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What is the Internet



The Internet, what is it?


Will it hurt me?  Is it bad?

    Q.  Will the Internet hurt me?
A.  No the Internet can not hurt you, because the Internet is nothing more than many computers connected together.  There are some people who might try to get personal information from you (your name and address,  your phone number,  you social security number,  credit card numbers).  Some of these people could create trouble for you if you give them this information.  You would not give a stranger on the street your personal information.  DON'T give it to anyone on the Internet you don't know.  You can buy goods and services on the Internet, the companies will ask you for personal information.  Before you give it, make sure you know what the company will do with your information.  If you have any questions call the company and ask.  Most good companies will be happy to tell you about their policies.

Q.  Is the Internet BAD?
A.  No the Internet is not bad.  In fact it is very good.  It can provide you with information you would not be able to find anywhere else.  Just as you are careful where you travel in some larger cities and towns you need to careful on the Internet also.  Not every part of the Internet is friendly.  There are people who will take advantage of you, if you let them, just as there are in our cities and towns.  The watch word here is caution ! ! ! !  Everyday we hear of someone getting into trouble on the Internet.  This is usually because they did not exercise enough caution while on the Internet.  Use good common sense while you browse.  There is a wonderful world of information out there.  Don't be Frightened; Be Cautious and have Fun.      


We have put together some information about the Internet that will help answer many of the questions you may have about the wonderful world of the Internet.

In this "How-To" page you will find information on:

What is the Internet?
What is the Internet used for?
Who runs the Internet?
How does the Internet work?
Communication Protocols
Domains and Addresses
How do Computers Communicate?
How are Routers Interconnected?
How do Computer Users reach the Internet Backbone?
What do we need to connect to the Internet?
Dial-up connection
Cable TV connection
ADSL connection
Dish Satellite Connection
The Internet services
File Transfer Protocol (FTP)
Electronic Mail (E-Mail)
Usenet (News Groups)
Listserv (Mailing Lists)
Internet Relay Chat (IRC)
Instant Messaging
The World Wide Web (WWW)
How to Write Messages



What is the Internet?

The Internet is the name of a worldwide network of networks that interconnects computers ranging from the simplest personal computers to the most sophisticated mainframes and supercomputers. The word "Internet" does not define what is done over these computer connections--it is just the name of this wide connection itself.

The Internet is huge. No one is exactly sure just how huge, but there are millions of connected computers.



What is the Internet used for?

The Internet contains the electronic equivalents of conference rooms and cafes, libraries and bookstores, post offices and telephones, radio and television stations, newspapers and magazines, and a growing variety of services that have no counterparts in the real world.

No matter how humble your own computer might be, if it is connected to the Internet you can access the resources of thousands of computers throughout the world. With an Internet connection you can:

  • access online library catalogs,
  • copy computer files or software from archives,
  • access databases,
  • obtain free electronic books,
  • communicate with other people,
  • listen/watch remote radio/TV stations,
  • access remote computer sites.

Although the Internet is made up of many diverse computers, together they work like one worldwide computer system.



Who Runs the Internet?

The Internet is an entity with millions of users and millions of hosts. It has no true central organizing body or even what may be called a true organizing principle. No owner, No boss!



How does the Internet work?

Over the Internet, the bottom line of all your operations can be summarized as sending and receiving information with your computer. In many cases, you would make a connection to a remote computer, and start communicating with that computer, sending and receiving data. Generally your information will travel through many computers between you and the computer that you communicate with. Through many kind of wires, this information transfer is done very rapidly, without bothering you at all with any of the details.



Communication Protocols

During these communications, as all the computers on the Internet need to understand what the others want, we need a common global language that these computers can all speak. These type of languages, or rules for communication, are called communication protocols. The basic communication protocol utilized on the Internet is called TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol). This would show itself to us as a small computer program (or driver) that needs to be loaded on our computer in order for us to access the Internet.



Domains and Addresses

Every computer that communicates over the Internet, both our computers and the computers that we contact and get information from, has to have an address that enables outgoing and incoming messages to find and reach them. As this addressing and message routing is managed by the IP part of the TCP/IP protocol, they are called IP addresses. An IP address is comprised of four sets of numbers or octals and are connected with periods (an example is  The numbers can be between 0 and 255.

Whenever you want to contact a certain site on the Internet, you have to provide its address. As the numerical addresses are too hard to remember, for frequently used Internet sites, we also have human-friendly names, called "DNS (Domain Name Server) addresses" or "domain names". A DNS address is of the form:


A typical DNS address could be "help-net.com", where "help-net" is the server name, and "com" is the domain name. Sometimes you will also see a protocol name preceding the DNS address, such as http://www.help-net.com/, or a file name following the computer address, such as ftp://home.netscape.com/index.html. In some cases, the page you access may be in a subfolder, as in http://www.help-net.com/computer buddies/index.htm, where http://www.help-net.com/ is the server, index.htm is the web page, and /computer buddies is the folder on this server where this page is located.

There are several different types of domains, named according to their organizational roles:

com commercial organizations
edu educational and research institutions
gov government agencies
mil military agencies
net major networks centers
org non profit organizations

Domain names may also include country codes at their end, except for those registered in the USA. Some countries implement the organization type part of the domain name differently; for example, commercial organizations in the U.K. use "co" extension instead of "com", and those in Germany do not have an organization type part at all.



How do computers communicate?
The Internet is constructed with the philosophy that every computer should be able to communicate with any other one. However, with millions of computers that make up the Internet today, it is obvious that a separate physical direct connection from each computer to all others is impossible.

The Internet is comprised of many smart devices called routers, whose job is to route the incoming data traffic towards its destination address. When your computer issues a request (for example, asks for a web page), that request packet is delegated to the nearest router. This router looks at the destination IP address, decides on a line in the direction of the destination, and sends the packet to the next router at the end of that line. The receiving router acts the same way, and so does the next one--until the packet reaches its destination. The response to this request (the web page) travels backwards exactly in the same way.

There may be just one, or there may be 50 routers between two computers that want to communicate over the Internet. The users will not know this number, and the TCP/IP infrastructure will take care of the transmission and reception of data packets silently.



How are routers interconnected?

Routers are often placed at the end of high-capacity long transmission media, to handle incoming and outgoing data traffic. The transmission medium between any two router could be copper or fiber-optic cables, radio links, satellite links, etc.

The system of inter-connected high capacity routers and the data network is called the Internet backbone. Internet backbones are systems of very sophisticated routers and high-bandwidth data transmission lines that serve the data connection requirements of a relatively large geographical region. They are generally built by big telecommunication companies around the world. This backbone connects all Internet users around the country, and also provides access to Internet backbones of other countries through satellite and fiber-optic links.



How do computer users reach the Internet backbone?

The big telecommunication companies are (ideally) analogous to a wholesaler who sells its services to a retailer (your ISP). The retailer, in turn, sells the service to the end-users (computer users who want to access the Internet from their homes or offices). However, some of the big telecommunication companies have lately entered the retail market itself, and is providing Internet access to end-users in various forms.

The retailers of the big telecommunication companies, who provide Internet access to us are called Internet Service Providers (ISP). Most ISPs also have their own satellite connections to provide faster access to sites and computers that are abroad. AT&T, AOL, BellSouth, Earthlink, Road Runner, are some of the ISPs in our country.

There are also other organizations which act as service providers in a different sense. For example, most universities and colleges provide a special Internet backbone for academic institutions; it connects universities to one another.
Many institutions act like an ISP to their computer network users, providing Internet connection to all networked computers. 



What do we need to connect to the Internet?

In order to connect to the Internet, you would normally need the following things:
A computer
TCP/IP protocol loaded on the computer,
A data transmission means (phone line, ADSL, or Cable)
Hardware that connects your computer to the data line (Modem),

If you would like to connect to the Internet from home or from your small business, there are a variety of alternatives:


Dial-up Connection
This scenario involves the use of a normal telephone line to connect to the Internet. Over the telephone, the computer calls an ISP phone number, which connects us to the Internet. The maximum data speed is 56 kb/sec, which can be lower due to line quality problems.

The requirements for this type of connection are:
A computer,
TCP/IP protocol,
A telephone line,
A modem, to convert the digital computer signals to sound signals, and vice versa,
A user account with an ISP.

Most users rent connection time from an ISP to connect to the Internet. This involves calling a local phone number in most cases.  You should call as many ISP's in your area to find out local rates and limitations.

Some ISP's do not charge a monthly fee.  Their service is offered to you at no charge but they flood the screen with adds.  For a small fee $8.00 to $15.00 per month they will provide a add free connection.  If you only use the Internet for E-Mail the free services are hard to beat.



Cable TV connection
If you have a cable TV connection at your home, getting Internet connection service over that cable is possible. It provides two-way communication (information flowing from and towards the Internet) at asymmetrical rates.  You are billed monthly and this enables you to stay online 24 hours without any extra charge.  It requires a network interface card and a cable modem. The requirements for this type of connection are:

A computer,
TCP/IP protocol,
Subscription to the cable TV service,
A network interface card,
A cable modem,
A user account with an ISP.



ADSL connection
This service is a high speed connection over standard telephone cable pairs, it provides asymmetric connection.  This will you allow you to use your phone and the computer at the same time.  The price rates for ADSL are about the same as for an extra phone line.  With this type of connection you get your modem line and Internet access with one monthly payment.  You get 24-hour connection, and can stay online round the clock at no extra charge.  It requires a special modem.

The requirements for this type of connection are:
A computer,
TCP/IP protocol,
An ADSL line (a telephone cable connected to an ADSL circuitry on the phone systems equipment),
An ADSL modem,
A user account with an ISP.



Dish Satellite Connection
If you have a dish satellite you might also be able to use this for the connection at your home.  Getting Internet connection service over that is possible. It provides two-way communication (information flowing from and towards the Internet) at asymmetrical rates.  You are billed monthly and this enables you to stay online 24 hours without any extra charge.  It requires a network interface card and a satellite modem.  This can be used when you are too far from the telco switching office or do not have cable in your area.

The requirements for this type of connection are:
A computer,
TCP/IP protocol,
Subscription to the satellite TV service,
A network interface card,
A satellite modem,
A user account with an ISP.




The Internet Services

As defined at the beginning, "Internet" itself is just the name of the connection of computers, and does not give you any idea of what type of communication you perform, or what services you get from it. The number of services you get over the Internet increase each day, and is only limited by the imagination of humans, and their needs. The most commonly used services over the Internet today are:

File Transfer Protocol (FTP)
FTP is a method for transferring files between computer systems, even computer systems of different types that would otherwise be incompatible with one another. FTP is useful when you need a copy of a document or need to retrieve a file such as a piece of software stored on a remote system. Popular sites are frequently overloaded with users and it is difficult to log on. To accommodate the Internet community, some sites provide a mirror of themselves. A mirror duplicates the files available at a specific FTP site on yet another site.

Telnet allows you to attach to a remote computer system, and use its resources as if they were on your own desktop. For example, you can attach to the library server of the university from your home and look for a book. Note that Telnet is not a network; it is one of the TCP/IP applications that makes the Internet possible and useful.

Electronic Mail (E-Mail)
Electronic mail (or e-mail) is used to exchange messages or other information (such as files, web pages) with other people or services. The mail that you send is stored within the mailbox which is on the computer system that holds the account of the recipient. Just as it does with regular mail it goes to the mailbox so the recipient does not need to be online to receive that message; he can download and read it later. The e-mail addresses are of the form "userid@servername.domain".

Usenet (News Groups)
The term "Usenet," also sometimes called "netnews," refers to the computer equivalent of notice board postings, like the ones we have in the grocery stores. The Usenet is divided into interest groups, that would include everything from supercomputer design to bungee cord jumping. You can just look through the messages other people put in a certain interest group, and post your own messages.

The user's computer system periodically downloads a feed of the Usenet groups needed by the users at that site, and the user must also launch special newsreader software to browse the groups and read messages or "posts."

Listserv (Mailing Lists)
E-mail can be used to send a single message to many people at once. This capability has been utilized to create a large number of topical discussion groups that distribute the messages of the group members through e-mail. Based on the name of the software that facilitates group e-mailing, these private discussion groups are often known as Listservs. To receive mail from a Listserv, you must subscribe to it and have the subscription approved by the list group's moderator. Although some lists are not moderated, most require a screening process to get your message distributed.

Internet Relay Chat (IRC)
E-mail, Listserv, and Usenet are useful ways to communicate, but they suffer from not being online. However, there are also several real-time services that allow people to talk to each other without delayed responses. Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is one of these. Like Usenet, IRC is organized into many special interest groups (called channels). As a result, IRC is a very fluid medium, constantly evolving and changing depending on who is online.

Instant Messaging
This service gives you a mixture of e-mail, chat, file transfer and more. When you subscribe to an instant messaging, you get an id number and a simple web page of your own on its server, and other people can locate and contact you even if they do not know your address. What's more, instant messaging can notify you when people on your contact list (your buddies) go online on the Internet, and you can start a two-person chat with that person.

The World Wide Web (WWW)
The idea of WWW is to create a global system of linked and cross-referenced documents contained in computers everywhere. Individual sites and addresses on the WWW are organized into homepages.

WWW sites are accessed with special software called Web browsers. A browser retrieves documents and images from WWW servers and displays them on the user's computer, where the information can be saved, printed, or otherwise manipulated. WWW homepages are written with a special programming language known as HTML (Hypertext Markup Language). Web pages typically have an extension of .html or .htm to identify the fact that they were written with HTML code.




How to write messages


One of the problems with electronic mail is that it is a "flat" communication medium. In other words, people with whom you are communicating through e-mail cannot see your wry smile, see your raised eyebrows, or hear the dripping sarcasm in your voice. Your words can be very easily misunderstood. One way that e-mail users have adopted to try to add "emotion" and nonverbal information to their e-mail messages is with "emoticons" (icons that express emotions). A sample of commonly used emoticons and their associated meanings follows:

:-) or :) smile
;-) wink
:-D laughing
:-} grin
:-] smirk
:-| indifferent
:-( frown
%-( confused
:-/ skeptical
:-X close mouthed
:-o oh, no!
8-) wide-eyed, or smiling (with glasses)




In addition to using emoticons, the Internet users have developed a kind of shorthand that makes extensive use of acronyms. Some of the common acronyms that you will see include:

<g> grin
<vbg> very big grin
LOL laughing out loud
ROTFL rolling on the floor laughing
BTW by the way
TNX thanks
BBL be back later
BRB be right back
CUL8er see you later
WTG way to go
PU that stinks!
IMO in my opinion
IMHO in my humble opinion
OTOH on the other hand
IOW in other words
FYA  for your amusement
FYI for your information
GMTA great minds think alike
F2F face to face




The word "netiquette" comes from "network etiquette", and is a set of guidelines for civilized, inoffensive communication over the Internet while exchanging written messages. Over a written medium, people are often disturbed or even upset by actions such as: 

Strong oppositions to others' ideas or beliefs,

Writing on unrelated topics or making dull comments (especially to mailing lists and in Usenet), 

Inconsiderate and hurtful comments (for example writing "what a stupid idea"), 

Writing in an impolite style or in an unapproved fashion.  For example writing in ALL CAPITALS is considered shouting, or omitting subject fields).

Such practices may cause other parties to take offense, and sometimes, respond with strong words, insults, or curses. These hostile reactions are called "flaming". A flame war occurs when two or more users flame each other in an escalating manner that goes on without an end.

Detailed information on how to behave, and what actions to avoid is available on many web sites. The following list gives some outstanding sites on this topic: 

Netiquette Guide: A well-written, all-in-one source for netiquette


Netiquette: A complete book on netiquette, transferred to the web


Emily Postnews: A satirical and enjoyable text of what not-to-do


RFC 1855 Netiquette Guidelines: A very comprehensive and standard (but long and formal) guide for all electronic communications






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Last modified: June 04, 2008