What's the Web?
Many people confuse
the 'Worldwide Web' (a.k.a. 'WWW' or 'The Web') and the Internet. The
Internet is a network connecting computer networks and providing a
variety of services on it - email is one, the Web is another. Torrents
are popular for sharing files - legally and illegally. A number of
other services were popular in the early years of the Internet, such as
Usenet discussion groups. Some are still widely used for specialty
purposes, such as FTP (file transfer protocol) for sharing files and
uploading them to web sites and other locations - but you may never use
The Worldwide Web dates back to the late 1980s when it was first
deviced as a way to share text and images in a more graphical way than
was common at the time. The word 'web' implies that pages can be
'linked' to one another - making it possible to jump quickly from one
page to another by clicking on a link. Web pages share a common page
description language ('html') and a common scheme for addresses
Originally proposed by scientists at Europe's CERN nuclear research
facility as a tool to make it easier for scientists around the world to
share information and collaborate, its ease of use was one of the keys
to the explosive growth in popularity of the Internet that occured in
Along with a connection to the Internet, to view web pages you use an
application (or program or app) on your computer, tablet, smartphone or
other device - a 'web browser'.
popular web browsers
for personal computers are pictured below:
There are other web browsers as well, such as Opera
. Currently, the most widely-used
browser is Google Chrome.
You may have a preference for one browser or another or you may simply
use whatever browser came installed on your computer, tablet, or phone.
Frankly, they're all pretty similar. (But see: It’s Time To Break Up With Google Chrome
- Let's look at things they all
have in common:
-- Home Page
this is what the browser displays when it's first opened up and what it
shows if you click the 'Home' icon that many browsers show on their
toolbar (near the top of the window). The manufacturer of your computer
or the mobile phone company providing your cell phone may have pre-set
the Home page to their company website - the default for Internet
Explorer on my Windows laptop is Dell.com, for instance. And if you
install some software without paying careful attention to the options,
it may set the home page to something else. You can change the Home
Page to a webpage address of your choice in the browser's settings. Worth doing!
: Up near the top of the window there's a space that has
- it displays the 'address' of the web page that you are currently
- it lets you type in the address of a different web page (and
Enter) to jump to that new address. While the complete address might be
- for instance - 'https://www.google.com' - you can generally just type
- you can type a search term or question. If you just type 'Amazon'
for instance, it will take you to a 'search engine' listing (more on
what that is later) that will give you various links for the term
Amazon - with the one you want hopefully near the top. (You can
customize what search engine is used by default in the browser's
When you start typing something in the address bar, your browser will
try to guess what you intend to type - if you see what you want, click
on its suggestion.
If you are viewing the home page of a search engine - such as Google in
the Google Chrome image or the Mozilla Firefox image up above - you aso
have a Search Bar
: where you
can (again) type a search term or question. Yes, it's a bit redundent
since you can also do that in the address bar. A decade ago, you
couldn't type a search term in the address bar; search bars are
holdovers from that era, retained because many people are used to using
These will look different, and appear in different places
in each browser. Many, but not all, include a little house for the Home
Page. You'll generally see a left-pointing arrow to go back to the
previous page. A little arrow on a circle (beside the address bar) to
re-load the current page - it may change to an [X] while a page is
loading - click the X to cancel the page. A star to add the
currently-loaded page to your 'Favorites' (or 'Book-marks'). Generally,
if you let your mouse pointer hover over a browser icon, a little box
will pop up giving you the name of the icon. Do this to find out what those icons do!
-- Some way to get
menu items including settings or preferences
. Apple Safari on
the Mac just has a menu at the top of the screen. Google Chrome has
three vertical dots in the top-right corner - click it to get various
options including Settings
Internet Explorer has a 'gear' icon near the top-right. Microsoft Edge
uses three horizontal dots, while Firefox has three short horizontal
lines (a 'hamburger'). Learn how to find the settings or preferences in the browser of your choice and take a moment to look around!
See: How to Change Browser Settings
~ Customizing Google Chrome Settings
Optionally, you may also see a Favorites Bar
showing icons and
names for user-chosen often-accessed websites (see Google Chrome and
Microsoft Edge images above).
If you've set the option to view the Favorites Bar, you can drag the
little icon that appears to the left of the address of the
currently-displayed page to the Favorites Bar to have it permanently
appear there as a quick shortcut to return to that page. It can be
handy to have names/icons for up to 10-12 frequently-accessed websites
showing on a Favorites Bar. If you want to save more than that, store
them in your Favorites or Bookmarks list.
Most browsers also have an optional Status
at the bottom of the browser window. This can be useful for
displaying behind-the-scenes information. For instance, hovering your
mouse pointer over a link will display the link's target address in the
status bar - very useful for seeing if a link is bogus.
Along with the optional Favorites Bar, all
browsers let you add favorite web sites to a Favorites
list - typically by
clicking a star icon when the page is on-screen. These are less handy
then they might appear; many people have added far too many pages to
their lists and then can't find anything in them. You can organize your
bookmarks, putting them in alphabetical order, or creating categories
for sets of bookmarks - how to do this will vary from browser to
browser. As with the Favorites Bar, storing lots and lots and websites
here becomes less helpful - think about finding other ways to store web
addresses you might want to return to.
All web browsers also keep a History
list - a reverse-chronological list of sites you've visited. This can
be handy if you want to return to a website you remember visiting a few
days ago - even if you can't remember its name or address. How to get
there? Remember the various ways to get to the menus in the different
modern browsers let you open multiple tabs - letting you have more than
one web page displayed within a single window. Some show a [ + ]
beside the currently open tab,
Chrome shows a sort of space beside the tab. Internet Explorer doesn't
show anything obvious. In all these browsers you can hold the Control
key down while you type the
(Command + T
on a Mac) to open a new
tab. If you hover your mouse pointer over a tab, you'll see an [ X ]
within the tab to close it.
Also handy - if music or sound starts playing within a tab (for
instance, if the page displayed starts to play a video ad) you may see
a little speaker icon in the tab. Click on the speaker to mute the
sound for that tab only.
Loading multiple tabs can be handy, letting you have email in one tab,
Facebook in another, while listening to music from a YouTube clip in a
third. Having lots and lots of tabs open at once, though, can slow down
performance and impact battery life.
Similar to the Control + T
command for a new tab, Control + N
(Command + N
on a Mac) opens a new
browser window. This may be less convenient than having all your tabs
in a single window.
Your smartphone or tablet browser also uses multiple tabs, but they're
less obvious on the smaller screen. The Chrome web browser on my
Android phone, for instance, displays a little number in a square
beside the address bar at the top - the number tells me how many tabs
are open right now. Tapping on the number displays all the tabs - I can
tap to move to any of them or swipe any to the right to close them. The
Safari browser on my iPad shows an icon with two overlapping squares on
the top-right. Tapping it similrly lets me move between tabs or close
any I don't need to have open any more.
: Your web browser is busy saving information from the
web sites you've visited - the names and addresses in the History list
for instance. It is also saving copies of these pages in a 'cache' -
internal storage on your computer. This is done on the assumption that
you're likely to return to a page you've already visited, and if the
page is already on your computer it can be loaded much faster the next
time you go there. It optionally saves passwords for your various
online accounts (Facebook etc) - which is handy but can cause problems
if you need to know your password but have forgotten it because your
web browser always remembered it for you.
(All this also provides a way that a parent or teacher (or a suspicious
spouse or legal authorities) can track where someone's gone online).
It also saves 'cookies'
little bits of information provided by some websites. These can be
handy, but some people find them a bit sinister. Cookies were designed
to let a website remember information about you as you moved from page
to page on that site - for instance, a shopping site might need to know
what's in your 'shopping cart' as view different items for sale. If you
leave that shopping site without 'checking out', browse somewhere else,
then come back to the shopping site, it can remember that you meant to
buy those things.
However, some people feel uncomfortable that cookies can seem to be
reporting back on your web browsing - especially since it's not easy to
see what cookies are being stored by your browser or what information
Each browser gives you the ability to erase cookies, clear the browser
cache and the history list, and even the saved passwords. This can be
useful in solving connection problems - or in erasing your online
tracks. Note that clearning the browser will slow down performance when
you return to websites and that erasing passwords and cookies can also
be problematic - so only do this if you're sure it's what you want.
The exact steps vary from browser to browser - the article How to Clear Your Cache on Any Browser
walks you through the steps for various
browsers, while here's an article on How to Delete Cookies
Your browser also sends out information about you to every website you
visit - the information is relatively generic, but includes the unique
Internet address of your computer, what web browser and operating
system you're using, what language your computer is set to use, your
(approximate) location, and more. Web developers and advertisers love
this sort of information. If you're concerned, check: Everyone's Trying to
Track What You Do on the Web: Here's How to Stop Them
: There's no official 'directory' for the Web; a
March 2016 estimate claimed that at that date there were at least 4.62
billion 'indexed' web pages, though noted that about 75% were inactive.
There are multiple 'search engines' that try and maintain an indexed
list, developed automatically by software 'spiders' that 'crawl' the
network reporting back what they find.
The best-known is Google
it's not the only one; alternatives include Microsoft's Bing
and the independent Duck Duck Go
(a favorite of some
people because it promises it doesn't track users - unlike its bigger,
advertising-based competitors). Try the same search in all three, and
see if you notice a difference in the results.
Notice that along the top of the search results, you can click to see
the search results that are Web pages, Images, Videos, News items, etc
- which can be handy depending on what you're looking for. (This is
from Duck Duck Go, but Google and Bing do the same thing):
The search engine of your choice can make a handy Home Page since often
the first thing you want to do when you open a web browser is find
another page. And the default home pages on many computers can be too
distracting, showing too much information and too many images.
There are lots of tricks with search engines - ways you can fine tune
your searches, use the search bars as a calculator and more. Frankly, I
don't think any of that is particularly useful - but you might want to
look at: The Top Ten Web
Search Tricks Everyone Should Know
. In general, the more
specific you are in typing your search, the more specific your results
will be. Try adding a word like 'Vancouver' if you want to find local
results (assuming you're in Vancouver!). And you don't need to type in
All the major browsers let you add 'extensions' or 'add-ons' to
customize their basic tool-set. You can probably get on quite well
without any of these. If you want, check: 25 Extensions to
Super-charge your Chrome Browser
or The Best Safari
Extensions for Mac Users
or The Best Firefox
or 10 Best Microsoft
Edge Browser Extensions You Should Try Today
or 10 best Internet
Explorer add ons, extensions & plugins
. See if any of
the listed additions seem like must-haves for you.
At one time, Adobe Flash was a must-have browser add-in to allow your
browser to display this common online video format. At the same time,
there was a lot of unhappiness with Flash; it was hard to keep up to
date and had multiple security issues, caused battery life problems on
portable devices and more. Apple decided to not include Flash support
on its iPhone/iPad devices, and web developers quickly started to look
for alternatives - as a result, you may not need to install Adobe Flash
onto your computer.
If you install some downloaded programs - and weren't paying close
attention - you may have gotten browser toolbars installed that you
didn't want. The 'Ask.com Toolbar' and 'Yahoo Toolbar' are among the
culprits here; developers of 'free' software can be paid to get you to
unwittingly install these toolbars which get you to visit websites that
you might otherwise have ignored. If this has happened to you, see: How to remove
unwanted web browser toolbars
Similarly, software installations may change your preferred home page:
see: How to Reset My
Internet Home Page
believe browser pop-ups saying your computer is infected!
you seen a message like this one?
Alternatively, the message may include a button to click to download a
promised anti-virus program.
Don't believe it! Do not follow instructions. Close the browser tab or
window and browse somewhere else. If you're unable to close the browser
window, try the advice here:
Remove “Warning! Your
Computer Is Infected” pop-ups
If you suspect your computer has been infected, the best tool to check
it is MalwareBytes
. There are versions
for Windows and Mac. Download it and run it - let it check your
computer and remove anything it deems necessary. (The free version
should be all you need).
saving and printing webpages
: You may find a website that is so
interesting, informative, and useful that you want to share it with
everyone you know. You can share websites in a Facebook post (or other
social media) or an email message in this simple way:
- Go to the beginning of the webpage, and - holding down your
(left) mouse or trackpad button, wave your mouse over the website's
title to select the title text. Press Control
+ c (Command + c on a
Mac) to copy the title
to your computer's 'clipboard' - you won't see anything happen when you
- Don't close the webpage or your web browser but go to wherever
you want to share the website - your email software, Facebook, etc
(perhaps in a new tab in your web browser). Start your message.
- When you get to the place in your message where you want to share
the webpage's title, press Control + v
(Command + v on a Mac) to paste the text from the clipboard.
You'll see the website title appear!
- Don't close or send the message - you're not done. Return to the
webpage. This time, click in your browser's Address Bar. If that
selects the entire web address, good. (It should be highlighted with
the background of the text in colour). If it isn't yet highlighted,
press Control + a (Command + a on a Mac) to select
'all'. When the address is highlighted, again press Control + c (Command + c on a Mac) to copy the address to your
computer's 'clipboard' - again, you won't see anything happen when you
- Back to your message - make sure there's a space or a dash after
the title text, then press Control + v
(Command + v on a Mac) to paste the text from the clipboard.
You'll see the website address appear! Add any other text you want and
send your message. Ta da!
You can use the same technique to
select a sentence or a paragraph or more of text from a web page, copy
it to the clipboard, and paste it into a word processor document, an
email message, or other source.
If you want to share an image from a webpage, move your mouse pointer
onto the image and right-click
(control + click
on a Mac). A
menu of options will pop up - you can (left) click on an option to
choose it. These will include an option to copy
the image to the clipboard -
you can then paste
it into a
word processor document or other source. Alternatively, the menu will
give you the option to Save
the image to a location on your computer - you can then work with the
image as if it was a photo your had taken.
a web page onto your
computer can be problematic. Web pages do not include text and images
in a single document the way a word processor document or PDF file do -
instead, they consist of a page of text in HTML code including special
formatting and other instructions and links to images that are seperate
image files often in remote locations - perhaps elsewhere on the
Internet. You may see an option to save a web page in Web Archive
format which creates a folder and tries to bundle together all the
pieces making up the web page - with varying success.
Do you really need to save the web page? Or do you really need a way to
quickly get to the content of the web page when you need it? If so,
here's a trick you can use:
- Arrange the windows on your screen so some of the Desktop is
- Move your mouse pointer so it's pointing within the address bar
of your web browser. Click.
- Move the mouse pointer to the left end of the address bar (but
still within the address bar) - depending on the web browser, you may
see a little icon for the web page. Holding down the left mouse button,
drag it to the Desktop. Release the mouse button.
- You should see a shortcut icon with the title of the web page -
double-clicking on it will load the web page into your web browser.
- Move it to an appropriate folder on your hard drive - for
instance, I have a folder (within my Document folder) for Recipes, all
saved this way, and other folders for tips for these various workshops.
web pages can also be
problematic - web pages are designed to display well on screen, but if
elements like columns have been designed with a set number of pixels as
their width, that width may turn out to be wider that fits on a
standard printed page. If you have a Print Preview option, you may want
to use it to see how your page will appear prior to printing. Try
printing just one page rather than the entire multi-page website.
If it looks like your printout will be cut-off on the right edge, see
if there's an option to print in 'landscape' mode with the pages
sideways rather than vertically. Often there's an option to scale the
content to a percent smaller than 100% - or an option to Shrink to Fit
. Options to remove
background colours and images will improve readability while
dramatically saving on printer ink or toner. (Different browsers will
have different print options).