Many people are hesitant to do anything involving the internet as they don't have any background. A typical comment is "I’ve had some people come to see me about a website but I didn’t really understand what they were talking about. What does all that jargon actually mean?"
Most people who use a computer have heard the terms internet, service provider, e-mail and website. But a lot of confusion still seems to exist about exactly what each of these is and how they all link together.
Everybody seems to use the terms with such ease and often they seem to be used interchangeably! This makes it difficult and almost embarrassing for those who are not sure to ask for a clear explanation. But by keeping silent and not knowing, you may be losing lots of money simply because of a lack of a little web knowledge.
For the benefit of those new to the net, we’ve compiled a short, easy explanation of some of the more common terms used in relation to the internet. You may also find the article called The 7 basic building blocks of any website useful.
What is the internet?
Very basically, the internet consists of a huge infrastructure around the world that allows different computers to communicate with each other. You can join this infrastructure (i.e. surf the internet) by connecting to it via your internet service provider (ISP).
What is an Internet Service Provider or ISP?
An internet service provider is a local company that is permanently connected to the internet (global infrastructure). You connect to your ISP (internet service provider) via a modem and through them, to the rest of the internet.
You must have an account with an ISP to connect to the internet and this usually involves a monthly subscription fee. Once you have connected to the internet through your ISP, you can do different things like send and receive e-mail, surf websites or do online shopping and banking.
You can connect to your ISP in various ways:
- ADSL. This is a high speed "always on" connection to the internet. (In addition to your ISP account, you'll also need to get an ADSL line (from a supplier like Telkom or some ISP suppliers can now help you with this as well) which also carries a monthly cost.
- An older but still widely used way to connect to the net is through a modem and dial-up connection (you connect to your ISP via your telephone line, which is why you pay for a telephone call each time you use this method – you are basically phoning into your ISP).
- Other ways to connect to your ISP include satellite connection, optic fibre connection and ISDN connection (basically just a faster type of telephone connection).
What is e-mail?
E-mail simply refers to the electronic messages that you can send and receive via the internet. To send and receive messages you must connect to the internet through an ISP.
E-mail addresses start with a name of sorts, followed by the @ sign, followed by the domain/website name of the company sending the mail.
What is a website?
A simple website is a collection of web pages that allow people to read and see information about your business on their computers. It is accessible via the internet from anywhere in the world 24 hours a day. It must be programmed in a way which allows your information to be displayed attractively on screen.
Website addresses start with www followed by the name of the website and it's extension (.com / .net / .co.za / .co.uk etc).
More advanced sites also enable you to buy and sell products directly from the site, often by using a credit card for payment. This is called e-commerce.
A web page does not necessarily contain the same amount of information as you would find on a printed A4 page – it often contains a lot more. A web page consists of all the information that can be seen on your screen or which can be seen by scrolling up or down on that “page.” Clicking on a link should cause a new “page” to load, which can also be read by scrolling up and down.
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