W3C - the WWW Consortium) as the next possible standard. Important Note: Each Web browser is designed to read a particular version of HTML. It is probably not possible to create an HTML text that will work well with all Web browsers. When designing a page, keep in mind your target audience. Many people do not (or cannot) run the most current Web browsers capable of reading the state-of-the-art HTML tags. While the temptation may be great to incorporate the latest HTML tags, remember that they may not be visible to some of your readers. In some circumstances, it may be wise to be conservative and opt for the use of older HTML standards.

Browser Extensions and Plugins

Many people have been frustrated with the lengthy process involved in standardizing new-and-improved HTML tags and innovations. And some have decided to forge ahead without the blessings of the W3C. For example, Netscape has created some "extensions" (additional tags and attributes) to both HTML 2.0 and HTML 3.X. Netscape is trying to work closely with the W3C and many of the Netscape extensions are being proposed for inclusion in the next official HTML standard. However, be aware that in using Netscape extensions, your Web page may not display properly in all browsers (i.e., not all browsers can read Netscape extensions). Plugins have been designed to help browsers do other kinds of things such as display multimedia and animation. More on this later.

What is a Web Browser?

The Web is built on the client-server software model. Some computers run World Wide Web server software (and therefore are sometimes referred to as "Web Servers".) These Web servers make hypertext and hypermedia documents available to those computers running Web clients, most often known as "browsers". In order to read a hypertext document on the WWW, you will need a client software program or browser installed on your computer.

Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer are the most common browsers in use today (You may also still encounter Mosaic and Lynx). Netscape Navigator is the program we will use in this program.


NETSCAPE NAVIGATOR for WINDOWS. You will need the following:

  • A 386 or better PC computer
  • Windows 3.1, Windows for Workgroups, Windows 95/98, or Windows NT
  • At least 8 MB of RAM (preferably more!)
  • About 5 MB of space on your hard drive
  • A connection to the Internet (either via your office Ethernet connection or using a fast modem and a PPP connection)
  • TCP/IP software (included in the Windows 95 and MacIntosh System 7.X systems)
  • Some version of Netscape Navigator
  • If you ftp Netscape Navigator, you will find both 16-bit and
  • 32-bit (for Windows 95 and NT) versions available.

Netscape Navigator is available free to those affiliated with an educational institution. Several different versions of Netscape Navigator are currently in circulation. The higher the version number, the more features that are incorporated into the program. However, remember that more features will require more computer resources (more memory, speed, storage space). While you will certainly want to run the latest, snazziest version possible, try to match the best program version to your computer's capabilities. (Also, be aware that only Windows 95 and Windows NT can run the 32-bit version of Netscape Navigator.)

  • Netscape Navigator version 1.1N; 1.2; 2.0; 2.01; 2.02
  • Netscape Navigator 3.0 (for Windows 3.1)
  • Netscape Navigator Gold 3.0 (for Windows 95/98 and Windows NT)
  • Netscape Communicator (Navigator 4.5)

What is an Internet Address (URL)?

Every computer on the Internet has a unique address. Understanding the Internet addressing system is crucial to using the Internet.

How Computers Communicate with Computers:

Computers identify each other by IP (Internet Protocol) addresses.

IP numbers range from to

For example, the computer has an IP address of =

You can use an IP address anywhere you would use a regular address.

Dynamic vs. Static IP addresses:

Once you connect to the Internet, your computer is considered a "host computer" (no matter whether it is modest desktop computer or a large mainframe). All Internet hosts must have a unique IP number. You may have a permanent IP number (called a Static IP address) assigned to you and your computer system will automatically use this same number each time you connect to the Internet. Alternatively, you may be assigned a Dynamic IP address by your ISP (Internet Service Provider ). This number will be different each time you connect to the Internet (your PPP connection will take care of this automatically for you).


How People Communicate with People

People communicate with each other by exchanging and using

addresses. email addresses identify both the person and the computer. (

How People Communicate with Computers:

People use "host" names or the Domain Name System (DNS) to identify computers. A DNS server keeps track of addresses on the Internet, converting domain names back and forth from IP addresses. There are two types of top-level domains: organizational and geographical. (

More on Domains

Getting where you want to go can often be one of the more difficult aspects of using networks. The variety of ways that places are named will probably leave a blank stare on your face at first. Don't fret; there is a method to this apparent madness. If someone were to ask for a home address, they would probably expect a street, apartment, city, state, and zip code. That's all the information the post office needs to deliver mail in a reasonably speedy fashion. Likewise, computer addresses have a structure to them. The general form is:

a person's email address on a computer: user@somewhere.domain

a computer's name: somewhere.domain

The user portion is usually the person's account name on the system, though it doesn't have to be. somewhere.domain tells you the name of a system or location, and what kind of organization it is. The trailing domain is often one of the following:

  • com: Usually a company or other commercial institution or organization, like Convex Computers (
  • edu: An educational institution, e.g. New York University, named
  • gov: A government site; for example, NASA is
  • mil: A military site, like the Air Force (
  • net: Gateways and other administrative hosts for a network (it does not mean all of the hosts in a
  • org: This is a domain reserved for private organizations, who don't comfortably fit in the other classes of domains. One example is the Electronic Frontier Foundation, named
  • Each country also has its own top-level domain. For example, the us domain includes each of the fifty states. Other countries represented with domains include:
  • au:Australia
  • ca:Canada
  • fr:France
  • uk: The United Kingdom. These also have sub-domains of things like for academic sites and for commercial ones.

The proper terminology for a site's domain name (somewhere.domain above) is its Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN). It is usually selected to give a clear indication of the site's organization or sponsoring agent. For example, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's FQDN is; similarly, Apple Computer's domain name is While such obvious names are usually the norm, there are the occasional exceptions that are ambiguous enough to mislead---like, which on first impulse one might surmise is an educational institution of some sort in Vermont; not so. It's actually the domain name for Virginia Tech. In most cases it's relatively easy to glean the meaning of a domain name---such confusion is far from the norm.

More on Internet Numbers

The Internet uses a 32-bit number, but is most commonly represented as four numbers joined by periods (.), like This is sometimes also called a dotted quad; there are literally thousands of different possible dotted quads. The ARPAnet (the mother to today's Internet) originally only had the capacity to have up to 256 systems on it because of the way each system was addressed. In the early eighties, it became clear that things would fast outgrow such a small limit; the 32-bit addressing method was born, freeing thousands of host numbers.

Each piece of an Internet address (like 192) is called an "octet,'' representing one of four sets of eight bits. The first two or three pieces (e.g., 192.55.239) represent the network that a system is on, called its subnet. For example, all of the computers for Wesleyan University are in the subnet 129.133. They can have numbers like,, up to 65 thousand possible combinations (possible computers).

IP addresses and domain names aren't assigned arbitrarily---that would lead to unbelievable confusion. An application must be filed with the Network Information Center (NIC), either electronically (to or via regular mail.

More on Resolving Names and Numbers

Computers can be referred to by either their FQDN or their Internet address. How can one user be expected to remember them all?

They aren't. The Internet is designed so that one can use either method. Since humans find it much more natural to deal with words than numbers in most cases, the FQDN for each host is mapped to its Internet number. Each domain is served by a computer within that domain, which provides all of the necessary information to go from a domain name to an IP address, and vice-versa. For example, when someone refers to, the resolver knows that it should ask the system about systems in It asks what Internet address has; if the name really exists, foovax will send back its number. All of this "magic'' happens behind the scenes.

Rarely will a user have to remember the Internet number of a site (although often you'll catch yourself remembering an apparently obscure number, simply because you've accessed the system frequently). However, you will remember a substantial number of FQDNs. It will eventually reach a point when you are able to make a reasonably accurate guess at what domain name a certain college, university, or company might have, given just their name.

URLs (Uniform Resource Locator)

To navigate the Internet, we will need to understand the URL, the Uniform Resource Locator. A URL is a way of naming network resources in a consistent fashion. A URL includes not only the electronic address of a resource, but its "prefix" identifies the protocol of the transmission. Some examples are:

Telnet: telnet:// (login: uwinfo)

FTP: File Transfer protocol :


Hypertext Transfer Protocol: [Note: WWW URLs are case-sensitive]

Electronic Mail Address : email://

What are Internet Client/Server "Tools"?

We make use of the Internet by running various client/server programs. Each type of client makes it possible for us to take advantage of a different Internet resource. For example, when you want to send a piece of electronic mail, you use a mail client. When you want to browse the Web, you use a Web client, and so on. Servers are programs that provide Internet resources. Clients are programs that we use to access those Internet Resources. Therefore, the Internet is basically composed of two types of computer programs: servers and clients. Client/Server applications give us the "tools" to make use of the Internet.

The Internet Toolbox

The three basic tools of the Internet Toolbox (the screwdriver, hammer, and pliers) are electronic mail, telnet, and ftp. If you have a basic understanding of these three activities, you can do anything-and-everything on the Internet!


Electronic mail is the most widely used service on the Internet.


Allows you to connect remotely to another computer.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)

File Transfer Protocol allows you to move files from one computer to another. Also known as "Downloading/Uploading". Anonymous ftp is one of the most important services on the Internet (you can copy from other computers valuable information and software for free).

There are many client programs available for each of these activities. For example, you may choose to use Pilot, PINE, Pegasus, Eudora, Netscape Messenger, or Outlook for your email client. Telnet and file transfer protocol are such important tools that most computer operating systems (i.e., Windows. 3.X, Windows 95/98/NT, Macintosh System 7.X/8.X/9.X) include some basic version of these handy programs. However, many users like to upgrade their system software and choose to install more full-featured versions of telnet and ftp. Many telnet and ftp applications are available at no cost (freeware) or a modest fee (shareware). For example, two popular telnet applications for Windows 95 are QVT/Term and WinTel . A powerful, full-featured ftp program is WS-FTP LE. But there are many choices and much depends upon your computer system and your personal preferences. See the large Internet software database at for a wide selection of downloadable applications.

NOTE: Web browsers are now incorporating these three basic tools into their interface. This means that you may perform email, telnet, and ftp without having to leave the web browser.


Telnet is the main Internet protocol for creating a connection with a remote machine. It gives the user the opportunity to be on one computer system and do work on another, which may be across the street or thousands of miles away. Where modems are limited, in the majority, by the quality of telephone lines and a single connection, telnet provides a connection that's error-free and nearly always faster than the latest conventional modems.

Using Telnet

The command for negotiating a telnet connection varies from system to system. The most common is telnet itself, though.

To open the connection, type the following in the host window:



Password: yourpassword

Telnet Ports

Many telnet clients also include a third option, the port on which the connection should take place. Normally, port 23 is the default telnet port; the user never has to think about it. But sometimes it's desirable to telnet to a different port on a system, where there may be a service available, or to aid in debugging a problem. Using


telnet somewhere.domain port

will connect the user to the given port on the system somewhere.domain. Many libraries use this port method to offer their facilities to the general Internet community; other services are also available. For instance, one would type


telnet 3000


Gopher was developed at the University of Minnesota in 1991 (the gopher is their mascot). It also may be seen as a play on words--GOPHER software allows one to "go for" information.

It is an application that organizes access to resources (text files) throughout the Internet. The interface is always the same, no matter where you are. Gopher uses a hierarchical menu-driven system. Gopher is easier to use than any other service of the Internet and, until recently, allowed access to a larger variety of services and information than anything else on the Internet. Though it is quickly being superseded in many places by WWW, there are still many valuable gopher servers available. [see gopher://]

Veronica is a gopher-based program that allows one to search gopher servers worldwide for a particular item. A Veronica server maintains a searchable database of all the known gopher menus (updated periodically). However, many of the search engines of the WWW (accessible through a Web browser) will also search gopher resources for you. So, in doing serious research, you may want to try both a Veronica server directly and a WWW search engine to thoroughly canvas gopher resources.


USENET stands for "User's Network". It is a huge system of discussion groups in which articles (email postings) are distributed throughout the world. The original concept was to create a virtual bulletin board in order to display news and notices. Usenet is often also called NETNEWS or simply, the NEWS. Over 13,000 Usenet groups exist! Each Internet site (such as MSU) makes a decision whether or not to have a "feed" for Usenet, and which groups to carry. Unlike subscribing to a listserv mailing list (where mail comes directly to your private email account), you must go to the local Usenet server in order to read the latest postings. You must have a client "reader" to read or post to Usenet. However, many web browsers (Netscape Navigator) are now incorporating a newsreader as part of their service.


The World Wide Web (WWW) allows users to traverse systems of linked documents simply by clicking on highlighted items. WWW is based on the concept of hypertext - data that contains links to other data. In order to read a hypertext document, you will need a client software program commonly called a "browser". Netscape Navigator, Mosaic, and Lynx are the most common browsers in use today.

What makes the Web so powerful and useful is that a hypertext link might connect to any type of Internet resource: a text file, a telnet session, a Gopher, a Usenet newsgroup, a graphic file, a file containing 3-D animation, etc.

The following is a more complete list of all the activities on the Internet (Did I miss your favorite? Let me know!), some more widely used or popular than others. All of them may be referred to variously as Internet protocols, Internet client/server applications, Internet "tools" or services, etc. While the nomenclature may vary, one thing is certain: the Internet is changing constantly (on a hourly basis). The World Wide Web is quickly becoming people's first and most commonly used interface for accessing the Internet (but remember, even this could change!).

For now, you may choose to run your email, ftp, and telnet sessions, as well as read your Usenet newsgroups via a Web browser. Using just one client (the Web browser) to accomplish all of these tasks has many advantages. It may be most convenient to have only one application open on your computer and it is certainly easier to learn just one interface rather than many. We have a similar situation when must chose to go either the "one-stop-shopping" supermarket or the specialized GreenGrocer. On the other hand, while Web browsers are constantly improving these added features (such as email, newsreaders, talk, conferencing sessions) you may still wish to install and run additional, stand-alone clients (such as a ftp application) to take advantage of their specialized, full-featured capabilities.

What is a Web Server?

To publish documents on the Web, you will need access to a "server". You will store your Web documents in a special directory (created just for your files) on that Web server's hard drive. A server is just a computer connected to the Internet which runs Web client/server software (meaning it uses HTTP Hypertext Transfer Protocol to listen for requests for files from browsers and then delivers the files). The Web server waits until a Web browser connects to it (via it's URL) and makes a request. The Web server then locates the appropriate file and sends it back to the browser. The first Web program ran on a UNIX system and therefore many Web server software programs continue to be written for the UNIX platform. The two most widely used are CERN'S HTTPD and NCSA's HTTPD both free. However, there is now a flood of PC and Macintosh software for running a web server.

Server access then is obviously very important: it's what allows an HTML file to really become a web page that can be accessed by everyone else on the world wide web. As a student at MSU, you have free access to a web server based on your email account. The server space is named after the file system used to run and organize the system, "AFS." But you do have alternatives:

  • Geocities. This is a service that provides the server access for free web pages to anyone. They give you lots of space-- 20 megs-- and the interface for uploading files and setting up directories is very easy. There are some significant problems with Geocities, though. They make their money from advertising, so every time you bring up a Geocities web page, you also bring up advertising that appears in a separate window that is very annoying for those folks coming to visit your site. Plus, because the volume at Geocities is quite high, sometimes it can take a long time for pages to load.
  • Another "free web page" service. There are a lot of other places to turn besides Geocities-- tripod and xoom are two that come to mind. I'm less experienced with these services, but as far as I can tell, they are similar to Geocities. One very useful resource for finding out more about getting free web pages is "FreeWebspace.Net," which is a searchable directory of free web hosting companies. The site features lots of links and information to the many companies-- large and small, good and bad-- that provide free web server space. One last thing to keep in mind with the "free" option: you do get what you pay for. If reliability and flexibility in your web design are going to be important in your work, you might want to consider one of the other options I describe here.
  • A commercial Internet service provider (ISP) of your own. There are a wide variety of local and national services that provide email, Internet access, and Web server access for less than $20 a month. For some, this is a potentially useful option, and some of you who already have some sort of ISP that you're paying for may want to check with this company for details on what's available.

What is a Home Page?

Sometimes also called Web documents or a Web page or a Lexia, a home page is a single file, stored on the hard drive of a Web server (a computer running Web server software), which is retrieved and formatted by a Web browser. Your Web page contains text and hypermedia (graphics, sound files, video clips, etc. if you chose) and is constructed (behind the scenes) with HTML. The home page is the first of your set of Web pages. It is the place where most people start exploring or "browsing " your set of Web pages. You may have just one "page" or you may develop a Web site that has many linked documents.

A Web page devoted to your course(s) makes it possible for your course syllabus, lecture notes, readings, and extracurricular materials to be available on-line 24 hours to your students. Also, the immediate nature of Web publishing can greatly accelerate and enhance the exchange of research data and ideas, and stimulate conversation among colleagues. Also, web pages are increasingly useful as a way of organizing and disseminating information within a business office or any institution.

For your own personal use, a Web page might be the place where you develop and store a copy of your curriculum vitae and publish your work. Also, a Web page can be used "off-line" (not connected to the Internet) as your own personal information manager. You can keep track of important references, addresses, notes, frequently visited Internet sites, etc.

What do I need to create a web page?

Minimum Requirements:

  • A computer running a text editor or some word processing program
  • A basic understanding of HTML tags
  • An account on a Web server

Ideal Situation:

  • A computer with an Internet connection, running a Web Browser (so that you can view your Web page in progress)
  • A word processor (and/or Web Authoring software)
  • A basic understanding of HTML tags
  • An account on a Web server or your own Web server software installed on your desktop computer.
  • Access to graphics software to help you prepare images for you Web page (for example, Adobe Photoshop )
  • A File Transfer Protocol utility (the means to move your Web documents to your account on the Web server)
  • A Web Editor (Visual Page, Netscape Composer, PageMill, Dreamweaver) that allows you to create web pages without needing to type HTML tags.

What may I put on my Web Page?

Each Network and/or local Web server administrator may post some version of an acceptable use policy. Check the MSUnet Acceptable Use Policy for an example of typical guidelines on the creation and appropriate use of a Web page [see the full policy statement under the MSU Gopher, gopher://]. As you might guess, common sense prevails is not to use a Web page for harassment, private business or for-profit advertising.

Also, when designing and building your home page, you will want to be careful to observe copyright restrictions when displaying the works of other authors, artists, designers, etc.

What are Key Internet Terms?


(Advanced Digital Network) -- Usually refers to a 56Kbps leased-line.


See these related term(s): DSL


Anonymous FTP
See these related term(s): FTP


A small Java program that can be embedded in an HTML page. Applets differ from full-fledged Java applications in that they are not allowed to access certain resources on the local computer, such as files and serial devices (modems, printers, etc.), and are prohibited from communicating with most other computers across a network. The current rule is that an applet can only make an Internet connection to the computer from which the applet was sent.

See these related term(s): HTML , Java


A tool (software) for finding files stored on anonymous FTP sites. You need to know the exact file name or a substring of it.


(Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) -- The precursor to the Internet. Developed in the late 60s and early 70s by the US Department of Defense as an experiment in wide-area-networking that would survive a nuclear war.

See these related term(s): Internet


(American Standard Code for Information Interchange) -- This is the de facto world-wide standard for the code numbers used by computers to represent all the upper and lower-case Latin letters, numbers, punctuation, etc. There are 128 standard ASCII codes each of which can be represented by a 7 digit binary number: 0000000 through 1111111.


A high-speed line or series of connections that forms a major pathway within a network. The term is relative as a backbone in a small network will likely be much smaller than many non-backbone lines in a large network.

See these related term(s): Network


How much stuff you can send through a connection. Usually measured in bits-per-second. A full page of English text is about 16,000 bits. A fast modem can move about 15,000 bits in one second. Full-motion full-screen video would require roughly 10,000,000 bits-per-second, depending on compression.

See these related term(s): Bps, Bit , T-1


In common usage the baud rate of a modem is how many bits it can send or receive per second. Technically, baud is the number of times per second that the carrier signal shifts value - for example a 1200 bit-per-second modem actually runs at 300 baud, but it moves 4 bits per baud (4 x 300 = 1200 bits per second).

See these related term(s): Bit , Modem


(Bulletin Board System) -- A computerized meeting and announcement system that allows people to carry on discussions, upload and download files, and make announcements without the people being connected to the computer at the same time. There are many thousands (millions?) of BBS’s around the world, most are very small, running on a single IBM clone PC with 1 or 2 phone lines. Some are very large and the line between a BBS and a system like CompuServe gets crossed at some point, but it is not clearly drawn.



(BINary HEXadecimal) -- A method for converting non-text files (non-ASCII) into ASCII. This is needed because Internet email can only handle ASCII.

See these related term(s): ASCII , MIME , UUENCODE


(Binary DigIT) -- A single digit number in base-2, in other words, either a 1 or a zero. The smallest unit of computerized data. Bandwidth is usually measured in bits-per-second.

See these related term(s): Bandwidth , Bps , Byte , Kilobyte , Megabyte


(Because It’s Time NETwork (or Because It’s There NETwork)) -- A network of educational sites separate from the Internet, but email is freely exchanged between BITNET and the Internet. Listservs&REG;, the most popular form of email discussion groups, originated on BITNET. BITNET machines are usually mainframes running the VMS operating system, and the network is probably the only international network that is shrinking.



(Bits-Per-Second) -- A measurement of how fast data is moved from one place to another. A 28.8 modem can move 28,800 bits per second.

See these related term(s): Bandwidth , Bit


A Client program (software) that is used to look at various kinds of Internet resources.

See these related term(s): Client , URL , WWW , Netscape , Mosaic , Home Page (or Homepage)


(By The Way) -- A shorthand appended to a comment written in an online forum.

See these related term(s): IMHO , TTFN


A set of Bits that represent a single character. Usually there are 8 Bits in a Byte, sometimes more, depending on how the measurement is being made.

See these related term(s): Bit


Certificate Authority
An issuer of Security Certificates used in SSL connections.

See these related term(s): Security Certificate , SSL


(Common Gateway Interface) -- A set of rules that describe how a Web Server communicates with another piece of software on the same machine, and how the other piece of software (the “CGI program”) talks to the web server. Any piece of software can be a CGI program if it handles input and output according to the CGI standard.

Usually a CGI program is a small program that takes data from a web server and does something with it, like putting the content of a form into an email message, or turning the data into a database query.

You can often see that a CGI program is being used by seeing “cgi-bin” in a URL, but not always.

See these related term(s): cgi-bin , Web


The most common name of a directory on a web server in which CGI programs are stored.
The “bin” part of “cgi-bin” is a shorthand version of “binary”, because once upon a time, most programs were refered to as “binaries”. In real life, most programs found in cgi-bin directories are text files -- scripts that are executed by binaries located elsewhere on the same machine.

See these related term(s): CGI


A software program that is used to contact and obtain data from a Server software program on another computer, often across a great distance. Each Client program is designed to work with one or more specific kinds of Server programs, and each Server requires a specific kind of Client. A Web Browser is a specific kind of Client.

See these related term(s): Browser , Server


Most often used to refer to having a server that belongs to one person or group physically located on an Internet-connected network that belongs to another person or group. Usually this is done because the server owner wants their machine to be on a high-speed Internet connection and/or they do not want the security risks of having the server on thier own network.

See these related term(s): Internet , Server , Network


The most common meaning of “Cookie” on the Internet refers to a piece of information sent by a Web Server to a Web Browser that the Browser software is expected to save and to send back to the Server whenever the browser makes additional requests from the Server.

Depending on the type of Cookie used, and the Browser’s settings, the Browser may accept or not accept the Cookie, and may save the Cookie for either a short time or a long time.

Cookies might contain information such as login or registration information, online “shopping cart” information, user preferences, etc.

When a Server receives a request from a Browser that includes a Cookie, the Server is able to use the information stored in the Cookie. For example, the Server might customize what is sent back to the user, or keep a log of particular user’s requests.

Cookies are usually set to expire after a predetermined amount of time and are usually saved in memory until the Browser software is closed down, at which time they may be saved to disk if their “expire time” has not been reached.

Cookies do not read your hard drive and send your life story to the CIA, but they can be used to gather more information about a user than would be possible without them.

See these related term(s): Browser , Server


Cyberpunk was originally a cultural sub-genre of science fiction taking place in a not-so-distant, dystopian, over-industrialized society. The term grew out of the work of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling and has evolved into a cultural label encompassing many different kinds of human, machine, and punk attitudes. It includes clothing and lifestyle choices as well.

See these related term(s): Cyberspace


Term originated by author William Gibson in his novel Neuromancer the word Cyberspace is currently used to describe the whole range of information resources available through computer networks.


The digital version of literati, it is a reference to a vague cloud of people seen to be knowledgeable, hip, or otherwise in-the-know in regards to the digital revolution.



(Digital Subscriber Line) -- A method for moving data over regular phone lines. A DSL circuit is much faster than a regular phone connection, and the wires coming into the subscriber’s premises are the same (copper) wires used for regular phone service. A DSL circuit must be configured to connect two specific locations, similar to a leased line.

A commonly discussed configuration of DSL allows downloads at speeds of up to 1.544 megabits (not megabytes) per second, and uploads at speeds of 128 kilobits per second. This arrangement is called ADSL: “Asymmetric” Digital Subscriber Line.

Another common configuration is symmetrical: 384 Kilobits per second in both directions.

In theory ADSL allows download speeds of up to 9 megabits per second and upload speeds of up to 640 kilobits per second.

DSL is now a popular alternative to Leased Lines and ISDN, being faster than ISDN and less costly than traditional Leased Lines.

See these related term(s): bit , bps , ISDN , Leased Line


Domain Name
The unique name that identifies an Internet site. Domain Names always have 2 or more parts, separated by dots. The part on the left is the most specific, and the part on the right is the most general. A given machine may have more than one Domain Name but a given Domain Name points to only one machine. For example, the domain names:

can all refer to the same machine, but each domain name can refer to no more than one machine.

Usually, all of the machines on a given Network will have the same thing as the right-hand portion of their Domain Names ( in the examples above). It is also possible for a Domain Name to exist but not be connected to an actual machine. This is often done so that a group or business can have an Internet email address without having to establish a real Internet site. In these cases, some real Internet machine must handle the mail on behalf of the listed Domain Name.

See these related term(s): IP Number


(Electronic Mail) -- Messages, usually text, sent from one person to another via computer. email can also be sent automatically to a large number of addresses (Mailing List).

See these related term(s): Listserv&REG; , Maillist


A very common method of networking computers in a LAN. Ethernet will handle about 10,000,000 bits-per-second and can be used with almost any kind of computer.

See these related term(s): Bandwidth , LAN


(Frequently Asked Questions) -- FAQs are documents that list and answer the most common questions on a particular subject. There are hundreds of FAQs on subjects as diverse as Pet Grooming and Cryptography. FAQs are usually written by people who have tired of answering the same question over and over.



(Fiber Distributed Data Interface) -- A standard for transmitting data on optical fiber cables at a rate of around 100,000,000 bits-per-second (10 times as fast as Ethernet, about twice as fast as T-3).

See these related term(s): Bandwidth , Ethernet , T-1 , T-3


An Internet software tool for locating people on other Internet sites. Finger is also sometimes used to give access to non-personal information, but the most common use is to see if a person has an account at a particular Internet site. Many sites do not allow incoming Finger requests, but many do.



Fire Wall
A combination of hardware and software that separates a LAN into two or more parts for security purposes.

See these related term(s): Network , LAN


Originally, flame meant to carry forth in a passionate manner in the spirit of honorable debate. Flames most often involved the use of flowery language and flaming well was an art form. More recently flame has come to refer to any kind of derogatory comment no matter how witless or crude.

See these related term(s): Flame War


Flame War
When an online discussion degenerates into a series of personal attacks against the debators, rather than discussion of their positions. A heated exchange.

See these related term(s): Flame


(File Transfer Protocol) -- A very common method of moving files between two Internet sites. FTP is a special way to login to another Internet site for the purposes of retrieving and/or sending files. There are many Internet sites that have established publicly accessible repositories of material that can be obtained using FTP, by logging in using the account name anonymous, thus these sites are called anonymous ftp servers.


The technical meaning is a hardware or software set-up that translates between two dissimilar protocols, for example Prodigy has a gateway that translates between its internal, proprietary email format and Internet email format. Another, sloppier meaning of gateway is to describe any mechanism for providing access to another system, e.g. AOL might be called a gateway to the Internet.



(Graphic Interchange Format) -- A common format for image files, especially suitable for images containing large areas of the same color. GIF format files of simple images are often smaller than the same file would be if stored in JPEG format, but GIF format does not store photographic images as well as JPEG.

See these related term(s): JPEG


1000 or 1024 Megabytes, depending on who is measuring.

See these related term(s): Byte , Megabyte


A widely successful method of making menus of material available over the Internet. Gopher is a Client and Server style program, which requires that the user have a Gopher Client program. Although Gopher spread rapidly across the globe in only a couple of years, it has been largely supplanted by Hypertext, also known as WWW (World Wide Web). There are still thousands of Gopher Servers on the Internet and we can expect they will remain for a while.

See these related term(s): Client , Server , WWW , Hypertext


As used in reference to the World Wide Web, “hit” means a single request from a web browser for a single item from a web server; thus in order for a web browser to display a page that contains 3 graphics, 4 “hits” would occur at the server: 1 for the HTML page, and one for each of the 3 graphics.

“hits” are often used as a very rough measure of load on a server, e.g. “Our server has been getting 300,000 hits per month.” Because each “hit” can represent anything from a request for a tiny document (or even a request for a missing document) all the way to a request that requires some significant extra processing (such as a complex search request), the actual load on a machine from 1 hit is almost impossible to define.



Home Page (or Homepage)
Several meanings. Originally, the web page that your browser is set to use when it starts up. The more common meaning refers to the main web page for a business, organization, person or simply the main page out of a collection of web pages, e.g. “Check out so-and-so’s new Home Page.”

Another sloppier use of the term refers to practically any web page as a “homepage,” e.g. “That web site has 65 homepages and none of them are interesting.”

See these related term(s): Browser , Web


Any computer on a network that is a repository for services available to other computers on the network. It is quite common to have one host machine provide several services, such as WWW and USENET.

See these related term(s): Node , Network


(HyperText Markup Language) -- The coding language used to create Hypertext documents for use on the World Wide Web. HTML looks a lot like old-fashioned typesetting code, where you surround a block of text with codes that indicate how it should appear, additionally, in HTML you can specify that a block of text, or a word, is linked to another file on the Internet. HTML files are meant to be viewed using a World Wide Web Client Program, such as Netscape or Mosaic.

See these related term(s): Client , Server , WWW


(HyperText Transfer Protocol) -- The protocol for moving hypertext files across the Internet. Requires a HTTP client program on one end, and an HTTP server program on the other end. HTTP is the most important protocol used in the World Wide Web (WWW).

See these related term(s): Client , Server , WWW


Generally, any text that contains links to other documents--words or phrases in the document that can be chosen by a reader and which cause another document to be retrieved and displayed.


(In My Humble Opinion) -- A shorthand appended to a comment written in an online forum, IMHO indicates that the writer is aware that they are expressing a debatable view, probably on a subject already under discussion. One of may such shorthands in common use online, especially in discussion forums.

See these related term(s): TTFN , BTW


(Upper case I) The vast collection of inter-connected networks that all use the TCP/IP protocols and that evolved from the ARPANET of the late 60s and early 70s. The Internet now (July 1995) connects roughly 60,000 independent networks into a vast global internet.

See these related term(s): internet


(Lower case i) Any time you connect 2 or more networks together, you have an internet - as in inter-national or inter-state.

See these related term(s): Internet , Network


A private network inside a company or organization that uses the same kinds of software that you would find on the public Internet, but that is only for internal use.

As the Internet has become more popular many of the tools used on the Internet are being used in private networks, for example, many companies have web servers that are available only to employees.

Note that an Intranet may not actually be an internet -- it may simply be a network.

See these related term(s): internet , Internet , Network


IP Number
(Internet Protocol Number) -- Sometimes called a dotted quad. A unique number consisting of 4 parts separated by dots, e.g.

Every machine that is on the Internet has a unique IP number - if a machine does not have an IP number, it is not really on the Internet. Most machines also have one or more Domain Names that are easier for people to remember.

See these related term(s): Domain Name , Internet , TCP/IP


(Internet Relay Chat) -- Basically a huge multi-user live chat facility. There are a number of major IRC servers around the world which are linked to each other. Anyone can create a channel and anything that anyone types in a given channel is seen by all others in the channel. Private channels can (and are) created for multi-person conference calls.



(Integrated Services Digital Network) -- Basically a way to move more data over existing regular phone lines. ISDN is rapidly becoming available to much of the USA and in most markets it is priced very comparably to standard analog phone circuits. It can provide speeds of roughly 128,000 bits-per-second over regular phone lines. In practice, most people will be limited to 56,000 or 64,000 bits-per-second.



(Internet Service Provider) -- An institution that provides access to the Internet in some form, usually for money.

See these related term(s): Internet


Java is a network-oriented programming language invented by Sun Microsystems that is specifically designed for writing programs that can be safely downloaded to your computer through the Internet and immediately run without fear of viruses or other harm to your computer or files. Using small Java programs (called "Applets"), Web pages can include functions such as animations, calculators, and other fancy tricks.

We can expect to see a huge variety of features added to the Web using Java, since you can write a Java program to do almost anything a regular computer program can do, and then include that Java program in a Web page.

See these related term(s): Applet


(Java Development Kit) -- A software development package from Sun Microsystems that implements the basic set of tools needed to write, test and debug Java applications and applets

See these related term(s): Applet , Java


(Joint Photographic Experts Group) -- JPEG is most commonly mentioned as a format for image files. JPEG format is preferred to the GIF format for photographic images as opposed to line art or simple logo art.

See these related term(s): GIF


A thousand bytes. Actually, usually 1024 (2^10) bytes.

See these related term(s): Byte , Bit


(Local Area Network) -- A computer network limited to the immediate area, usually the same building or floor of a building.

See these related term(s): Ethernet


Leased Line
Refers to a phone line that is rented for exclusive 24-hour, 7-days-a-week use from your location to another location. The highest speed data connections require a leased line.

See these related term(s): T-1 , T-3, DSL


The most common kind of maillist, "Listserv" is a registered trademark of L-Soft international, Inc. Listservs originated on BITNET but they are now common on the Internet.

See these related term(s): BITNET , Email , Maillist


Noun or a verb. Noun: The account name used to gain access to a computer system. Not a secret (contrast with Password).
Verb: The act of entering into a computer system, e.g. Login to the WELL and then go to the GBN conference.

See these related term(s): Password


(or Mailing List) A (usually automated) system that allows people to send email to one address, whereupon their message is copied and sent to all of the other subscribers to the maillist. In this way, people who have many different kinds of email access can participate in discussions together.



A million bytes. Actually, technically, 1024 kilobytes.

See these related term(s): Byte , Bit , Kilobyte


(Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) -- The standard for attaching non-text files to standard Internet mail messages. Non-text files include graphics, spreadsheets, formatted word-processor documents, sound files, etc.

An email program is said to be MIME Compliant if it can both send and receive files using the MIME standard.

When non-text files are sent using the MIME standard they are converted (encoded) into text - although the resulting text is not really readable.

Generally speaking the MIME standard is a way of specifying both the type of file being sent (e.g. a Quicktime™ video file), and the method that should be used to turn it back into its original form.

Besides email software, the MIME standard is also universally used by Web Servers to identify the files they are sending to Web Clients, in this way new file formats can be accommodated simply by updating the Browsers’ list of pairs of MIME-Types and appropriate software for handling each type.

See these related term(s): Browser , Client , Server , Binhex , UUENCODE


Generally speaking, “to mirror” is to maintain an exact copy of something. Probably the most common use of the term on the Internet refers to “mirror sites” which are web sites, or FTP sites that maintain exact copies of material originated at another location, usually in order to provide more widespread access to the resource.

Another common use of the term “mirror” refers to an arrangement where information is written to more than one hard disk simultaneously, so that if one disk fails, the computer keeps on working without losing anything.

See these related term(s): FTP , Web


(MOdulator, DEModulator) -- A device that you connect to your computer and to a phone line, that allows the computer to talk to other computers through the phone system. Basically, modems do for computers what a telephone does for humans.



(Mud, Object Oriented) -- One of several kinds of multi-user role-playing environments, so far only text-based.

See these related term(s): MUD , MUSE


The first WWW browser that was available for the Macintosh, Windows, and UNIX all with the same interface. Mosaic really started the popularity of the Web. The source-code to Mosaic has been licensed by several companies and there are several other pieces of software as good or better than Mosaic, most notably, Netscape.

See these related term(s): Browser , Client , WWW


(Multi-User Dungeon or Dimension) -- A (usually text-based) multi-user simulation environment. Some are purely for fun and flirting, others are used for serious software development, or education purposes and all that lies in between. A significant feature of most MUDs is that users can create things that stay after they leave and which other users can interact with in their absence, thus allowing a world to be built gradually and collectively.

See these related term(s): MOO , MUSE


(Multi-User Simulated Environment) -- One kind of MUD - usually with little or no violence.

See these related term(s): MOO , MUD


The etiquette on the Internet.

See these related term(s): Internet


Derived from the term citizen, referring to a citizen of the Internet, or someone who uses networked resources. The term connotes civic responsibility and participation.

See these related term(s): Internet


A WWW Browser and the name of a company. The Netscape (tm) browser was originally based on the Mosaic program developed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA).

Netscape has grown in features rapidly and is widely recognized as the best and most popular web browser. Netscape corporation also produces web server software.

Netscape provided major improvements in speed and interface over other browsers, and has also engendered debate by creating new elements for the HTML language used by Web pages -- but the Netscape extensions to HTML are not universally supported.

The main author of Netscape, Mark Andreessen, was hired away from the NCSA by Jim Clark, and they founded a company called Mosaic Communications and soon changed the name to Netscape Communications Corporation.

See these related term(s): Browser , Mosaic , Server , WWW


Any time you connect 2 or more computers together so that they can share resources, you have a computer network. Connect 2 or more networks together and you have an internet.

See these related term(s): internet , Internet , Intranet


The name for discussion groups on USENET.

See these related term(s): USENET


(Networked Information Center) -- Generally, any office that handles information for a network. The most famous of these on the Internet is the InterNIC, which is where new domain names are registered.
Another definition: NIC also refers to Network Interface Card which plugs into a computer and
adapts the network interface to the appropriate standard. ISA, PCI, and PCMCIA cards are all examples of NICs.



(Network News Transport Protocol) -- The protocol used by client and server software to carry USENET postings back and forth over a TCP/IP network. If you are using any of the more common software such as Netscape, Nuntius, Internet Explorer, etc. to participate in newsgroups then you are benefiting from an NNTP connection.

See these related term(s): Newsgroup , TCP/IP , USENET


Any single computer connected to a network.

See these related term(s): Network , Internet , internet


Packet Switching
The method used to move data around on the Internet. In packet switching, all the data coming out of a machine is broken up into chunks, each chunk has the address of where it came from and where it is going. This enables chunks of data from many different sources to co-mingle on the same lines, and be sorted and directed to different routes by special machines along the way. This way many people can use the same lines at the same time.



A code used to gain access to a locked system. Good passwords contain letters and non-letters and are not simple combinations such as virtue7. A good password might be:


See these related term(s): Login


A (usually small) piece of software that adds features to a larger piece of software. Common examples are plug-ins for the Netscape&REG; browser and web server. Adobe Photoshop&REG; also uses plug-ins.

The idea behind plug-ins is that a small piece of software is loaded into memory by the larger program, adding a new feature, and that users need only install the few plug-ins that they need, out of a much larger pool of possibilities. Plug-ins are usually created by people other than the publishers of the software the plug-in works with.



(Point of Presence, also Post Office Protocol) -- Two commonly used meanings: Point of Presence and Post Office Protocol. A Point of Presence usually means a city or location where a network can be connected to, often with dial up phone lines. So if an Internet company says they will soon have a POP in Belgrade, it means that they will soon have a local phone number in Belgrade and/or a place where leased lines can connect to their network. A second meaning, Post Office Protocol refers to the way email software such as Eudora gets mail from a mail server. When you obtain a SLIP, PPP, or shell account you almost always get a POP account with it, and it is this POP account that you tell your email software to use to get your mail.

See these related term(s): SLIP , PPP


3 meanings. First and most generally, a place where information goes into or out of a computer, or both. E.g. the serial port on a personal computer is where a modem would be connected.

On the Internet port often refers to a number that is part of a URL, appearing after a colon (:) right after the domain name. Every service on an Internet server listens on a particular port number on that server. Most services have standard port numbers, e.g. Web servers normally listen on port 80. Services can also listen on non-standard ports, in which case the port number must be specified in a URL when accessing the server, so you might see a URL of the form:


shows a gopher server running on a non-standard port (the standard gopher port is 70).
Finally, port also refers to translating a piece of software to bring it from one type of computer system to another, e.g. to translate a Windows program so that is will run on a Macintosh.

See these related term(s): Domain Name , Server , URL


Usually used as a marketing term to described a Web site that is or is intended to be the first place people see when using the Web. Typically a "Portal site" has a catalog of web sites, a search engine, or both. A Portal site may also offer email and other service to entice people to use that site as their main "point of entry" (hence "portal") to the Web.



A single message entered into a network communications system.

e.g., A single message posted to a newsgroup or message board.

See these related term(s): Newsgroup


(Point to Point Protocol) -- Most well known as a protocol that allows a computer to use a regular telephone line and a modem to make TCP/IP connections and thus be really and truly on the Internet.

See these related term(s): IP Number , Internet , SLIP , TCP/IP


(Public Switched Telephone Network) -- The regular old-fashioned telephone system.


(Request For Comments) -- The name of the result and the process for creating a standard on the Internet. New standards are proposed and published on line, as a Request For Comments. The Internet Engineering Task Force is a consensus-building body that facilitates discussion, and eventually a new standard is established, but the reference number/name for the standard retains the acronym RFC, e.g., the official standard for email is RFC 822.



A special-purpose computer (or software package) that handles the connection between 2 or more networks. Routers spend all their time looking at the destination addresses of the packets passing through them and deciding which route to send them on.

See these related term(s): Network , Packet Switching


Security Certificate
A chunk of information (often stored as a text file) that is used by the SSL protocol to establish a secure connection.

Security Certificates contain information about who it belongs to, who it was issued by, a unique serial number or other unique identification, valid dates, and an encrypted “fingerprint” that can be used to verify the contents of the certificate.

In order for an SSL connection to be created both sides must have a valid Security Certificate.

See these related term(s): Certificate Authority , SSL


A computer, or a software package, that provides a specific kind of service to client software running on other computers. The term can refer to a particular piece of software, such as a WWW server, or to the machine on which the software is running, e.g.Our mail server is down today, that’s why email isn’t getting out. A single server machine could have several different server software packages running on it, thus providing many different servers to clients on the network.

See these related term(s): Client , Network


(Serial Line Internet Protocol) -- A standard for using a regular telephone line (a serial line) and a modem to connect a computer as a real Internet site. SLIP is gradually being replaced by PPP.

See these related term(s): Internet , PPP


(Switched Multimegabit Data Service) -- A new standard for very high-speed data transfer.



(Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) -- The main protocol used to send electronic mail on the Internet.

SMTP consists of a set of rules for how a program sending mail and a program receiving mail should interact.

Almost all Internet email is sent and received by clients and servers using SMTP, thus if one wanted to set up an email server on the Internet one would look for email server software that supports SMTP.

See these related term(s): Client , Server


(Simple Network Management Protocol) -- A set of standards for communication with devices connected to a TCP/IP network. Examples of these devices include routers, hubs, and switches.

A device is said to be “SNMP compatible” if it can be monitored and/or controlled using SNMP messages. SNMP messages are known as “PDU’s” - Protocol Data Units.

Devices that are SNMP compatible contain SNMP “agent” software to receive, send, and act upon SNMP messages.

Software for managing devices via SNMP are available for every kind of commonly used computer and are often bundled along with the device they are designed to manage. Some SNMP software is designed to handle a wide variety of devices.

See these related term(s): Network , Router


Spam (or Spamming)
An inappropriate attempt to use a mailing list, or USENET or other networked communications facility as if it was a broadcast medium (which it is not) by sending the same message to a large number of people who didn’t ask for it. The term probably comes from a famous Monty Python skit which featured the word spam repeated over and over. The term may also have come from someone’s low opinion of the food product with the same name, which is generally perceived as a generic content-free waste of resources. (Spam is a registered trademark of Hormel Corporation, for its processed meat product.)

e.g., Mary spammed 50 USENET groups by posting the same message to each.

See these related term(s): Maillist , USENET


(Structured Query Language) -- A specialized programming language for sending queries to databases. Most industrial-strength and many smaller database applications can be addressed using SQL. Each specific application will have its own version of SQL implementing features unique to that application, but all SQL-capable databases support a common subset of SQL.



(Secure Sockets Layer) -- A protocol designed by Netscape Communications to enable encrypted, authenticated communications across the Internet.

SSL used mostly (but not exclusively) in communications between web browsers and web servers. URL’s that begin with “https” indicate that an SSL connection will be used.

SSL provides 3 important things: Privacy, Authentication, and Message Integrity.

In an SSL connection each side of the connection must have a Security Certificate, which each side’s software sends to the other. Each side then encrypts what it sends using information from both its own and the other side’s Certificate, ensuring that only the intended recipient can de-crypt it, and that the other side can be sure the data came from the place it claims to have come from, and that the message has not been tampered with.

See these related term(s): Browser , Server , Security Certificate , URL


(System Operator) -- Anyone responsible for the physical operations of a computer system or network resource. A System Administrator decides how often backups and maintenance should be performed and the System Operator performs those tasks.


A leased-line connection capable of carrying data at 1,544,000 bits-per-second. At maximum theoretical capacity, a T-1 line could move a megabyte in less than 10 seconds. That is still not fast enough for full-screen, full-motion video, for which you need at least 10,000,000 bits-per-second. T-1 is the fastest speed commonly used to connect networks to the Internet.

See these related term(s): Bandwidth , Bit , Byte , Ethernet , T-3


A leased-line connection capable of carrying data at 44,736,000 bits-per-second. This is more than enough to do full-screen, full-motion video.

See these related term(s): Bandwidth , Bit , Byte , Ethernet , T-1


(Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) -- This is the suite of protocols that defines the Internet. Originally designed for the UNIX operating system, TCP/IP software is now available for every major kind of computer operating system. To be truly on the Internet, your computer must have TCP/IP software.

See these related term(s): IP Number , Internet , UNIX


The command and program used to login from one Internet site to another. The telnet command/program gets you to the login: prompt of another host.



1000 gigabytes.

See these related term(s): Byte , Kilobyte


A device that allows you to send commands to a computer somewhere else. At a minimum, this usually means a keyboard and a display screen and some simple circuitry. Usually you will use terminal software in a personal computer - the software pretends to be (emulates) a physical terminal and allows you to type commands to a computer somewhere else.



Terminal Server
A special purpose computer that has places to plug in many modems on one side, and a connection to a LAN or host machine on the other side. Thus the terminal server does the work of answering the calls and passes the connections on to the appropriate node. Most terminal servers can provide PPP or SLIP services if connected to the Internet.

See these related term(s): LAN , Modem , Host , Node , PPP , SLIP


(User Datagram Protocol) -- One of the protocols for data transfer that is part of the TCP/IP suite of protocols. UDP is a “stateless” protocol in that UDP makes no provision for acknowledgement of packets received.

See these related term(s): TCP/IP


A computer operating system (the basic software running on a computer, underneath things like word processors and spreadsheets). UNIX is designed to be used by many people at the same time (it is multi-user) and has TCP/IP built-in. It is the most common operating system for servers on the Internet.



(Uniform Resource Locator) -- The standard way to give the address of any resource on the Internet that is part of the World Wide Web (WWW). A URL looks like this:

http:// 80 /index.html
(protocol) (host name) (port) (path/document name)

the host name includes the domain; the four main
domains are:
.edu (educational/academic institutions)
.com (companies/commercial)
.gov (governmental)
.org (organizations, e.g., nonprofit group

The most common way to use a URL is to enter into a WWW browser program, such as Netscape, or Lynx.

See these related term(s): Browser , WWW


A world-wide system of discussion groups, with comments passed among hundreds of thousands of machines. Not all USENET machines are on the Internet, maybe half. USENET is completely decentralized, with over 10,000 discussion areas, called newsgroups.

See these related term(s): Newsgroup


(Unix to Unix Encoding) -- A method for converting files from Binary to ASCII (text) so that they can be sent across the Internet via email.

See these related term(s): Binhex , MIME


(Very Easy Rodent Oriented Net-wide Index to Computerized Archives) -- Developed at the University of Nevada, Veronica is a constantly updated database of the names of almost every menu item on thousands of gopher servers. The Veronica database can be searched from most major gopher menus.

See these related term(s): Gopher


(Virtual Private Network) -- Usually refers to a network in which some of the parts are connected using the public Internet, but the data sent across the Internet is encrypted, so the entire network is "virtually" private.

A typical example would be a company network where there are two offices in different cities. Using the Internet the two offices mereg their networks into one network, but encrypt traffic that uses the Internet link.

See these related term(s): Internet, Network


(Wide Area Information Servers) -- A commercial software package that allows the indexing of huge quantities of information, and then making those indices searchable across networks such as the Internet. A prominent feature of WAIS is that the search results are ranked (scored) according to how relevant the hits are, and that subsequent searches can find more stuff like that last batch and thus refine the search process.



(Wide Area Network) -- Any internet or network that covers an area larger than a single building or campus.

See these related term(s): Internet , LAN , Network


See these related term(s): WWW


(World Wide Web) -- Frequently used (incorrectly) when referring to "The Internet", WWW has two major meanings - First, loosely used: the whole constellation of resources that can be accessed using Gopher, FTP, HTTP, telnet, USENET, WAIS and some other tools. Second, the universe of hypertext servers (HTTP servers) which are the servers that allow text, graphics, sound files, etc. to be mixed together.

See these related term(s): Browser , FTP , Gopher , HTTP , Internet , Telnet , URL , WAIS

  For more information about the internet go to Internet History

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All Rights Reserved.