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I.S. - Web Basics


First, Some Facts

Some Web Facts

Internet traffic is doubling every 100 days, resulting in an annual growth rate of more than 700 percent (http://www.greenwebs.com/services.htm).

The Web has 320 million accessible pages and is expected to grow more than 1,000 percent in the next three years, according to the NEC Research Institute (http://www.aurorais.com/Facts.htm).

In the year 2000 an estimated 6.9 trillion e-mail messages will be sent.
(Source: Web Week, April 28, 1997, citing the Electronic Messaging Association)

In the U.S., 760 households join the Internet every hour (http://www.openmarket.com/intindex/99-05.htm).

By 2000, 327 million people in the world will have Internet access (http://www.c-i-a.com/).

More than 83 million U.S. adults are online, according to Intelliquest (http://www.cyberatlas.com/big_picture/ demographics/demographics_index.html).

11,000 new users join the Internet each day (http://www.labrynth.com/webfacts.htm).

1,650 new business sites are added to the Internet daily (http://www.labrynth.com/webfacts.htm).

Over 5 million businesses are currently on the Internet (http://www.labrynth.com/webfacts.htm).

Only 16% of Web sites are indexed by search engines (Berst Alert, July 8, 1999).

The Internet will add 35 million users this year, pushing the total past 180 million (Berst Alert, July 8, 1999).

"By 2020.. the available body of information is expected to double every 73 days" (Breivik xi).

(more facts)


Background

The Web is one part of the Internet. It has only existed since 1994 and is especially popular because of its graphic user interface. Let's jump back in time, first, and get the background on the Internet.

"What we think of today as the Internet was first created by theU.S. Department of Defense in the 1960s as a means to connect a number of smaller government networks supporting military research. With the Cold War threatening on so many fronts, this super-network, originally called ARPAnet, was intentionally designed without any central locations to withstand possible damage inflicted upon it during a nuclear war and yet survive, enabling continued communications. As a result, the Internet today is extremely resilient, flexible, and adaptable... " (source: http://www.nosh.com/history.html).

"In 1989 Tim Berners-Lee of the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN) proposed a computer information structure, so that scientists all over the world could share research information. The problem, different scientists were using different computer platforms (Unix, Macintosh,& IBM's) making the information incompatible from one platform to another. The solution was to create a computer language (HTML) that wasn't platform specific, and to incorporate an end user device (Browser) that would decipher the information and allow it to operate on any platform.

"In the fall of 1990, the first Browser was introduced, this browser was able to convert text from one platform to another, thus the beginning of the internet. In early 1993, there were only about 50 web sites worldwide, during this same time the Mosaic Browser was developed, this browser enabled graphics to be incorporated in web presentations" (source: http://www.coveredbridgeweb.com/facts.html).

"In 1993, Marc Andreessen and a team of students and staff at the University of Illinois developed Mosaic, one of the first "web browsers," making World Wide Web pages accessible to anyone with a personal computer - not just scientists at supercomputing centers. Andreessen and Jim Clark founded Netscape Communications Corporation in April 1994, and the company began to develop the Netscape Navigator web browser, which brought the internet to homes around the world (source: http://www.usachoice.net/Oil_city_schools/inservice/history.htm).

"The World Wide Web consists of computers (servers) all over the world that store information in a textual as well as a multimedia format. Their are currently over 300,000 active Web servers across the world. Each of these servers has a specific Internet address which allows users to easily locate information. Files stored on a server can be accessed in two ways. The first is simply by clicking on a link in a Web document (better known as a Web page) that points to the address of another document. The second way to locate a particular Web page is by typing the Universal Resource Locator (URL) of the page in your browser (the software interface used to navigate the World Wide Web). The URL of a page is the string of characters that appears in the Location [line at the top of the browser].

"World Wide Web pages are written in Hypertext Markup Language or HTML. This format allows text to appear in various colors and sizes when loaded by a Web browser such as Netscape or Internet Explorer, two software programs that navigate the World Wide Web. Most Web browsers also display graphics files which can be embedded in the HTML code of a Web page, allowing pictures to appear in various parts of a document, as well as using them as a background.

"The greatest advantage of producing information in this format, is that files may be linked to one another via hyperlinks (or links) within the documents. Links usually appear in a different color than the rest of the text on a Web page and are often underlined.

"Navigating the Web is as simple as clicking a mouse button. Clicking the mouse on a link tells the computer to go to another Internet location and display a specific file. Also, most Web browsers allow easy navigation of the Web by utilizing "Back" and Forward" buttons that can trace your path around the Web. Links within Web pages aren't limited to just other Web pages. They can include any type of file at all. Some of the more common types of files found on the Web are graphics files, sound files, and files containing movie clips. These files can be run by different helper applications that the Web browser associates with files of that type. (source: http://www.nosh.com/history.html). For a comprehensive summary of the history of telecommunications in general, see "The FHTE Web History of Telecommunications".

For many links to sites telling the history of the Web, the Internet, networks, and so on, see Internet & World Wide Web History.


Basic Information

Let's begin with some basic information about how the Internet works...

What is TCP/IP?... the Post Office Comparison

The Internet uses TCP/IP, often referred to as a packet protocol or packet technology. It is called this because it works rather like the Post Office rather than the telephone. When you use the Internet you are not constantly using the telephone line. Rather, items are collected for a destination--like the post office collects letters for Houston until the packet is full and then it is sent. Likewise, items are collected and sent in a burst of electronic signals which require an extremely small amount of time over the telephone line. The result is very low cost. The other result is that you do not always get absolutely instantaneous service.

The Internet is made up of many many host computers, each paying its own way.

What is a host?... What is an address?

A host is usually a mainframe computer, a member of the Internet community hardwired into the system. Others rent space and/or time from these hosts.

The domain name--the part of the address which comes before the first slash--usually indicates a host. For instance, look up at the address you are viewing right now:

http://lonestar.texas.net/~colby/Info1371/web.htm

The first part--http://lonestar.texas.net/--indicates a host machine. In this case Texas Net is a commercial company which leases time and space on the Internet. These companies are known as ISPs (Internet Service Providers).

The second part of the address--/~colby/--indicates the area leased by me as a web address. The third part--/Info1371/--indicates a subdirectory within my space devoted to the course you are taking. The last part--/web.htm--is a file name. The extension .htm indicates that it is an HTML (HyperText Markup Language) file.

What is available?

As you can see from the facts listed above, a huge amount is available on the Internet. However, unlike a library which has been carefully built of handpicked materials, the Internet contains whatever people wish to place there. This may include really good information, skewed information, biased information, outright lies, and lots of advertising. You must use judgement and care when exploring this new world.

How do you access information?

Since you are reading this, you have already won the first battle: getting online.

The easiest way to access most materials on the Web is through search engines. A good place to start is my list of engines:

http://www.accd.edu/pac/lrc/searchww.htm


An Update

from Berst Alert, July 8, 1999:

".. recent report by Nielsen/NetRatings Inc. shows search engine popularity is slipping." And a study conducted at the NEC Research Institute confirms search engines can't keep up with the Web's rapid growth.
NECRI discovered:

METASEARCHES

Metasearch sites are a timesaver because they query multiple engines simultaneously. Examples include:

DIRECTORIES

These hubs weed through the information glut with topic guides featuring recommended sites. They'll also recommend sites based on your search terms. Theoretically, Yahoo is a directory. But I prefer sites that put an emphasis on quality rather than quantity. Examples:

TOOLS

The right utility does wonders for streamlining searching. Here are three of my favorites...

Alexa got my Natural Born Killer's nod. Click for more. This free browser add-on acts as helpful backseat driver when you surf. Offering stats on sites, including ratings by Alexa's thousands of users. (Alexa homepage.)

BullsEye lets you search and store info. The searchers are highly customizable. For instance, it will search for industry-specific business news. Click for more.

Copernic has an easy learning curve for the novice (or frustrated searcher). It searches multiple sites (as narrowly or widely as you'd like), validates links and features good custom sorting and multi-threading options. Click for more.

EXPERT HELP

Bookmark these for the next time you hit a search roadblock.

ZDNet Help: Get all the latest search tips, tricks and tools. Click for more.

SearchIQ: Features step-by-step guides to basic and specialized surfing. Click for more.

Search Engine Watch: Includes news, reviews and tutorials for major search engines. Click for more.

PC Computing's Search Engine Secrets: Packed with insider tips on searching and getting your site noticed by search engines. Click for more.


Relevant Links

CyberAtlas - great place for Web facts
InfoQuest - links to current reports and organizations that publish demographic surveys and market research reports about the Internet and electronic commerce.
Internet Index for Web facts
Internet Statistics
Survey.net - interesting survey results

NEXT: Introduction to Becoming a Student



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