About the Internet

The Internet is a global network of computers which enables people to use information services such as email and the World Wide Web.

To access the Internet you need a computer and a physical connection. From your home this connection can be provided via your telephone line or via a cable operator. This connection is normally referred to as Broadband (the older dial-up connection was much slower and is now seldom used) and can be obtained from an Internet Service Provider (ISP) such as BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin, etc.

Once you have your computer and a broadband connection, you will need to connect your computer to the router. If you have a cable connection this is simply a matter of plugging if the cable. If you have a WiFi connection from your laptop or tablet you will need to enter a password to enable your computer to connect to the router. This only has to be done the first time you connect as the computer will then remember the password and subsequently will connect automatically to the Internet.

The World Wide Web consists of websites each of which has a unique website address (of the form www.webaddress.com) which is used to locate it. A website contains pages of information which can relate to any topic including news, entertainment, sport, shopping, etc, etc. You can also interact with websites so that you can do online shopping, fill in your tax return, etc.

To access the World Wide Web, you will use a program called a browser. Windows PCs come with a browser called Edge. Tablets and smartphones have their own bowsers, eg the iPad and iPhone use Safari.. Other browsers can be downloaded for free, eg Google Chrome but they all do essentially the same job.

The first page you will see when you open the browser is called the Home Page. This may be preset by your ISP but you can change it to suit yourself so that you always start at a place most convenient for yourself. To access further information on the Internet you have a number of choices:

  1. If you know the website address which you want, eg from a newspaper or tv advert, you can enter it into the Address Bar (at the top of the window) and go straight to the page. The website address is normally of the form www.webaddress.com though you can often omit the "www." prefix when typing into the Address bar.

  2. If you don't know the address, you can use a search engine to find it for you. Again there are a number of choices of search engines, Google, Bing and Yahoo, being the most common ones. See Using a Search Engine for more information.

  3. You can follow links from the page you are looking at.

To access other services on the Internet, you would use other programs on your computer, eg Skype for having video conversations with people around the world, Mail for accessing your email.

Now for some practice. Use your mouse to move the cursor to the Menu at the top of this window, move your cursor to "About the Internet" and then click on "Basic Internet Exercises".