What is the Internet?

The Internet is made up of a vast network of computers linked together by telephone lines, fibre optic cables, microwaves and satellites.

How is the Internet used?

People use the Internet for email, to send information to each other, research information about products, shop, order goods, build long distance business relationships, chat and join newsgroups, download games, music, software updates and movies. The Internet is a community of people and a new means of communication. The Internet allows information to be effortlessly transmitted to many people, almost instantaneously.

How does the interent work?

The World Wide Web is made up many web sites. To view a web site one needs to use a browser and a modem to connect to the Internet. The modem talks to the network and allows data to be sent and received from your personal computer. Web sites can then be viewed from any computer that connects to the Internet regardless of whether the computer is Apple or IBM compatible. 
The Internet uses a universal computer language and web sites are hosted on powerful computers called servers in secure areas. Web hosting companies charge a fee to host a web site on their server and to perform such functions as security and daily server back ups.

The Internet was made for the exchange of information. When one computer is linked to another, you would say that the computers were 'networked' together. The advantage of networking is being able to share a computer, information and Internet access.

Companies have utilised the ability to network computers together for over two decades, and still continue to network computers today. Such networks are private. The problem arose as to how to connect computers that ran on different platforms. How could a Macintosh computer share information with an IBM computer. The TCPIP standard was developed and this was the beginning of what is now know as the Internet.

The Internet is a public network, in much the same way as the telephone network is a public network. If you want to call someone, you need a telephone, telephone service and a phone number. If you want to view a web site, you need a computer with a modem and browser, Internet service provider and a web site address. Every computer connected to the Internet has a unique number. This is called an IP address or number. Every web site has a unique IP address or number. The domain name servers hold the IP numbers and direct the request sent by your modem to the right IP address. Since, it is easier to remember a name and not a set of numbers, domain names are registered by individuals and companies. The domain name is then pointed to an IP address and when a user types in the domain name, they are directed to the corresponding IP address of a computer that houses the website files.

Search engines and the Internet

Search engines, are computers which catalogue web sites. A search engine uses automated robots to "crawl" through the web and index the webpages on the web. In many ways, search engines simply take the content that is available on the internet and put that information in a database. The information is passed through a mathematical algorithm and when a user types in a search request, the search function attempts to return the most relevant results.