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The Art of Surfing

 

The "World Wide Web" ... an electronic, information super-highway, is just what it sounds like. You can "be" in Singapore one minute and Iceland the next. You can find out about graveyards in Siberia this morning and birth certificates in Mexico this afternoon. There is no end to the amount of knowledge instantly available to us now.

However, the Web is more than just a reference tool. It's also a place to hang out, look around and explore. And yet sometimes it feels hard to navigate. (It's easy to get trapped into vicious web circles. Homepage to search engine to results page, and nothing new in between. But it doesn't have to be that way...)

Whether your homepage is Netscape, Hotbot, Yahoo!, Alta Vista, AOL, your ISP, your college, or your company's intranet, it pays to know where else you can go to get started. Many sites specialize in filtering the web -- weeding out the best, the newest, and the weirdest sites available. Some sites feature a different link every day or week. Bookmark some of these starting points and you'll be surfing like a pro in no time.

It's in the Links

Very often people include their own collections of related links on the sites they build. You may have noticed a few on some of your favorite destinations.

For example, Cyndi's List and Linkpendium have genealogical links to web sites all over the world. It's this type of linking that makes the Web a "web" in the true sense of the word. And as a surfer, you can take advantage of other people's explorations. The next time you visit one of your own preferred sites, look for the links. You might find yourself headed in an unexpected, somewhat "cool" direction.

AlaskaWeb has a small page of links you might find helpful.  Look for it on the Research page.

Web Community

The Internet, unlike other media such as TV or radio, is a "two-way" medium. The ease with which a computer user can communicate to the rest of the world has created a sense of "global community" that's found almost nowhere else. People around the world post web sites, exchange e-mail, and participate in online chats.

Going online means not just surfing the Web and reading e-mail. It means getting involved in the whole Net community.

You Have Mail

The earliest internet-based communication was e-mail, then came electronic bulletin boards, or forums. Both of these systems are still used today.

While most people are assigned e-mail addresses through their ISPs, free accounts are available to anyone who has access to a web-ready computer. Free services such as Hot Mail and Yahoo allow users to access their email from work, home, or anywhere they can launch a web browser. Once you've got e-mail, you'll find plenty of uses for it on the Web.

Most web pages and online authors provide e-mail addresses for visitors to send comments, questions, or just conversation. Not everyone answers their e-mail, but a surprisingly high number of authors do. Who knows, they might just be able to unlock that closed genealogy door you've been facing.

When you're ready to step up to the next level, try online message boards. The original brand of online discussion groups is Usenet. If your browser is properly configured, you should be able to browse, read, and post to any one of 20,000+ newsgroups. But first, you need to be able to locate everything you want! The next subject, internet search engines, will cover a little of that.

Next: Internet Search Engines

 

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