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What is the Internet?The Internet is not a single place or even one network. It is a vast network of hundreds of thousands of linked computers. The World Wide Web (WWW) is just one piece – albeit the most popular part – of the Internet.
The Internet started back in the 1960s, when funding from the U.S. Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was used to allow researchers to connect computers to each other through telephone lines. Packets of information were sent through this new data highway. As the traffic grew, these packets were stamped according to time and location. Eventually, a set of rules – known as "hypertext transfer protocol" (http) – was created to provide a standard system for sending information and data from one computer network to another.
The Internet has grown into a web of smaller networks which connect universities, government agencies, companies – even countries. It allows students and teachers to access information on everything from aardvarks to zoologists. You can share ideas through e-mail with other educators and even publish your students' work online.
The Internet consists of many services, such as e-mail, Usenet, and FTP (File Transfer Protocol–a method of transferring files from one computer to another). The World Wide Web, the most popularly-used Internet service, is a globally hyperlinked network of server machines that allow such media as text, graphics, and sounds to be mixed together and sent out to your browser. The WWW was developed in the early 1990s and links full-text documents that are coded with HyperText Markup Language (HTML). Navigating around the Web is as simple as clicking on these hypertext links which take you from one location to another. Or, you can type in a URL address for the exact location you wish to visit.
WWW...HTML...URL...the Internet sometimes sounds like alphabet soup. URL is one abbreviation you must know.
URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. Simply put, the URL is the specific address of a page of information on the Internet. You can see the address of any given page at the top or bottom of your browser. Another way to think of a URL is as a way of pinpointing an object's location. An object can be a file, a site, or a newsgroup.
If you break down the components of a URL, you'll find it begins with "http." Http is the name of the protocol used by the World Wide Web. A protocol is a set of messages that browser and server use to communicate. (Protocols are the same for all computers; this is what allows a Mac browser to get a Web page from a Unix server, for example.) The next part of the address is the name of the Web server machine, ending with the type of organization running the machine. ".com" lets you know that Scholastic.com is a commercial site, for example. Educational institutions use ".edu" at the end of the address; ".org" stands for organization; and ".gov" stands for government. So just from a site's address, you can tell a little bit about the place you are visiting.
Not all URLs take you to safe sites. In fact, there are some sites on the Web not suitable for your students.
If you'd like to make use of safety software – software that filters or blocks out sites that contain unsuitable language or content – you can select from a number of different companies. Read Internet Safety for Schools. You can also explore C/Net to learn about the latest safety software improvements and find a solution that meets your needs.