The Web is a system world-wide that contains files, text, pictures, documents, video and sounds stored on computers. This is all accessible by any computer via your regular phone line, cable tv, or satellite dish into your home or business.
And what use can we make of the Web? You might like to think of the Web as a gigantic world-wide reference book that can include video and sound as well as text and pictures. You can quickly search and discover all sorts of facts and opinions on most any subject. You can find and purchase products and services. You can locate people. You can find phone numbers. You can print maps of most anywhere. You can watch live video and chat around the world. You can even see what an individual may have written on the Web in the past.
Some specific uses for the internet are:
Electronic Mail (E-mail) is probably the most used feature for most people. It's an easy way and no-cost way to keep in touch with people because it's quick and easy to send a quick note to anyone elso on the internet. It's a communication method available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
Blogs are available in the form of discussions posted on areas called "web logs". There are millions of blogs, each on a different topic. Questions can be asked, and general discussions are held which can be read by anyone on the internet.
Software - downloading from file archive sites is one of the useful things about the internet. Thousands of freeware and shareware programs are available to all. And your current software can be upgraded automatically if you wish.
Information databases on the internet impress most people. There are electronic versions of books, magazines, newsletters, and massive amounts of information on just about any topic one could think of. While formerly all this information was in text files, the introduction of the Web made graphic pictures, sound and video possible to retrieve over the internet.
A Community of volunteers makes up much of the internet. The internet has become a virtual community of those who gather and serve information and those who are seeking knowledge. Made up of people from all walks of life, the internet thrives because of the work put into it by those who offer the information for all to use without cost. Without the vast amounts of volunteer labor there would be no internet.
Who is the typical internet user?
The usage of the internet, especaially high speed internet, is steadily increasing aournd the world. And the internet traffic has been increasing as more video and music is accessed online.
(Trivia: If you printed out all of the documents on the Web worldwide and laid them end to end, some of them would end up in the ocean. This would also make them hard to read. So we don't do that.)
Most web pages are read while online, although some prefer to print them out. A few are saved for later reading or study. Some web locations and documents are saved on browser "hotlists" or "bookmarks" for quickly finding at a later time.
How best can I use the Web?
If you can imagine what you would do in a library, you do pretty much the same on the Web. In the library you can just walk around and browse the shelves and randomly read material. Or you can go to the card catalog, which in most cases these days in on computer, and search for specific items of interest.
The same applies on the Web. You can browse from link to link randomly. Or you can use a "search engine" like Yahoo or Google to narrow your search for specific topics.
If you are beginning, I would suggest you use a search engine like Google and enter the keywords for the person, product, subject, or area of interest you may be looking for. (Don't click on the Google link now though! Read on further....) Try to narrow down the search by using as many specific and possibly unique keywords as necessary to zoom in on your interest.
The search engine, acting like an automated card catalog in the library, will list numerous places to look. These will be listed for you as "links", underlined words that you click on that will take you directly to that specific web page. You may think of the "links" as being footnotes or cross-references in a regular book or as a page-turner.
Links may give more detailed information about the subject or may change the subject entirely. This is what leads to many people getting hopelessly lost on the Web. You may think the link will give you more detailed info while in reality it leads you to a new subject area entirely! So be careful that you don't just go aimlessly clicking on links without thinking first! If the link leads to somewhere uninteresting though you can just use your "back arrow" to return to the previous page.
In the beginning you will be tempted to click on lots of the "links". (Were you tempted to click on the Google link above?) Try to think of most "links" as footnotes. You should try to read over the entire page first, then if you have any further interest or need more information you can go back up the page and click on the links for further information.
When you find that you want to use more than one of these "links" it also makes sense to click on the topmost link first. Then after seeing the linked page, use your "back" button or arrow and return to the first page and continue with the next link of interest. In this way, you are making a logical search and not losing your place. Many pages will have numerous links available and it is easy to get distracted from your original search and go off into dozens of new directions if you don't keep you mind on your original search subject!
Some Web pages are somewhat like a book in that they will be read in order from one page to the next. But most are not in any sequence at all. That is what makes the Web so unique. You may read pages like a book, or skip from page to page, subject to subject using the links on each page. The only difference on the Web is that you will automatically be taken to the linked page rather than physically turning pages as in a book.
I hope these tips will help you to enjoy the web and make your journey more pleasant. Search on...