On the Web - About the Web
Web Basics
James Hayes-Bohanan, Ph.D.
Last revised: August 5, 2004

BACK to My Resources Page BACK to Bridgewater State College Back to On the Web -- About the Web

Basic Internet Resources

I had the good fortune of being an Internet user in the days prior to the World Wide Web, search engines, or even browsers. Because I saw many of the pieces being added one by one, I have a pretty good sense of how the various parts of the Internet fit together. As the Internet and the Web continue to evolve, however, I find that I must turn to expert sources for help in keeping up with the changes. The sites described here can help novice and advanced Internet users to become more comfortable with the technology and terminology.

Back to About the Web

For those who are new to the 'net or who are confused by it, try the Learn the Net site. For more help with web terminology -- and computer terminology in general -- go to the PC Webopædia.

W3C More advanced Web users can gain a lot of insight from the W3C organization, an international consortium founded by the Web's inventor. It continuously reviews and standardizes new protocols and file formats. For the latest news about the internet, go to Internet.com.

The key to finding sites on the Internet is becoming familiar with search engines, each of which uses a specific method to find web pages. With experience you will learn which ones will work best for finding certain kinds of information. Yahoo! was the first search engine, and for quite a while it included ONLY web pages that its founders (two college students who went on to become quite wealthy) personally viewed and assigned to a category. It remains a popular and sometimes useful search engine, but users are frequently unaware of the limitations of using a category-driven approach.

Altavista was the first search engine to operate by "crawling" web pages, giving searchers a way to scan many thousands of web pages for the occurance of particular words or phrases.. Google builds on the Altavista model, but adds complex algorithms for ranking results. Furthermore, it gives users quite an array of specialized search tools. It is virtually the only search engine I now use. For hard-to-find items, try Meta Crawler, a meta search engine that searches many search engines simultaneously. Your success with any search engine will be greatly enhanced if you read the online help that explains how the search engine is organized and how it operates.

It is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between a browser and a search engine. A browser is a piece of software that allows users to read web pages - just as a word processor allows users to read word-processing files. (See PC Webopædia for a more thorough explanation.) Most browsers, however, include a "SEARCH" button at the top. This button merely connects the user to a particular search engine. In the case of Microsoft IE, this is the MS Network search engine. In the case of Netscape, it is Netscape.com. In the case of AOL, it is AOL.com. You get the picture! You can access these search engines from any browser, but they get a lot of traffic from those "captive" audiences.

It is also sometimes difficult to find basic information on the Internet that you would expect to find in an atlas, encyclopedia, or almanac. The reference staff at BSC's Maxwell Library maintains an excellent site, Internet Resources by Subject, that leads readers to many sites that do provide this kind of ready-reference information.


If you are interested in developing your own web pages, take a look at  Resources for Web Developers from the BSC Webteam. Some of this is specific to BSC web developers, but much of it has broader applicability. Lighthouse on the Web at Shorewalker.com is an excellent resource for people trying to build web sites that are well-designed. It emphasizes simplicity and utility, rather than the use of "bells and whistles." The quality of web sites is usually inversely related to the use of animations, scrolling, blinking, and so forth. This site provides some thoughts on how to do things better.

Once you create a site, you need to register it with search engines in order to attract visitors. Be careful what you wish for, though: if you publicize a web site, you can expect an increase in both spam and legitimate e-mail. I have filters for the spam, and actually enjoy the amazing variety of e-mail messages I get from people who visit my web sites, but if you are not prepared for both legitimate e-mail and spam to increase, be very careful how you promote your site and how you display contact information.
The most important place to submit a web site is DMOZ. Another that I have tried recently is Submit-a-Website. MANY sites are available for web site submission. Read the fine print carefully, as a lot of them have hidden costs.