The Internet was initially designed and built by the US Department of Defense to facilitate communication between researchers scattered across the globe. What it has become is a means for the worldwide exchange of goods, services, and just plain information. Do you want to know how many helicopters the Egyptian Air Force maintains? It's out there. And I bet you could find it in less that fifteen minutes. How about a recipe for bread pudding? How about: the average price of a 1986 Volvo 240 standard transmission with overdrive? No Problem.
Six short years ago, there were only 13.5 million Internet users, internationally. Now, there are about 2,250,000,000 users, which represents 37.5% of the world's population. This means (let us do the math for you) that the number of people using the Internet has been doubling each year. Not bad. (Stats from Anamorph
Here's another statistic. How many search engine searches are there each day? Close your eyes right here and guess. Okay. The answer is 275,000,000 Internet searches per day! (according to InternetStats)
While all this is amazing, even the experts are scratching their heads and asking "I wonder what it all means."
Sorry, but we are not here to give you the answer. Because it seems that no one really knows just how all this will affect life on earth. But, we do know that with anything this big, growing this rapidly, touching more and more of our daily lives, it would probably be a good idea to learn a little bit about it. If you can think of the Internet as an ocean, we are suggesting that you at least learn how to swim. So, get on your water wings and come with us for little tour.
A good place to start is with a glossary. We recommend SquareOne Tech
for starters. It has a simple online dictionary and glossary of terms. For the more technologically minded, NetLingo
has more terms dealing with the technical aspects of the Internet. So, if you already know what CGI and IRC are, then you might want to start with NetLingo
One of the surprising aspects of the Internet is that there are a great number of web sites out there, teeming with information that were put up by people who, at least initially, had no commercial interest in their site. They were just passionate about their area of interest. So you can probably find additions to your family tree, vintage 78 recordings, tongue twisters, and this year's international gurning champion. What? Never heard of gurning? Well, let's find out what that is and take the next step in getting the Internet to work for us. The next step begins with picking you favorite search engine.
There are many search engines. What they do is find, by whatever key words you put in, web sites that match you keywords. Some of the most popular search engines are Google
, and Yahoo!
Actually, we suggest you go to any search engine and type in "search engine" and see what you get.
Now, just for this exercise, pick a search engine and enter the word "gurning." We're not going to tell you what it is; we want you to look for yourself. Suffice it to say, that gurning enthusiasts are everywhere!
When we searched, we found 132 listings with northernlight.com
, 2,180 with Yahoo, and Google had a whopping 3,230! Does this mean Google is the best? Not necessarily. If you're looking for specific information, for instance technical information, demographics, art history, or whatever it is, judge by the quality of the results you get. Northernlight, even though it had fewer results overall, could conceivably have had the greatest number of sites that were exactly what you were looking for. This would be especially true if the information you wanted was in the first three pages of listings,
Among the results for "gurning," we found the complete history and origins of gurning, the etymology of the word (including a section of a web site devoted entirely to weird words); one site that had photos of the winners, placers, and losers in a gurning contest, an on online gurning contest for those who feel they have something to contribute to the world of gurning, the gurning girls (we'll let you find them), gurning as therapy, a poem entitled "The Gurning Lady Of Lydiard Park, gurning for fun and profit, a rock record named "The Gurning Point," and finally, a web site, in French, promoting the recorded classical keyboard music of Alexander Gurning.
All that from one little word!
We used this example to show you how world wide the www really is. Imagine how many recipes for baklava are out there, or information on Appalachian music, the Holy Grail, or Feng Shui.
The original library at Alexandria, built in the 4th century, B.C., has been regarded as the greatest library in the history of the world. The library was intended to "... house all the books in the world," commanded so by Demetrius (337-283 B.C., king of Macedon). The most accurate estimates put the number of scrolls and manuscripts housed at the library, at 700,000. By comparison, Google boasts it has 2,073,418,204 web pages indexed, and it's growing every day. Granted, many of the web sites out there probably would not have made the cut for the library, but it is something to consider.
If you like information (like one of your favorite silent screen actors), or you want to find out what the exchange rate and the name of the currency is in Thailand, you can do so in a matter of moments, even faster if you have a high-speed connection.
For those of you who haven't already discovered the benefits of the Internet, we urge you to dive right in, there's a lot out there, right at your fingertips (including all you ever wanted to know about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome –– what the heck, everything has a price). It may seem scary at first, but hey, come on in, the water's fine.