Exploring the Internet - the Basics

Published 11/04/2005 12:16   |    Updated 09/02/2009 17:59
Exploring the Internet

The Internet is a network that links millions of computers around the world. Not so long ago, few people had heard of the Internet. Today, the Internet has revolutionised how people use computers. Many people depend on it daily to communicate with others and to get the information they need. You don't have to connect your computer to the Internet, but once you do, you'll probably wonder how you lived without it.


What is the web?

The part of the Internet that most people are familiar with is the World Wide Web (usually called the Web, or web). The web is so popular that people often use the terms Internet and web to mean the same thing. But the Internet also includes other services, such as email, newsgroups, and file sharing. You can send an email message or participate in a newsgroup without using the web.


The web displays information in a colorful, visually appealing format. Headlines, text, and pictures can be combined on a single webpage (or page)—much like a page in a magazine—along with sounds and animation. A website (or site) is a collection of interconnected webpages. The web contains millions of websites and billions of webpages!


Picture of the BT Ireland homepage
Picture of the BT Ireland home page


Webpages are connected to each other with hyperlinks (usually just called links), which can be text or images. When you click a link on a page, you are taken to a different page. Going from page to page using links is sometimes called surfing the web.



What can I do on the Internet?

Find information.
The web contains a vast amount of information—far more than even the world's largest libraries. For example, you can read news stories and movie reviews, check airline schedules, see street maps, get the weather forecast for your city, or research a health condition. Reference sources, such as dictionaries and encyclopedias, are widely available, as are historical documents and classic literature.


Most companies, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, museums, and libraries have websites with information about their products, services, or collections. Many individuals publish websites with personal journals called blogs (short for web logs) about their hobbies and interests.


Even though the web is great for research, not all information on the web is reliable. Information on some websites might be inaccurate, out of date, or incomplete. Before you trust information, make sure it comes from an authoritative source, and check other sources to verify the information.


Communicate. Email is one of the most popular uses of the Internet. You can send an email message to anyone with an email address, and it will arrive almost instantly in the recipient's email inbox—even if he or she lives halfway around the world. See Getting started with email.


Instant messaging (IM) allows you to have a real-time conversation with another person or a group of people. When you type and send an instant message, the message is immediately visible to all participants. Unlike email, all participants have to be online (connected to the Internet) and in front of their computers at the same time.


Newsgroups and web-based forums allow you to participate in text-based discussions with a community of other people who are interested in the same topic. For example, if you are having trouble using a program, you could post a question in a discussion group for users of that program.


Share. You can upload (copy) pictures from your digital camera to a photo-sharing website. Invited friends and family members can then visit the website to view your photo albums.


Shop. The web is the world's biggest shopping mall. You can browse and purchase products—books, music, toys, clothing, electronics, and much more—at the websites of major retailers (usually a credit card is required). You can also buy and sell used items through websites that use auction-style bidding.


Play. You can play games of every type on the web, often against other players—no matter where they are in the world. Many games are free, and you can download others for a fee. You can also listen to Internet radio stations, watch movie clips, and download or purchase music, videos, and even some TV shows.



Connecting to the Internet

To connect your computer to the Internet, you must first sign up with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) such as BT Ireland. An ISP provides access to the Internet, usually for a monthly fee. You sign up for an account with an ISP just as you do for telephone service or utilities. Click here to find out more about BT's latest Internet products and services.


There are two basic types of connections:

broadband connection is a high-speed Internet connection. With a broadband connection, you are connected to the Internet at all times and can view webpages and download files very rapidly. Two common broadband technologies are Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) and cable technology. BT Ireland only provide a DSL Broadband service, you will require a DSL modem to connect to BT Broadband. You can choose either a standard wired modem or a wireless router as part of your order. Read more...


Dial-up.dial-up connection uses a dial-up modem to connect your computer to the Internet through a standard telephone line. Many computers come with a dial-up modem already installed. In contrast to broadband, dial-up is slower and requires you to establish a new connection each time you want to use the Internet. In some areas dial-up might be the only option for Internet access.



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