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The Language of the Internet

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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

"Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood."

—Marie Curie

In This Chapter

  • Understanding Internet Addresses

  • Email Addresses

  • Acronymns and Emoticons

You might have heard that HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is the language of the Internet. It sounds ominous, doesn't it? Well, don't worry. HTML is the computer language that most of the web pages are written in, but you don't have to worry about learning it unless you want to. I'll tell you more about HTML in Chapter 9, "Putting Your Stuff on the Web." In the meantime, let's get into some easier stuff. In this chapter, I'll give you the basics about the everyday language of the Internet that you need to know. These are basics that are easy to learn and fun to work with: Internet address, acronyms, and emoticons.

Understanding Internet Addresses

In today’s world, we are inundated with web addresses. These addresses, commonly known as URLs, show up everywhere. You see and hear WWW addresses on television, in newspapers, on the radio, in magazines, on roadside billboards, and even in fortune cookies! Your bank has a website, and so does your alma mater. Many of the stores in which you shop have a Web address, as do most hotels, health organizations, sports teams, museums, newspapers, and magazines.

Much of the trepidation regarding the computer world comes from the fact that many people don’t understand the highly technical terminology associated with computers. In most cases, a person doesn’t have to understand complex jargon to work with a computer, but every now and then some necessary geek-speak creeps in. This is the case with Internet addresses, which are also called uniform resource locators, or URLs for short. The Internet is a treasure chest of information. As a -user, you must have a key to unlock this high-tech chest. URLs are one of the keys. The sooner you understand URLs, the faster you can open that treasure chest and begin enjoying the riches of the Internet.

A typical URL looks like this: http://www.cocacola.com

HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. This is the protocol, or set of rules and standards, that enable computers to exchange information. It defines how web pages are formatted and transmitted. Although most Internet address have www after the http://, a few do not. Always type in the address exactly as it was given.

The colon and the two slashes are special separators that your computer understands. They are UNIX codes. Many of the servers and other main computers on the Internet use the UNIX operating system. Just in case you’re interested, UNIX stands for UNIpleX information and computer services and is pronounced yoo-niks.

After the slashes, you usually see http://www. This stands for World Wide Web and will usually be part of the Web address. The World Wide Web, which is more commonly called the Web, is the popular multimedia branch of the Internet that consists of huge collections of documents stored on hundreds of thousands of computers around the world. Not all web pages are part of the World Wide Web, and www is not part of every web address or URL. A web page can reside on a part of the Internet that is not found on the World Wide Web. Such a URL would not contain http://www. An example of such a web address is: http://office.microsoft.com.

The next part of a URL is the name of the computer where the information is located.

Geek-speaks call this the domain name. The domain name in http://www.greatage.com is greatage.

Following the domain name is the extension, which is the category of the domain. The domain name is followed by a period, and then the extension. Some websites are commercial; some are educational; others might be nonprofit organizations or governmental websites. Some common extensions are

  • .com—commercial

  • .edu—educational institution

  • .gov—government

  • .int—international

  • .mil—military

  • .net—network

  • .org—organization

You might also see a country code as the extension of the address, such as

  • .au—Australia

  • .ca—Canada

  • .fr—France

  • .it—Italy

  • .us—United States of America

As with extensions such as .com and .edu, the country code is always preceded by a period.

With the popularity of cell phones and the additional numbers of phone lines being installed in homes, many new area codes have been added to accommodate the growing number of telephone numbers. The same thing is happening to Internet addresses. New extensions are being added to support all the new Internet users. Some of the newest ones are

  • .tv—entertainment or media

  • .info—credible resource information

  • .biz—small business

  • .name—your name

When you are looking for a web page and you aren’t sure of the address, many times you can figure it out based on the following formula. Most URLs begin with http://www. All URLs contain a domain name and an extension. If you can figure out the web page and its type, you can usually figure out the entire web address. Remember, the URL is generally in the following format:

  • http://www.its domain name.its three-letter extension
Figure 3.1

Figure 3.1 This is a typical Address Bar in a browser, showing the URL of the current page.

For example, if you wanted to find the Coca-Cola Company on the Web, a good guess at the address would be http://www.cocacola.com. If you enter that address into your browser’s Address Bar, it will take you to the Coca-Cola website. Because most URLs begin with http://, you do not have to enter the http://. You simply type http://www.cocacola.com. If you don’t type in http://, your browser assumes that it is part of the address -and fills it in for you. You might also try entering http://www.coke.com. Sometimes a company, organization, or individual will register more than one web address for the same website. When typing in web addresses, it’s important to type them correctly and place the periods—called dots—in the correct places.

What if you wanted to visit the website for the New York Times or the University of California at Los Angeles? If you guessed http://www.nytimes.com or http://www.newyorktimes.com for the New York Times or http://www.ucla.edu for the University of California at Los Angeles, you would be correct. You won’t always be successful when trying to figure out URLs. Sometimes you might get a surprise. Because you see and hear so much about dot-coms, don’t assume that all web addresses end in .com. Because the White House is owned by the government, the address for the official White House in Washington, D.C. is http://www.whitehouse.gov. For many years, http://www.whitehouse.com went to a pornographic website, resulting in quite a surprise for Web surfers who guessed the address incorrectly.

One important thing to remember about URLs is that there are no spaces in the addresses. Sometimes there will be an underscore (_) or a dash (–) in the address, but never a space.

There was a time when computers and Internet browsers could not properly translate uppercase letters in Internet addresses. So traditionally, all URLs are written in lowercase. Improvements in the software that runs the Internet now enable uppercase letters to be recognized. So typing in http://www.coke.com or http://www.Coke.com will take you to the same website.

Once you understand URLs, you will be able to find all of the information on the Internet more easily.

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