The World Wide Web offers a rich array of resources, whether you’re looking to learn something new, connect with old friends, play a game, or just while away a few hours looking at cat videos.
The creators of the modern web — from web browser designers to website publishers — have tried very hard to make surfing the web very easy. We’re here to make it even easier, with a short guide to each of the main things you might need to know about surfing the web and using internet technology. Read them all at once, or bookmark this page and come back to it for future reference.
We start, as the song goes, at the very beginning.
We talk about the web all of the time, but what is it, really? And how is it different than “the Internet?”
This article answers these and other questions, helping you understand just what exactly the World Wide Web is, and also what it isn’t.
Some people seem to think that the web is made up mostly of cats and people taking pictures of their food. There is plenty of that, to be sure. But there’s also so much more.
The web is an amazing collection of interconnected documents — a HUGE collection. And not just documents — apps, sites, communities. Also cables. Lots and lots of cable.
Have you ever wondered what is actually happening when you go to a website. We call it a “site” and say that you are “visiting,” but you’re still in your chair, sitting at your computer.
You might be surprised to know that actually, the website is coming to you. All you have to do is request it.
4. Web Pages
Books have pages, newspapers have pages — but does the internet really have pages? Well, sort of. We’ve come to call documents on the web “pages,” and the name has just stuck. It’s kind of a funny metaphor if you think too hard about it. But then, on the other hand, maybe “web page” is the perfect name for them.
Site is another metaphor we’ve applied to the web. We talk about websites as if they are a place you can visit. But what is a site, really? Is it the same as a web page, or is it something else altogether?
We’ve gotten so used to them today that it is hard to realize the importance of hyperlinks — the connections from on web page to another, even to another site altogether. But hyperlinks are the real innovation of the web. They are the unsung heroes of the internet.
They call it surfing, but there aren’t any waves. We might could call it driving, but there aren’t any roads either — except the information superhighway.
The important thing, either way, is: How do you get around online? How do you get from one site to another?
What is a hyperlink? And what do they look like? These seem like easy questions, but with web design trends being what they are these days, it isn’t always as easy to tell as it used to be.
You probably click on hyperlinks all the time — and if you decide to read this article you’re about to click on one just to get to it. But what actually happens when you click on a hyperlink? And what is it “under the hood” that makes it all work?
If a website is a “site” it must be somewhere — so it has an address. But pages have addresses too. What exactly is an address? And how does your browser know how to get to a site? Do addresses come with directions? Is there a web equivalent of GPS? (Actually no on that last one — it’s really more like a giant telephone book.)
10. Examples of URLs
A URL is a Uniform Resource Locator. If you’re not sure what exactly that is, or what it means, we provide several examples of very different types of URLs to make it clearer.
11. Anatomy of a URL
A URL has several distinct components. Learning what they are, and what they mean, can help you make sense of a website’s address and keep you oriented while moving around online.
We finish up our tour of the World Wide Web by looking at some of the basic tech that makes the modern internet work.
Are you a member of any websites? Even if you think you aren’t, there’s a good chance you are. More websites than ever are employing membership-based controls, and it’s almost impossible to use the web without logging in to something.
13. Web Browsers
Sometimes we spend so much time using something, that we stop seeing it — it just fades into the background. This is particularly true if we never really learned much about it in the first place.
You are using a web browser right now — it’s the only way you can be reading this page. And you probably use a web browser every single day, maybe for hours at a time. But do you really know what a browser is? OR what it can do for you?
Along the top of your web browser are a bunch of icons called the Tool Bar. You probably use two of these buttons and just ignore the rest. But maybe if you knew what all the little buttons did, you could have a richer browsing experience. Maybe.
Sure, you probably know where the Back button is, and what it does. But do you know about the cache? Or the HTML5 data store? This article goes beyond the basics and dives under the hood to explore all the different parts of a typical web browser.
When you first fire up your web browser, you should see the web site you want to see — whether that’s your email, the morning news, or your favorite cat video.
This article shows you how to set up your Firefox browser to display the content you want to see every time you open it up.
If you prefer Chrome over Firefox, you can read this article instead to find out how to set your browser’s startup page.
The web is full of pictures. Sometimes you want to save one to your computer so you can use it later. This article shows you how to do that. Be careful, though — just because you can save a picture, doesn’t mean you should.
Sometimes a web page really needs to become actual pages. It isn’t the best way to save your favorite online content, but if you have to do it, you might as well know how.
In the beginning, when the internet was still just a few university and government computers linked together, the World Wide Web was mostly a place for document — text documents. Pretty soon, people started sharing pictures. Then they started sharing music. Then video became the big thing — along with games, apps, and highly interactive web sites that can hardly be called pages anymore.
Have fun out there!
The World Wide Web is pretty amazing. It combines the usefulness of the world’s largest library with the social opportunities of a city park. You can spend days reading articles about obscure historical figures, watch a movie from you haven’t seen since childhood, learn a foreign language, connect with a friend from high school, or laugh at videos of cats playing with lasers. And that’s just in one afternoon.