Updated: 05/02/2013

The Internet - 5






Browsers, Internet Domains

 And Search Engines


Another famous utterance that was soon regretted:

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."

Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM, 1943

>>With millions of messages and Internet pages traversing the Internet at any given moment, how does all that traffic know where it's supposed to end up?

Just as you have a unique telephone number, each computer on the Internet has a unique IP address. For example, the IP addresses for CyberCollege.com used to be

So why not just type in at the top of your browser instead of CyberCollege.com? Actually, when these numbers were associated with CyberCollege.com, you could.  This saves computers (that you will recall only understand the language of numbers) from having to translate "CyberCollege.com" into ""

>>But, there are two problems with just using numbers.

First, for most of us, having to remember is much more difficult than remembering CyberCollege.com. Second, the IP address for CyberCollege.com will change if the owner of this domain decides to switch web-hosting companies. If this happens  --  and it has several times in the history of this domain  --  these numbers will suddenly point to either the wrong domain (web site)  --  or to no site at all.

This would be like suddenly changing your phone number and not being able to tell anyone. For telephone numbers we have phone books; for the Internet we have domain name servers, or special computers that store the IP addresses for every domain name. Unlike your phone book, these domain name server (DNS) computer files are constantly updated.

>>So that this critical information won't just reside in one place, most large companies, ISPs, and universities maintain their own DNS files to map (translate) host names into IP addresses.

Actually, there are many more steps involved in managing IP addresses, but this gives you the basic idea.

>>Since 1997, the number of registered Internet domains has grown more than 25-fold.

Some of these domains are "parked," meaning that the people have registered the domain name (primarily to lay claim to and hold the name) but they are not active.



>>If you are reading this page you are at least somewhat familiar with browsers and how they work.

For many years Netscape had the leading browser. In fact, their browser can be traced back to the first efforts to create an interactive (GUI, "goo-ee" or graphical user interface) program for the World-Wide Web.

>>But then when Netscape was taken over by a large corporation, new and updated versions started to lag. This gave Microsoft, which had a comparatively weak Internet Explorer (IE) browser at the time, to not only the chance to catch up, but to overtake Netscape in both functions and popularity. 

But after a few years, history again repeated itself.  With its clear dominance in the Windows browser market, Microsoft apparently didn't see a need to invest in significant upgrades to their Internet Explorer program. Since the Internet Explorer browser was being used by the vast majority of users by then, it also became a target for malware.

Other browsers, most notably Mozilla's Firefox and Opera, then hit the scene with some significant advantages. When Firefox was subsequently recommended over the Internet Explorer browser by two major business publications, many people switched. But in this highly competitive field it wasn't long until Goggle's Chrome browser caught on. By mid 2012 Chrome led other browsers in popularity.

 Still, Firefox had an advantage among sophisticated computer users because it allows for much more customization. 

March 2014 figures showed the following rank among browsers.

Chrome - 52%
Firefox - 29%
Internet Explorer 13%
Safari - 4.1%
Opera - 2%

March, 2013 Analysis 

So historically, in terms of popularity, we've gone from Netscape, to Internet Explorer. to Firefox, to Chrome.

The popularity of a browser depends to a great extent on advertising, and Chrome has done extensive advertising. This is significant because their browser, like those of their competitors, is being given away.

 While Firefox, is financed largely by donations, Internet Explorer and Chrome are backed by multi-million dollar corporations -- Microsoft and Google, respectively.

>>With each new version of browsers the features and complexity in web pages can take a step forward. The problem for web page developers is that each is based on slightly different standards.  Thus, pages often look different in different browsers.

Even though the browsers are free, many users lag behind in upgrading to the latest versions -- even their favorite browser.

If those of us who write web pages don't take that into consideration, what appears on many computer screens may be quite different than what we intend.


Web Page Code

>>If you click on the View and Page Source at the top of your browser you should seen a page full of strange computer code.  This is HTML, or hypertext markup language, which is the basic computer code used for writing web pages for the World Wide Web. 

We won't attempt to explain HTML code — that and other web page computer codes would constitute a course in itself -- but there are many books and even many Internet articles available on the subject.

Many web page editors, such as Microsoft's Expression® and Adobe's Dreamweaver®, write the code automatically "behind the scenes" as you type.  Even so, in creating sophisticated web pages it's still a good idea to know what's going on "in the code" in order to solve the inevitable problems that develop.

Domain Names

>>Domain names such as Yahoo.com, PBS.org, or Harvard.edu are unique  --  they are licensed to an organization that, for a fee, has an exclusive right to use them for a period of time.  After that time the holder must renew them or they can be claimed by someone else.

Domain names generally consist of characters that can be in the form of either letters or numbers

There can be hyphens to connect words in the domain name, but there can't be any empty spaces. Names aren't case sensitive, so SampleName.com is the same as samplename.com.

>>The domain name suffixes used in the United States are primarily "com," "org," "edu," "net," "gov," "tv, "mil," and a few lesser-used suffixes.

The "com" suffix is typically attached to commercial sites, the "org" suffix to nonprofit organizations, "edu" to educational institutions, "net" to Internet service providers, "gov" to government agencies, and "mil" to military installations. Having said that, it should be noted that there are many exceptions.

>>With most Internet browsers you do not have to type in the full URL. In the case of the search engine google.com, for example, you can simply type in "Google" and hold down the control key (with Windows) and hit return, and the full address will automatically be filled in, as shown here.

However, watch out for ending up where you didn't intend to be.

 Some questionable sites -- many of them outside of the United States -- intentionally capitalize on misspelled names and you end up on a fake -- even a look-alike site -- which could contain malware.

This can be a major problem with banks and credit unions where you could be directed to a look-alike page that asks you for (and captures) your name and password. It's easy to make a typing mistake so it's always a good idea to check the URL in the address link to make sure you end up where you intended.


Domain Name Suffixes

>>Since the original domain suffixes were initiated, millions of domain names have been registered, especially with the .com suffix. This has resulted in a shortage of possible new names.

25 million
4 million
3 million

To open the door to additional domain names, new suffixes have been added or proposed. Recently, the biz, .info, .name, .pro, .aero, .museum, and .coop suffixes were added. This chart lists the eight most popular domain suffixes.

>>Other counties typically use suffixes to identify their country. For example, "CA" indicates Canada, "DE" Germany, and "SE" Sweden. In 2001 there were more than 240 two-digit country codes ranging from "AE" (the United Arab Emirates) to "VN" (Vietnam).

Some countries allow users in other countries to register domains using their country's suffix (and derive revenue from this). An example is ".tv," now being used by some U.S. television stations.

>>In addition to being associated with a domain, many names, such as IBM™, Microsoft™, CyberCollege™, and InternetCampus™ are registered trademarks. This means that only the holder of the trademark can legally use them.

This obviously creates problems for people happen to have last names such as "Disney," or "McDonald," who would like to have a domain or a business centered on their own name. Many cases of trademark infringement involving such disputes are now in the courts.


Bookmarking Your Favorite Sites

Once you discover a URL (an Internet site) that you think you will want return to you can "bookmark" it or add it to your "favorites" list. Often, you can right click on the site and add it to your bookmarks; however, different browsers handle this differently.

Once you add a bookmark or save a URL in "favorites," you don't have to try to remember the URL. It's even possible to organize these under different categories  --  a procedure that comes in handy if you end up wanting to save a few dozen URLs.


Search Engines

With search engines billions of pages of information on the Internet it would be impossible to locate anything without search engines. The ranking of top four search engines are shown on the left. Recently, Microsoft has launched a search engine called Bing.

Beyond these four there are hundreds of other much smaller search engines that fill out the remaining six percent of the total.

>>Since most people look for information on the Internet by using one of these search engines, there is great competition to be listed at one of these sites.  By being listed among the top 10 or so entries on a search (which is about as far down as most people search) businesses have a much greater chance of selling products and services.

Some search sites charge businesses for either being placed at or near the top of the listings, or having advertisements for their business appear when a user types in relevant key terms.

>>When a search is made on basic terms, searches can result in thousands  --  even hundreds of thousands  --  of Internet pages. Therefore, you may want to use some of the search engine's techniques (things to include and exclude, etc.) for narrowing down your searches to a manageable number. Most search engine sites have instructions for doing this with their particular program.

>>With this module we come to the end of the film and electronic media modules. In the next module we start the story of the major print media.


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