MODULE 6: The WWW and Other Sources of Information:
Section 2 of 4, INTERNET BASICS, page 1 of 2.


What, exactly, is the Internet?
Basically it is a global network exchanging digitized data in such a way that any computer, anywhere, that is equipped with a device called a "modem" can make a noise like a duck choking on a kazoo.

—Dave Barry

Even if you have a pretty good idea of what the Internet is, in the context of doing college-level research, it is beneficial to have a very clear understanding of what the Internet and the World Wide Web are, and to have a very good command of basic terminology.

Additionally, it is very important to understand the relationship between library databases, such as those discussed in Modules 3, 4, and 5, and the Internet.



The Internet is NOT the World Wide Web.

The Internet is a physical thing.
It is infrastructure, an underlying foundation.
It came into being in the 1970s.

The Internet allows electronic data to be exchanged over long distances.


The Internet is a really big bunch of wires (it uses hardware and software to get the job done).

The word Internet is a shortened form of the word internetwork (meaning an interconnected network). In essence, it is a network that links computer networks.

If you think of the Internet as you would a telephone service, there is a long wire that allows the information to travel from place to place, and there is a switchboard that tells the information where to go ... only it's slightly more complicated.



The World Wide Web is NOT the Internet.

The World Wide Web is, "a set of rules to access, manipulate, and download a very large set of hypertext linked documents and other files located on computers connected through the Internet" (Microsoft Encarta College Dictionary).

The WWW is a way. It is a system.
It is files (text, audio, video, data, etc.) moving on the infrastructure of the previously-established Internet, in a manner that is easy to make use of (by using a Web browser).
It is a way that started in the 1990s. (Tim Berners-Lee is the person who invented the WWW. Read more at the first Web site <>).


The WWW is, "a part of the Internet accessed through a graphical user interface and containing documents often connected by hyperlinks —called also Web" (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary).

In other words, it's magic.

This is the magic: documents (typically in the form of Web pages) are connected by hyperlinks (those things you click on) to other Web pages and to other files (images, audio, video, text, computer programs, data, etc.).


It is the ease of use of hyperlinks and a graphical user Interface (browser) that has made the Internet so accessible (via the WWW)—so much so that many people use the terms Internet and WWW interchangeably, even though they are not the same thing.

Don't be too concerned if you don't fully understand how the Internet works. You get the idea ... you know what we are talking about.


A Web browser is a graphical user interface*.

The browser is the thing with the forward, back, and home buttons. It has an address bar where you enter Web addresses (it is fine to call them Internet addresses as well; after all, everything that is on the Web is on the Internet [but not vice versa]). Your Web browser, e.g., Microsoft Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Safari, allows you to move effectively among Web sites and documents.

A browser is like a telephone for the Web, but instead of dialing a phone number to place a call (access your destination), you type in an address or you click on a link.

The term for an Internet address (or Web address, either term is fine), is uniform resource locator (URL). When you see or hear URL, think "complete Internet address." The whole thing, from start to finish. For example,, is the URL of Troy University.

Tip: For accessing the Troy University Web site, using Blackboard (courseware for delivering online classes), and using the TROY Library resources, Microsoft Internet Explorer is the safest (most universally usable) browser to use.

*Note: There is such a thing as a text-based Web browser, e.g. Lynx <>, but that is a rarity.


Search engines are indexes (lists, pointers, directories, catalogs) to sites or files on the WWW.

Recommended Web site for learning about search engines: Search Engine Showdown: The User's guide to Web Searching <>

In telephone terms, think of them as WWW yellow pages.

There are three primary types of search engines: meta, keyword, and category. While the Google search engine is an excellent tool for searching the WWW, many researchers can benefit from familiarizing themselves with other search tools, especially category search engines.

META Search Engines: Clusty, DogPile, Ixquick, KartOO, Live Search, Mamma, Metacrawler, Surfwax, Vroosh
These types of search engines search multiple search engines simultaneously.
KEYWORD Search Engines: Alexa, Ask, Cuil, Gigablast, Google
Keyword search engines search directly for Web sites based on words that you enter.

CATEGORY Search Engines: About, Open Directory, Yahoo!
These types of search engines arrange sites by subject, like telephone yellow pages.

Specialized (typically smaller in scope but more scholarly in content) category search engines: BUBL, Infomine, Internet Public Library, Intute, Librarian's Internet Index, WWW Virtual Library


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