Being “on-line” means your computer is connected to another computer(s) through your telephone line.  The most typical way, today, of being on-line is through an “on-line service” like America On-Line, Compuserve or Prodigy.  These services offer their own proprietary information services and exclusive connections to some third-party specialized services, like Dow-Jones.  They also offer a “gateway” to the Internet.  ISP’s (Internet Service Providers), in distinction, offer a direct line to the Internet, without offering the subscriber any additional exclusive services.  The other major distinction is price: on-line services typically charge $8.95 per month for your first five hours, and $2.95 per hour thereafter, while ISP’s typically charge a flat rate of $19.95 per month for unlimited usage.  The break-even point, for Internet surfers, is eight-and-a-half hours per month.  Lately, the ISP’s have been winning the lion’s share of new sign-ups.

The Internet’s main attraction is the World Wide Web (WWW for short).  The WWW, which did not exist until 1989, has grown exponentially (both in terms of Web servers/Web sites and clients/surfers) since the early 1990’s and is nearly totally responsible for the phenomenal growth in Internet usage.

The WWW is made up of “Web sites.”  A Web site is a corporation’s or a group’s or a single person’s contribution to the WWW.  Think of a Web site as an interactive (this means you control a lot of what you see) book or TV show.  It may be so broad and so deep and so variable that you could spend your life in it and never have time to visit any other Web site (Walt Disney, Time-Warner, HotWired and many news-based sites come to mind).  Or it may be a single page that is comprehensible in a few moments.  Each Web site has a “home-page.”  A home-page is nothing more than a Web site’s first page; you will typically see it before you visit any of the rest of the Web site.  A home-page is like the cover and high-level Table of Contents of a book.  You travel through the pages (rooms?) of the Web site by mouse-clicking “hot links.”  Hot links are underlined pieces of text (or they may be graphics) that respond to a mouse click by displaying another Web page on the screen.  Frequently, clicking a hot link will disconnect you from the Web site you were looking at and take you somewhere entirely else (in the world!).  For example, the New York Public Library’s Global Library Web site will connect you (immediately) with the Louvre in Paris or a research site in Antarctica.

A Web site is physically located on a “Web server,” a computer that is owned either by the Web site owner or by a company that sells space for others’ Web sites.

Virtually all of the on-line services offer their non-commercial customers free Web site space.  In other words, you can put up your own “vanity site” (that the world could see [if they know about it]) and not ever pay a red cent for it (if you built it yourself).

A person is said to be “wired” if he/she partakes of the on-line world.


created on 7/28/1996