What do you need to use the WWW?

The first thing that you need is an Internet connection. This can be either a dial-up line (telephone line) to an Internet provider or a networked connection through your computer network (check with your Information System's department).

The next thing that you need is a computer with two pieces of software:

Connection Package

The connection package connects you to the Internet by either dialing up the Internet providers phone number and making the necessary connections (you don't have to worry about the details)
by making the necessary "protocol stacks" for your computer network.

Either way, the purpose of the connection package is to connect you to the Internet.

Web Browser

The Web browser is a package that rides on top of the connection to the Internet. It uses the HTTP protocol and talks to the WWW portion of the Internet. There are two types of Web browsers available:

Text Based

Text based web browsers are not able to see any of the multimedia portions of the WWW such as graphics, movies or sound. They can only browse the text on the Web pages (this page is a Web page). They are quite fast and the most common one used is called "lynx".

The text based Web browsers use your computer as a terminal that is connected to the Web Server. This means that terminals can be connected to the Web also.

Several innovative programs such as SlipKnot simulate a graphical connection on a text-based connection. A graphical front-end program runs in the Windows environment and downloads the files to your computer. It then displays them to you. All of this happens in the background, transparent to the user. There are some disadvantages to programs like SlipKnot but they are continuously improving the features and response.

Graphical User Interfaces

Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs - pronounced gooeys) are programs that have a graphical front end. Typical GUIs for Web browsing are Netscape, Mosaic, Chameleon and many others. When one of these browsers are connected to the Internet, they become a part of the Internet. This means that they will have an IP (Internet Protocol) address on the net. An IP address is a 4 digit number separated by dots/periods and looks like:

They can use Helper Applications to open up new formats of documents such as movies, sound or photographs. When a file is downloaded to the browser, it checks to see what format the file is. If the Web browser cannot open it, it checks its list of help applications to see if one of them can open it. The helper application is any program that can be called up to run the particular file requested.

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