Basic Internet Hints and Tips

If you don’t have much experience online, getting aboard in a fast-paced world can seem a bit overwhelming. Here are some hints and terms to get you started.

Internet Glossary
Internet Searching Tips

  • What’s "H-T-T-P-colon-slash-slash" (http://)? The internet works on an agreed upon computer standard, often called "protocol" that allows varying types of computers to access the same information. There are several different protocols in common use on the internet, the most popular by far, being Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, or HTTP. You know this more commonly as the World Wide Web, Web or even simply "the internet." Others you may have heard of include File Transfer Protocol (or FTP, to transfer data or application files) and Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP, for e-mail functions).

    HTTP is the protocol devised to transmit text files, most commonly written in some form of Hyper Text Mark-up Language (or HTML) which can incorporate pictures, sound, video and even computer applications. So, the HTTP of a web address indicates that you will be accessing a file that’s written in HTML or compatible language that can be read by your web browser.

    The colon, serves the purpose of any good punctuation by letting the computer know that something else is coming next, and the two slashes are part of internet protocol that indicates directories and subdirectories.

    Note: with many modern browsers (Firefox, Safari, Chrome, etc.) and mobile devices, often the address bar is hidden by default, so you may not even be bothered by this.

  • "To ‘www.’ or not to ‘www.’:" Why do some addresses you see start with a "www" and some others do not? It is a decision of the site designer or marketer, for the most part. Even though there is one protocol for naming web sites, there are several executions of it. Most often, leaving off the ‘www.’ will get you to the same place as including it. Sometimes it will take you to a less specific level of the site than what you are after. See subdomain in the glossary.
  • "To Slash or not to Slash:" Why do some addresses you see end with a "/" (forward slash) and some others do not? This is also a decision of the site designer or marketer, for the most part. generally uses trailing slashes in the links we provide.

    Huh? If you have the url of a specific page or file (something that ends with a period and a three or four letter "suffix", such as .html or .asp), most likely there will be no slash at the end. However, if you are accessing a site’s home page, such as, adding a final slash to the url making it, will allow you to access the site a fraction of a fraction of a second faster. Oh boy. Then you’ll probably be automatically redirected to some url that is long and contains "session" information about your visit to their site at that time.

    Why? Well, the slash mark is computer-ese for a subdirectory and if you include it on your initial accessing of the site, the computers involved will know on the first go-around that you are trying to access a default directory instead of a specific file and you’ll get "in" that much faster. You’re also reducing the overall load on the internet by one "hit” each time you use the trailing slash.

  • Where Am I??? It’s easy to get "lost" on the internet. Links on any given page may link to the same page, the same domain, or any other internet page in the world. How do you know where you are and where you might go? Make sure you have the "location" bar visible in the control portion of the browser window. This will show you the current page. Look at the first part of the url, the server portion, and that will give you a good indication of where you are.
  • Is this site the official site? See our tips on authenticating resources
  • If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Undoubtedly you will get an error or two when trying to access sites. Links may be out of date, servers may no longer be in service, or possibly it’s just a temporary condition. The error No such device or address and Unable to access (url)… are often temporary issues, the most common cause being that you or the device on the other end lost an internet connection. Sometimes you try to access a site just as web maintenance is taking place and files are temporarily down. Keep trying. If it’s an important site, follow the "2-rule," try again in 2 seconds, 2 minutes, 2 hours, 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months – then email!
  • Be patient, but not too patient. If a page seems to take forever to load, see if you can determine why. The best designed pages will load all their text first then add the graphics. The worst will have huge graphics on the first page you try to access. Often in the link bar at the bottom of your browser window, you can see load progress information. If it’s a big file and depending on your connection speed, some pages will just take time. If the page is one you know usually loads fast and this time "hangs" the hit the stop button and then the refresh button. Often "recharging" the connection is all the page needs to load into your browser quickly.
  • For more information on how to find articles, visit a tutorial page from University of California, Berekley: How to find articles and databases.
by Kristin Pintarich, Editor-in-Chief, The Adult Student’s Guide to Survival and Success