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Chapter 1. The Online World > The Net: There, Wherever You Are

The Net: There, Wherever You Are

The significant contribution of the Internet has been its social impact for everyday people. As the connections of the Internet encompassed a wider group of people, the social interactions increased and spread to wider interests. The three Cs of the Internet:

  • Comfort: The comfort is that you can touch the far reaches of the planet, research arcane and inane subjects, talk to people, spout opinions, argue, laugh, and partake in idle chat—all from the comfort of your home. You can sit in your pajamas at 3:00 in the afternoon, and no one will know (unless you have a video camera enabled). In fact, the Internet is open 24/7, 365 days a year, so anytime of the day or night, you can connect, research something that you've always wanted to know about, or just idly wander around.

  • Community: There are numerous communities of people on the Internet. They cover a diversity of topics from sewing to genealogy, dating, and obscure hobbies. People connect with shared interests and can interact. For millions, the Net has the same appeal as a coffee shop or pub—places where you won't be shushed and where schmoozing is encouraged. Using email and instant messages, you can readily have online conversations with friends, family, and people who share an interest.

  • Chat: These are electronic conversations that take place at the keyboard, but if you have a microphone and sound card, you can have voice conversations, too.

The Internet is a source of inspiration. From one technology springs an idea to utilize a part of the Internet better or to add to it. The Internet has many connections. Not only does it connect computers, but it also connects people and Web sites. At its most simple, people connect through email, sending notes to each other without worrying whether anyone is around to “answer the phone.”

The online world is exciting because it removes the factor of distance between you and the information you need, and between you and the people you want to reach. Need an Italian dictionary? It's at your fingertips. Need to get the opinion of experts in digital photography? Read a newsgroup, join a mailing list, or visit a photography community. So yes, a wired PC makes distance much less important. But suppose you can't be near your computer?

There are plenty of options to connect to the Web where you are, not just where your PC is, whether you are at work, on vacation, sitting at someone else's computer, or using a non-PC device. You can't get the entire, highly visual online experience over a wireless phone, of course, but the essentials are there, including email, messaging, shopping, Web searching, and more. When you're not at your own computer, you can access the Internet via:

  • Wireless phones with Web services

  • Handheld computers, such as a Palm, Handspring, or PocketPC, with a wireless connection. You can also download the Web content from the PC to your handheld before you leave.

  • Pagers

  • Any PC with an Internet connection at a café, on a ship, or at a friend's house

  • Mobile communicators: small, two-way messaging devices with built-in keyboards, made by the makers of the popular Blackberry wireless handheld

Basic Building Blocks of the Net

The Net is shorthand for the Internet, a global network of information and communities. The World Wide Web is a part of the Net—an application—the easiest-to-use and most visual part. Other important parts of the Net include email, discussion groups, and file exchange.

Online content refers to the content available over a network. Online content is usually in the form of words and pictures, sometimes in the form of video, audio, and animation.

An IP address is the physical address of a computer on the Internet. For example, instead of 1234 Peach Street, the Internet uses—four sets of numbers separated by a period identifying the unique location. Each number can be 0 to 255.

A link is a short bit of text or a small picture that you click with your mouse to find more information. To tell whether text or a picture is a link, move your mouse arrow over it. If the mouse arrow turns into a picture of a pointing finger, you can click it. You can find links on almost every Web page.

A clickable link is when a Web address or URL is blue and underlined. Instead of typing the address into an Internet window, you put your mouse pointer over the blue underlined address and click your mouse button: The link will connect.

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