There has been a lot of news in the last 6 years about the Internet. But, the Internet isn't new. It is about 30 years old! However, in the past 6 - 10 years, the World Wide Web (WWW) has made the Internet usable and interesting to the general public.
The World Wide Web was developed in Switzerland by the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN). They wanted something that would allow information to be shared by the international high energy physics community. CERN's successful went far beyond the community they expected it to help.
Their answer was to use hypertext. They create a Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) that allows a person to create a document with words or phrases that links to other sources. A person can read this document and select any one of the links. What brings the power is that the document being selected can be on a computer across the world from the original document. For instance, from your PC at home you can read a document residing on the Eastman Freenet and select a link that brings in a related document residing on a computer in Australia. From there you may select a link word that brings you a document from Brazil.
Another exciting feature is that the link need not point to a dull text document; it could just as easily be a picture, map, music clip or even a short movie snippet.
All the credit for the growth in the Internet should not go to CERN. What completed the picture was the development of a browser that made it extremely simple to use the hypertext file sytem. By far the leader in the browser department was MOSAIC. During development, it was offered free to anyone on the Internet that wanted to download it to their PC. As a result, within a year there were millions of users.
There are now a wide variety of WWW browsers available for PCs, MacIntoshes, mini and mainframe computers. The two most common browsers are Netscape Navigator and Microsoft . These browsers run on windows. To select a link, you just use the mouse to point to it and click the button. It is that easy.
For those that do not have windows, there are also text-based browsers. Lynx is the most widely used of these type. To select a link, you just use the tab or arrow key to highlight the link and then press ENTER. Some browsers also allow you to enter a number that appears in front of the link and press ENTER. It is Lynx that is used by the Eastman freenet.
Terry Bentley received his B.Sc in Computer Science. He is a former member of the board of the Eastman Community Computing Inc.
John Ehinger is the current volunteer system operator of the Freenet. He teaches high school Computers and English courses at the Agassiz Adult Education Centre in Beausejour, Manitoba.