Internet 101

What is the web, and how can you make it work for you?

As you explore the tips on security and safety in Good to Know, you may have some questions about what the web is and how to use popular types of online services. Please check out these answers from Googlers and learn more about getting online, finding information and navigating the web, and connecting and sharing online.

What is the Internet?

The Internet is a worldwide network of computers all connected to each other. When you connect to the Internet you have access to the World Wide Web, which is like a library full of pages of information.

For further reading, explore Google’s 20 Things I Learned booklet.


How do you connect to the Internet? What is the function of an ISP?

Before you can start exploring the web, you will need to set up a plan with an ISP. An ISP, or Internet Service Provider, is the company that allows you access to the Internet and other web services. They provide different ways to connect including dial-up, cable, fiber optics or Wi-Fi. These different connections determine the speed of your Internet access.


How does the Internet get to my mobile phone? Is it different from a desktop?

In general, a cell phone connects to the Internet with the same wireless signal used to make a phone call. Your phone connects to a cell tower in the area, which then connects you to the Internet. Because transferring data between mobile devices and the Internet can get expensive, service providers charge for data plans.

Certain devices, like mobile devices running Android, can also connect to the Internet through Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi lets you connect your phone, tablet or laptop computer to the Internet wirelessly and without the need for a cellular signal or data plan. Generally, Internet connectivity on your mobile phone is faster through Wi-Fi networks, but you have to be in an area where Wi-Fi is available. Many cafes, retail locations, and sometimes entire cities will offer free Wi-Fi.


What is a URL, an IP address and a DNS? And, why are they important?

A URL is the web address you type into a browser to reach a website. Every website has a URL. For example, the URL will take you to Google’s website.

Every URL also has an IP address. An IP address is a series of numbers that tells your computer where to find the information you’re looking for. An IP address is like a phone number—a really long, complex phone number. Because IP addresses were so complex and difficult to remember, URLs were created. Instead of typing in an IP address (45.732.34.353) to go to Google’s website, all you have to type is the URL,

Since the Internet has so many websites and IP addresses, your browser does not automatically know where every single one is located. It has to look each one up. That’s where the DNS (Domain Name System) comes in.

The DNS is essentially the “phone book” for the Web. Rather than translating “John Doe” into a phone number, the DNS instead translates a URL,, into an IP address, taking you to the site you’re looking for.


What is a browser?

Just as you go to a library to ‘browse’ through books, you can find or explore pages on the Internet using an Internet browser. A browser is a type of software on your computer that lets you access to the Internet. The browser acts as a window displaying to you the various websites where information lives. All you have to do is type a web address into your browser and you are instantly taken to that website.


How do I make the text in my browser bigger (or smaller)?

Sometimes the words on your screen may be too big or too small for you to read them comfortably. To change the size of the words on your browser, press and hold the [control] or [command] button on your keyboard and tap on the plus [+] or minus [-] key. Selecting [+] will make your words bigger, and selecting [-] will make your words smaller.


How do I browse the web with tabs?

If you are exploring one website on your browser and would like to look quickly at another website, all you need to do is create a tab. The tab is basically another window within the same browser. By creating a tab, you can easily jump between websites. How to create a tab will depend on what browser you use. In many browsers, you can create a tab by going to [File] and selecting [New Tab].


How do I update my browser?

Using the newest version of your browser means a faster and more secure browsing experience. Figuring out how to update your browser will depend on the type of browser you are using. Each browser type – like Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari to name a few – will have a different update process. The Chrome browser, for example, automatically updates whenever it detects that a new version of the browser is available. The update process happens in the background and doesn’t require any action on your part.