Internet & the World Wide Web

Learn about:

Major components of the Internet, five methods used to locate information via the web, selective web tools, and general search tips for online databases and the Internet.


The Internet is a global communications network of networks.

Innumerable histories of the Internet and the World Wide Web are available. Walk into any bookstore or library, or search the web to make selections appropriate to your interests and explore the Internet's history, how it works and where it may be heading. Or visit the Internet SOCiety (ISOC), a worldwide professional society, which hosts a comprehensive list of Internet Histories at that you can read online.

Major Components of the Internet include e-mail, mailing lists (listservs), and the World Wide Web (and more).

  • E-Mail - Electronic mail (Examples: Gmail, Pine, MS Outlook Express, etc.)
  • Mailing Lists - Mailing Lists (sometimes called Listservs) are a combination of e-mail and discussion groups. Subscribe to a list and messages are distributed to your e-mail box. 
  • World Wide Web is a system of hyperlinked documents allowing graphical access to the Internet, and contain a wide variety of multimedia web pages.

Although the web provides access to a wealth of information on virtually any subject, it does not include everything. Moreover, if it is available via the web, it is not always available free of charge or it may be more easily accessible using online or print resources. So the first decision you must make is whether the web is the right place to look.

Many online information products may be more appropriate to your information needs. Although both are accessed via the Internet, online subscription resources and open Internet resources are fundamentally different. It is useful to be aware of the differences between Online Subscription Databases vs. Web Sites in case your professor prohibits the use of Internet resources for your research papers. To view the current listing of online resources or to access those databases to which the Rasmuson Library subscribes see Resources by Subject page.

Remember that print resources may also be more appropriate. Although there are certainly noteworthy exceptions, much of the older material is not on the Internet. There are excellent printed indexes that address specialized and/or older material. Unfortunately, remote access to "print" indexes is not possible. If you have a local library, check with the librarian to see if it has print indexes suitable for your topic.

Five Methods for Locating Information on the Web

  1. Internet Guides
  2. Directories
  3. Search engines
  4. URL guessing
  5. Invisible Web

Internet Guides: These are good places to begin a search for information on the web, especially if you're simply browsing, rather than looking for specific information. Editors have evaluated these resources for content prior to being cataloged by online information services, or aggregators. These resources often include web sites and blogs.


  • SLED (Statewide Library Electronic Doorway) - resources about Alaska or of interest for Alaskans

Directories:Directories, or subject trees, are hierarchical lists of web pages arranged by subject. They are compiled and maintained by bots or the general public. Directories can be general, covering a wide range of subjects, or have a very narrow focus, perhaps covering only one highly specialized area. Subject directories are best suited to browsing and locating quality web sites, although some directories include search engines for their databases.

Selective List of Subject Directories
The following is a short list of subject directories where you will find reference sources and many other online information resources. Explore these sites to learn what type of information is provided and how each is arranged. Be sure to bookmark those that are most useful so that you can access them again easily.

Search Engines:Search engines use software programs called spiders, robots (bots) or webcrawlers to search the WWW for web pages and store them in their databases. As you use a search engine you are really asking the search engine to search its index for significant words or phrases. You are not searching the entire Internet at that moment.

There are literally hundreds of search engines available. And it is difficult to know which one is best for your needs. Many differences exist between the various search engines available. Remember that NO search engine searches the entire web. Search engines also rank web pages differently. Factors that may determine how a page is ranked include: where and how many times your search term(s) appear in the document, how many other pages link to that page, the use and interpretation of meta-tags, and sometimes if a fee has been paid to rank the page prominently. This means that you may want to try your search using two or more search engines.

There is also great variety among search features of engines that will affect search results. The engine you select may allow boolean searching, be case sensitive, have punctuation or symbols that have particular meanings (wildcards or truncation), or have limitation or search order features. Knowing how a search engine operates will increase the relevancy of your searches and the success of your project. Be sure to read the HELP screens or searching tips screens that are available for the particular search engine you select. You may find it helpful if you make a few notes on search engines that you use frequently.

Selective List of WWW Search Tools
Before selecting a search engine, you should know that different types of search engines are better suited to particular tasks.

Individual Search Engines are used for finding general information. Be sure to use more than one search engine and take advantage of its HELP pages.

Multiple Search Engines - Meta-searchers or multi-searchers do not compile their own databases. These search engines send your search terms to the databases of several or many search engines at one time. Be sure to note which search engines the meta-searcher you select is searching. Meta-searchers are fast. However, since there are variations between how individual search engines search, limit the number of search variables. Typically multiple search engines return the top 10-50 records from each search engine. This may be considerably less than the results retrieved from a direct search using an individual search engine. Advanced search features available on individual search engines are usually not available. Phrase and Boolean searching may not be properly processed or available. Meta-searches are more suitable for simple searches. Meta-searchers can be used when you want a quick overview, or when your search is simple and you're not retrieving any documents from other searches.

URL Guessing: Another way to locate information on the web is to guess the URL. The URL, or Uniform Resource Locator, is the global address of an Internet resource. Basic knowledge of URLs will make this process easier and help you anticipate/evaluate information you might find at the website.

URLs contain information in a standardized format:


Protocol refers to standardized rules for transmitting and receiving data. Common protocols are:

  • http: - Hypertext used for WWW pages
  • https: - for secure sites that protect the confidentiality of transmitted information

The "://" in the URL is called the cryptic and serves to separate the transfer protocol from the Internet address.


The servername is the name of the server where the web pages are located.This is followed by the domain type (organization, institution, or agency)

Some common domains include:

  • .aero: an organization in the air-transport industry
  • .biz: a business
  • .com: commercial sites or individuals
  • .coop: a non-profit business cooperative, such as a rural electric coop
  • .edu: educational institutions and their users
  • .gov: government entities
  • .info: an informational site for an individual or organization
  • .int: an international organization
  • .mil: military
  • .museum: a museum
  • .name: an individual
  • .net: suggested for a network administration, but actually also used by other sites
  • .org: suggested for non-profit entities, but actually also used by other sites
  • .pro: a professional, such as an accountant, lawyer, or physician

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit organization, has overseen the system of domain names since 1998.

Sometimes a two letter country code is included in the servername.domain, such as:

  • au: Australia
  • ca: Canada
  • nz: New Zealand
  • jp: Japan
  • uk: United Kingdom

For a complete list of country domains for websites originating outside the United States see

Directories and subdirectories
To access documents at websites, some pages have longer addresses. These may include directories and/or subdirectories. These are similar to directories and subdirectories used in your computer to organize files.

Ex: C:\My Documents\Alaska\Fur_Trade.doc
Refers to an Alaska fur trade document, that is stored in a subdirectory called Alaska, in a directory called My Documents, on the harddrive of this computer.

Websites use a similar format.

Personal pages: Many people post personal web pages on the Net. Clues that identify personal web pages can be found in the URL. All personal pages should be evaluated carefully. Look for the following signs:

Filename.filetype: These may be familiar filetypes that you have seen on your own computer or they may be new to you.

A few examples of file types include:

  • .html, .htm: standard web files
  • .jpg, .gif, .bmp, .png: types of image files
  • .zip, .tar: compressed files
  • .doc, .wpf, .txt: word processing files
  • .pdf, .tiff: (portable document file) is Adobe Acrobat's page image file

To guess the URL of a website the transfer protocol://servername.domain/ are the most important parts.

Most companies use addresses in this general format:

From the examples below you can see that addresses may use the name, the initials, or the subject.

If you are looking for: Try:
Merriam-Webster Dictionary
The New York Times (newspaper)
Weather conditions/forecast
Cooking items/recipes
Used car values (Kelley Bluebook)
Cabelas hunting/fishing/camping equip
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
UCLA or UAF or
The Internet Public Library

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recently added seven new domain names; .info and .biz for businesses, .name for personal Web sites, .museum for museums, .pro for professionals, .aero for airlines, and .coop for business cooperatives.

Invisible Web

Read about the Invisible Web here.


This page was last modified on April 23, 2015