Browsing the World Wide Web
Browsing the World Wide Web is perhaps the most fundamental thing you can do with the Internet. But, it wasn’t always that way.
Introducing the Web Browser
The web browsers the course focuses on are Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Netscape’s Navigator. Although both are ostensibly free, Explorer is distributed with the Windows operating system and, as such, is probably built in to the cost. There are many other web browsers, some of which are free, others carry advertising which you can only disable if you pay a small fee to register them. A fuller list can be seen here. The course makes reference to Explorer v5.0 and Navigator v4.0 but Explorer is now up to v6.0 and Navigator up to v8.0.
Strictly speaking both products are program suites, including e-mail and news readers as well as HTML editors. Explorer is, by far, the most popular browser. Just for comparison, I checked my visitor logs on another website and in the last 30 days (on 28th Nov 2005) 3,792 visitors had used Internet Explorer, 628 had used Mozilla’s Firefox and in a lowly 15th place was Netscape Navigator with only 11 visitors. These figures were from about a year ago. It is now Aug 2006 and I checked my statistics again and was surprised to see very little difference in the spread of browser usage. IE6 is still number one, and now Safari has made a presence and so too the new IE7(Beta).
Accessing Web Pages
I only include this paragraph as it is an example how basic some of the topics are in the early parts of the course. I know some people have been badly put off by this perceived simplicity. The course, I guess, has to treat everyone by the lowest possible common denominator. I.E. assume that someone reading the course manual has never accessed a Web Page.
Clearly such instructions are pointless here. You wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t know how to access a Web Page.
Comparing the Browsers
This part of the course is a hands-on practical exercise, so there is little point in dwelling on it here. The browsers vary a lot in their configuration settings, but are, otherwise, very similar. Netscape Navigator v7.1 is a tabbed browser, where web pages can be viewed in separate windows or tabs within the main window. Some tabbed browsers automatically displays new pages in a new tab, Navigator does not, you need to add a new tab and open a page in it.
The course looks at some online real-time data sources such as stock tickers, weather sites and the atomic clock. Not particularly useful, as a lot of the links are out of sate, but it does give an initial idea about the kinds of information that are available on the Web.
I know the course material has been updated since I received the manuals but the links I had then and now are obsolete so we shall call a halt here.