Understanding the Computer Terms Web, Internet & Email
Now you may think you know what these computer terms mean, but I've found that in fact, most people misuse and misunderstand 2 or 3 of those words every day!
Now please understand me -- it's not your fault if you sometimes get computer terminology wrong. It's just never been explained to you the right way for you to really get it, and chances are, you've been hearing other people misuse the terms too, since it's pretty common to mix them up.
Let me see if I can make it easier for you.
Let's start with email -- this is the one that most people get basically right, although they still misunderstand one important thing about it (more on that in a minute).
Email is, of course, "electronic mail" -- a pretty simple concept to get. Its the computer equivalent of a traditional letter. Traditional mail through the post office is often called "snail mail" these days because it takes days to get to the person you're sending it to, unlike email which can take seconds (although sometimes can take hours).
Even snail mail is pretty amazingly fast compared to how it used to be back in the day, when it could take weeks or months to get to someone.
Just like regular mail, email has a sort of post office that it goes through - something called a "mail server".
There are two types of mail server - POP and SMTP. But I prefer to use the terms incoming and outgoing because it makes more sense than the technical terms.
Don't worry about what the letters POP and SMTP stand for. Just remember:
POP = incoming, for mail that's coming in to you
SMTP = outgoing, for the email you're sending out.
Let's talk about the word "Web" now.
The Web is what most people think of as "the Internet" -- it's the web pages, or pages of words, pictures, and sometimes sounds and videos even, which you go and visit using your "web browser".
A web browser is just a program that lets you look at web pages -- most Windows people click on the blue E, which is Internet Explorer (made by Microsoft and given away with every copy of Windows, which is why most people use it. NOT because it's the best option).
Most Mac people with fairly new Macs use Apple's web browser Safari, which looks like a little compass.
Other people, both Mac users and Windows users, use a different program called Mozilla Firefox.
For a lot of good reasons, I strongly strongly recommend that Windows users do NOT use "the blue E" -- Internet Explorer -- the main reason is because it is very unsafe and is almost a guarantee that your PC will get infected with something nasty.
Mac users should not use "the blue E" (Internet Explorer) either, but more because it's very out of date and just doesn't work with many modern websites anymore.
One way to think of a web browser is like a car that lets you drive around on the "information super-highway" as they used to call the Web back in the 90s.
Some brands of cars are safer than others -- you could almost think of Internet Explorer as one of those old Poison Pintos, and Mozilla Firefox as a Volvo -- not a guarantee to save you from harm, but a lot safer than a Pinto!
One point of confusion some people have is that sometimes you can use web browsers to read your email. Like if you use Yahoo mail or Hotmail.
In that case, you are looking at your email through what's called "webmail" because you are using Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, or Apple's Safari to view your mail.
It's kind of like going to the post office and reading your mail there. Throwing some of it away, and then putting the stuff you want to keep back in the post office box for storage.
Using an email program like Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, Eudora, or Apple's OS X Mail, is more like reading your mail at home, and storing the stuff you want to keep at home instead of at the post office.
Now let's talk about the last term: the Internet.
This may be, out of the three terms I've been talking about, the one that is most mis-used.
Here's the thing: the Internet contains BOTH the Web AND email.
But many many people, probably most people in fact, talk as if the Internet was a separate thing from email or the web, when in fact the web and email are both just *parts* of the Internet.
Or another way to put it is that the web and email are just certain ways of looking at all of the information that's available on the Internet as a whole.
The Internet is really just a big "network" of interconnected computers that talk to each other and share information. Some of it is presented as web pages, some of it as email, and so on.
Hope that all makes sense.
Thanks for reading,