|The Basics of the WWW||Searching Using a Browser||Evaluating Websites||Online Resources for History Students|
Each part of the address means something. Each part of the address is separated by a slash, "/". The computer sees a difference between upper case (capital) and lower case (small) letters, so be sure to copy the address exactly as it is given. Also, there are never any spaces within an address.
The first part of the address, in this case "http," tells the computer what sort of transfer to use, and is called the "protocol."
For example, the "http" part of the address tells the computer to use HyperText Transfer Protocol. Other common protocol codes you may see will be "gopher," "ftp," and "telnet," which will connect you via a gopher server (usually access to a list of files), a File Transfer Protocol server (a way to download files from another computer), or a telnet connection (a way to interact directly with another computer's database).
The next part of the address, in this case "www.library.csi.cuny.edu," is the name of the host computer, the computer you will be connecting to. In this case, the host computer is the library server at the College of Staten Island of CUNY.
The last part of the address of the host computer, in this case "edu," is the "domain." The ".edu" domain indicates that this site is hosted by an educational institution.
Other common domains you may see (and their meanings) are: ".com" (a commercial organization's site), ".org" (a non-profit organization's site), ".mil" (a military site), ".gov" (a U.S. government site), etc. Outside the U.S., the address will often list a country code after the domain name, for example ".nz" (for sites in New Zealand) and will use different domain codes, such as ".ac" (an academic community, equivalent to the U.S. domain ".edu").
The last parts of the address, if there are any, are the names of directories and files located on the user's account which you may view using a browser (Opera, Netscape, Internet Explorer, Lynx, etc.). Filenames usually end in what are called "extensions," or indications of the type of file you are viewing. Most commonly, you will see the extension ".html," which indicates that the file is written in HyperText Markup Language, a common language used on the WWW. An HTML file can be read using an Internet browser.
Other common extensions you will see while browsing (and what they mean) are: ".gif," (a Graphic Interchange Format file, meaning an image); ".jpg" or ".jpeg," (an image, usually higher quality than ".gif" files, and often a photograph); ".au", "mp3," ".wav" or ".snd," (various sound files, which require players; don't worry because your browser will allow you to download anything necessary onto your computer); ".mov," ".avi," ".mpg" or ".mpeg," (various video files, which download film clips to view).
This is how Hypertext works. Every "link" which has been placed in a document will show up on the screen highlighted in a color, often blue. If you click on that link with your mouse, you will connect to the linked site, just as you would read a footnote.
Sometimes the link will be to another file on the same host computer, and sometimes it will be to another site entirely. To see what site the link refers to, move your mouse cursor (without clicking) over the link, and look at the bottom left hand corner of your screen. The address of the link will appear there.
Another manner of navigating is to use the "Back" and "Forward" buttons at the upper left hand corner of the browser screen to move through the list of places you have been.
A third method of navigating is to use the "Go" (or "History") pull-down menu at the top of the browser screen; press "Go" with your mouse, and then hold the mouse button down as you scroll downward, pulling the menu with you. You will see a list of the sites you have visited during this browser session. By highlighting the site you wish to see, you can go there.
A fourth method of navigating is to use "Bookmarks," (or "Favorites") another pull-down menu at the top of the screen. Bookmarks are sites you have added to your bookmarks file by selecting "Add Bookmark" from the Bookmarks menu while at that site. You can return to bookmarked sites by simply pulling down the bookmark menu and highlighting your selection.
The "Stop" button is very useful. If you realize that you do not want to wait for a page to load completely, simply press the "Stop" button by clicking on it with your mouse. Then, you can press "Back" to return to your most recent page.
Prepared by Professor Catherine Lavender for courses taught in The Department of History, The College of Staten Island of The City University of New York. ()