Internet Basics

I'd like to begin with a short disclaimer: I will be using "the internet" from the viewpoint of the end-user (you and I), rather than from the viewpoint of someone involved with the creation, distribution, or management of the internet.

I'll also be using "the internet" in lowercase. Some would argue (and Microsoft Word auto-corrects) that you should always use "Internet" with a capital letter I. It's my perspective that nobody owns the internet, and therefor it is not a proper noun that needs capitalization. That's my perspective, but others could argue.

Anyway, the internet is basically just a giant computer file storage system. As you read the text in front of you, you are reading a file that's stored on another computer. As I type this page, I'm going to save it to a computer somewhere far from my house. After I save it, you have access to it. It's public, but it's also one-directional....

Or, at least, that's how it used to be.

When the internet first began to take it's current shape (late 1970s), people saved files on their own computer, then allowed others access to that file. Not much has changed, philosophically, since those days. (Admittedly, much has changed technically since then!) The file's author could edit the file, but no one else could edit the original. We now refer to this as "Web 1.0".

In the mid 2000s, many online sites became popular that allowed everyone to create, edit, share, save, re-edit, re-share, re-save, etc. from many sources, including files that were not their own. People were able to post things online and others could edit them. The internet was becoming social. It was no longer a one-way street. Sites like Facebook, Myspace, Google, Wikpedia, Yahoo, MSN, YouTube, Xanga, etc., all allowed users to easily upload and download files for free, and with relative ease.

Website designers no longer had to create files for users to view or download - - the site's users began doing the creation of content. The internet become a place where we could share things in real-time, and with large audiences. Furthermore, this data is usually not stored on a user's computer; it's stored off-site at a massive computer database (sometimes referred to a "cloud.") We refer to this as "Web 2.0".

However, because of the dramatic changes we've seen from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0, it's not as cut-and-dry when it comes to organizing, sorting, searching, accessing, or storing data. In fact, it's often downright difficult to find a specific piece of information online today, because of the sheer volume of data and information that is available to us, across billions of sites and storage systems.

Let's look at the changes between Web 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0

So, here's a list of Web 2.0 websites. Be warned though, this is an extensive list, and contains many, many, many sites that are not specifically designed for educational settings. You might get lost, so you might want to bookmark it and come back later.

Here's an important question: If we find what we're looking for online, how would we rate its accuracy, value, or meaningfulness? If we are all able to change what's on the internet, how are we able to discern what is valuable or trustworthy?

Let's use a real-life example: Most people using the internet are now capable of finding information online about oil production in the Middle East (that's a Web 1.0 task.) Most people would even be able to find real-time data about such production, or find a user-submitted video or audio file from someone who has firsthand experience in Middle Eastern oil production (that's a Web 2.0 task.) But, how would you know if this information is truthful, accurate, unbiased, or if it was a total work of fiction? Alternatively, what if this video was found on YouTube and there are 3,000 other videos that were found when you searched for Middle East oil production?

[Enter Web 3.0, upstage center]

Web 3.0 hopes to answer the logistical problem of sorting, analyzing, validating, and storing the information found online today. It's in its infancy, but I am excited about what Web 3.0 will offer us in the not-so-distant future. Web 3.0 is sometimes referred to as "The Semantic Web."

For a good introduction to Web 3.0, see below:

For one of my all time favorite online videos, see this deeper explanation of Web 3.0: