So you are using your Web site to build your business, to accumulate a list of important email addresses, or simply to increase your personal popularity. How do you answer all the people who fill out forms or send email to your site? Simple. Use one of these free autoresponders (also known as mailbots and autobots). These services are easy to integrate into your Web site and will automatically respond to requests from your users by sending them email. If you are imaginative, you can think of oodles of ways to use such a service. For example, you might send anyone who requests it a copy of your last year's Christmas letter. Isn't it nice to know that, even when you are sleeping, the Net is alive and working like an electronic beaver to spread your creative genius far and wide.
When you visit an interesting or useful Web site, you can save the URL (Web address) in a special list. With Internet Explorer, it's called your Favorites List; with Netscape, it's called your Bookmark list. Of course, those lists are maintained on your computer by your browser. These resources let you maintain a personalized bookmark list on the Net. The information is kept on a Web site, which means you can access the information wherever you are, as long as you have access to a browser. This is a useful way to use a bookmark list if you travel. Even better, you can give your friends and family access to your list, and use it to share information or to collaborate on research projects.
Kids today don't know how good they have it. When I was a kid, there were no fancy-shmancy browsers with Java and frames and animations. When I was a kid, we had to make do with simple text and browsers that didn't talk back to you. I remember how the whole family used to crowd around our hand-powered computer at night and look at the tiny screen. Would you like to see how it was in the olden days? This Web site emulates the old, classical browsers, just like the ones your grandparents used to use.
At the end of mail messages or Usenet articles, it is common for people to put a short message called a "signature". Most signatures have dull, but useful information such as the person's name, email address, phone number, and so on. However, some people, smart, creative, imaginative people (like you and me), like to use something more witty or amusing. Well, here is a collection of a great many interesting signatures. Not only will you enjoy them, I bet you'll get good ideas for a signature of your own.
How do I look at thee? Let me count the ways.
Domain Name Registration: Generalized Domains
Within an Internet address, the name of the computer is called the domain name or, more simply, the domain. The last part of a domain name is called the top-level domain or TLD.
For example, in the email address email@example.com, the TLD is gov; in the Web address http://canada.gc.ca/, the TLD is ca; and in the Web address www.harley.com, the TLD is com.
Have you ever wondered who assigns and maintains all these names? It is done by organizations called registrars. There are three different types of domains -- generalized domains, specialized domains, and geographical domains -- and each type has its own type of registrar.
The generalized domains can be used by anyone. They are biz, com, info, name, net and org. Originally, the com domain was only for commercial enterprises, org was only for non-profit organizations and individuals, and net was only for network providers. However, these rules were never enforced and, eventually, the restrictions were dropped.
The other three TLDs are newer and were created in order to offer more choices because the original three domains were overused. These newer domains are biz for businesses, info (information) for anyone, and name for individuals.
The second group of TLDs are the specialized domains. These are available only to qualifying organizations, and the rules are enforced. These domains are: aero (air-transport industry), coop (cooperative organizations), edu (U.S. universities [educational]), gov (U.S. federal government), int (international organizations), mil (U.S. military), and museum (museums).
Finally, there are the geographical top-level domains, which are used mainly outside the United States. Each country has its own geographical domain, which is administered by an organization within that country. The names of the geographical TLDs are the standard two-letter country codes such as: au (Australia), ca (Canada), fr (France), jp (Japan), and uk (United Kingdom).
(There is a us TLD for the United States, but it is used mostly by cities, counties and local colleges. However, the rules state that us can be used by anyone in the U.S., so do consider this as an alternative if you want your own domain name. My friend, Eric Johannsen, for example, registered johannsen.us.)
So how do you register your own domain? If the domain is available, all you need to do is visit the Web site of the appropriate registrar and follow the instructions.
The resources below will help you find a registrar that handles the generalized domains (com, org, net and so on). There are many such registrars. The next two items will help you find registrars for specialized domains and geographical domains.
Domain Name Registration: Geographical Domains
Every country has its own top-level domain, for example au (Australia), ca (Canada), fr (France), jp (Japan), uk (United Kingdom), and us (United States). Each of these top-level domains is administered by an organization within that country.
The resources below will help you find the organization that administers the domain for your country.
Domain Name Registration: Specialized Domains
The specialized top-level domains are: aero (air-transport industry), coop (cooperative organizations), edu (U.S. universities [educational]), gov (U.S. federal government), int (international organizations), mil (U.S. military), and museum (museums).
Each of the specialized domains is handled by a specific registrar. The Web sites for these registrars are listed below.
As an Internet user, you have a lot of choices when it comes to email. For example, you can choose which email software to use, and you can choose your own email provider. (You do not necessarily have to use your Internet service provider's email service.) If you learn more about email, you'll learn how to make it work well for you, and the world will be a better place.
Using the wrong email program can make your life on the Net a lot more aggravating than it needs to be. But what is the right program? Whichever one works best for you. (Hint: It's probably not Outlook Express or AOL Mail.)
Here are links to a variety of email programs, all of which are free or at least have a free version that is adequate for most people. For example, Thunderbird is completely free; Eudora costs money, but it does have a free "Light Mode", which will do just fine.
If you use the Internet at work, you may be forced to use the same mail program as everyone else. In my experience, people who work for large companies often do not like the standard corporate mail program. If you do work in such a company, take advantage of your freedom at home, and choose a program that better suits your native intelligence and flair for independence.
Free Email Services
It might be hard to find a free lunch, but on the Net you can find free email. The services vary, so read the descriptions carefully. You might be wondering, how can people make money giving away free email services? In one word: advertising. (Are you surprised?)
Free Mailing List Hosting
A mailing list is a facility that allows you to carry on a discussion by email, by sending messages to everyone who has signed up for the list. Having your own personal (possibly secret) mailing list is a totally cool thing to do. For example, you can have your friends subscribe to your special, exclusive mailing list and then send them jokes and excerpts from your diary. Many families maintain mailing lists to stay in touch. If a mailing list sounds good to you, here are some places that will host your mailing list for free. (Although no money changes hands, there is a cost: you will have to look at advertisements inserted within the messages.)
Free Online Disk Space
It can come in handy to have some storage space on the Net. Well, here's some you can use for free. Just register with one of these sites and upload (send) anything you want to your own, personal virtual online disk. Then you can use your Web browser to access or delete the data whenever you want. What's great is you can use your data from anywhere, you don't have to be at home. For example, if you are going on a trip, you can store data ahead of time, and then use your browser to access the data from a remote location.
Historic Internet Documents
Way back in the olden days of the Internet, long before the Web existed, there were no Internet books. If you wanted to learn how to use the Net, you had to have someone show you enough to get started. You would then download a copy of a document that would teach you more. It may be hard to believe, but the reason the Internet was able to spread was because of these three documents: "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Internet" by Ed Krol, published on August 15, 1987; "Zen and the Art of the Internet" by Brendan Kehoe, published in January 1992; and "Surfing the Internet" by Jean Armour Polly, first published in June 1992 in the Wilson Library Bulletin, and then on the Net on December 15, 1992. It would be difficult to exaggerate the effect that these three people had on the growth of the Internet and, hence, on our civilization. For example, in 1992, Ed Krol published "The Whole Internet User's Guide & Catalog", which was the book that made the Internet popular. As such, Krol's book was one of the most important books in history. Jean Armour Polly, a charming author, speaker and mother, will forever be remembered (if I have my way) as being the person who coined the term "surfing", while bringing an appreciation of the Net to countless people around the world. To round out the discussion, I should, perhaps, mention two other early, important books: the first edition of "The Internet Complete Reference" (October 1993) and the first edition of "The Internet Yellow Pages" (February 1994), both of which were written by me.
Historical Timeline of the Internet
Here is a timeline that shows the history of the Internet from the 1956 Russian launch of Sputnik (which may have triggered it all) through the Arpanet (1969), UUCP (1976), Usenet (1979), DNS (1984), IRC (1988), gopher (1991), the World Wide Web (1992), and on and on.
History of the Internet
On December 5, 1969, three computers in California (Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Menlo Park) and a computer in Utah were connected to one another. This marked the official beginning of the Arpanet, the network that was to grow into the Internet. Since then, the Internet has grown to become the largest information-based facility in the history of mankind. Want to find out more about the history of the Internet? Check with these resources. (By the way, let me add a date to the history of the Net: February 1996. In that month, this book became the first Internet book in history to have sold a million copies.)
Host Your Own Email Service
If you are a webmaster with your own domain name, you can use these resources to start your own Web-based email service. Wouldn't that be just too totally cool? Now that you have registered imacoolchick.com, you can give all your friends their own personal email addresses, like firstname.lastname@example.org.
Internet Development Organizations
As you may already know, no one runs the Internet. You are in charge of how you use the Net, and if something goes wrong, you are on your own. However, there are organizations that work actively to plan the Net's future development and to make the Internet function as smoothly as possible. Want to find out who the people are behind the Internet miracle? Check out the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF), and the Internet Society.
Examine the up-to-date collection of working documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force. Most of these documents relate to technical aspects of the Net, but there are also general interest articles. These draft documents are working proposals, created by the people who are planning the future of the Net and circulated within the Internet community for general comment.
Internet Fax Services
Internet fax services make it possible to send free faxes to many different parts of the world through Internet mail. The recipient's name and fax number are converted to an electronic mail address, and the mail message is routed via the Internet to a computer near the destination. The receiving computer converts the mail message into a fax and transmits it through the local telephone network to the recipient's fax machine.
Internet Help Talk and General Discussion
If you are new to the Net, there are certain Usenet groups where you can go to ask questions about using the Net. The newbies and newbie groups are for general comments and questions about the Net. The news and bitnet groups are for discussion about learning how to use Usenet and the Internet.
You just got email that some sick kid overseas wants to collect as many postcards as he can before he dies. Then you read about a secret cookie recipe, circulating on the Net, for which someone got tricked into paying a lot of money. The next day you hear a rumor that the government is going to start charging for email. Is any of this stuff true? No. All that is happening is that someone is spreading misleading information about well-known Internet hoaxes. The truth is given out on a need-to-know basis, and you need to know.
The Internet changes so fast that literally no one can keep up on what's happening. However, if you would like to keep in touch, here are some places that can help. You can check every week, every day, or even every hour, and you will find lots and lots of news articles. In particular, you will find coverage of all the companies that are doing business related to the Net.
Internet Talk and General Discussion
The next best thing to being on the Internet is talking about being on the Internet. Get your fix of Internet topics by checking out the Usenet groups where anyone who thinks they are anyone chats about issues relating to the Internet.
The Internet is a global network that works the same way everywhere in the world. This means that everyone has access to the same resources, the same tools and many of the same ideas. However, in order to talk with other people about the Net, you need to be able to use the same words. I do want you to understand what everyone is talking about, so here are some glossaries of Internet technology for you to use as references.
The Jargon File is a legendary work that sounds like it should be dull: a collection of words and technical terms -- definitions and examples -- used with computers and the Internet. However, the Jargon File is anything but dull. It is not only exquisitely written, it is witty, comprehensive and accurate. In addition, there are also well-written essays discussing the hacking community and its customs. Out of all the dictionaries in the world, this one is probably the most fun.
Learning About the Internet and Web
If you are new to the Net, there is a lot to learn. Here are some places that will help you teach yourself about the Internet and the Web. (If you are a woman, pretend that I am sitting beside you, holding your hand. If you are a man, pretend that your mother is holding your hand.)
To subscribe or unsubscribe to a mailing list, you have to email particular messages to the program that administers the list. (I have put information on how to do so at the beginning of this book.) Emailing these messages is easy, but to make it even easier, you can use ListTool, a nifty Web-based system that will do the work for you. You can only subscribe and unsubscribe to the mailing lists in the ListTool database, but there is a large selection, so, if you know what you want, you will probably find something suitable.
Mailing List Archives
Every day, millions of people around the world carry on discussions via email by using mailing lists. These resources archive the messages from many different lists, and allow you to read them without subscribing to the list. This can be helpful if you are looking for a list to join and you want to check out various lists, or if you are looking for a particularly elusive something-or-other.
Net Happenings is a service that publishes announcements of new Internet resources. Check out the Net Happenings Web site, and you'll find lots of new and interesting resources. Subscribe to the mailing list, and your mailbox will be stuffed to the electronic gills with the latest and freshest stuff the Net has to offer. Hint: When your new Web site is ready, send an announcement to Net Happenings.
Listserv Mailing List:
New Internet Technologies
Today's Internet is based on old technology, and, as you probably know, has a pressing need for bandwidth (the capacity to move information) and speed. There are two big projects underway to develop new improved technology for the Net. One project is called Internet2. The other project is IPng (Internet Protocol, next generation), also referred to as IPv6 (Internet Protocol, version 6). (The current Internet system uses IPv4.) Here is some information about these projects, so you can see what's in store for us in the future. (If you don't like what you see, at least you'll have time to move.)
Stay on top of what is happening in the Net world by getting weekly lists of the latest cool Net sites. Experience the luxury of having someone else do the hard part while you get to have all the fun.
Listserv Mailing List:
Size of the Internet
Have you ever wondered how many people use the Internet? How many computers are connected to the Internet? How many different domain names are in use? All this information, and more, is available, but you have to be careful. It's nice to have numbers, but the real truth is, no one knows exactly how big the Net really is, and the "size" of the Internet depends very much on how you define what you are measuring. What I can tell you for sure is (1) the Net is very important to humanity, and (2) it is large and growing faster than anyone can understand.
Web Talk and General Discussion
Would you like to talk about the Web? Goodness knows there is a lot to say. The Usenet groups are for ongoing discussion about various aspects of the Web. The advocacy group is for opinion. The announce group is for announcements. This is a good place to let people know about a new Web site. The misc group is for everything else related to the Web.
Whois Servers: General
To display information about who controls a particular domain, you use what is called a Whois server (pronounced "Who-is"). For example, let's say you want to find out who controls the rights to the microsoft.com domain. Just look it up in one of the Whois servers.
Similarly, if you would like to register your own domain, you can use a Whois server to see if the name is available.
The following Web sites have general Whois servers that are capable of searching for a variety of domains: com, org, net, info, and so on.
Whois Servers: Specific
When you are searching for information about a domain name, you will get the best results if you use the official Whois server for that particular top-level domain. For example, if you want information about the domain >hk.space.museum> (the Hong Kong Space Museum), use the museum server.
The following Web sites provide access to the official Whois servers for specific top-level domains (in this order): edu, int, museum, coop, gov, aero, biz, ca, info, name and us.
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