CeePrompt! Computer Connection

Browsing the World Wide Web no simple task
02/12/96

by Cathi Schuler


Browse. It always seemed like a perfectly good verb to me; clear, succinct and to the point: To scan, peruse, look over or survey. But leave it to the inventors of techno-babble to warp this decent, well established verb into a little understood noun that befuddles and confounds many novice PC users: Browser. One who browses? Sort of, but not exactly.

Browser is a generic term used to describe the software required to view a particular area of the Internet: The World Wide Web. Certainly with an Internet connection and a reasonable mastery of cryptic UNIX commands you can traverse much of cyberspace via a text-based interface and retrieve all sorts of data. But you won't see full-color pictures of the Louvre, hear audio clips from Mozart, listen to the Mc Neil Lehrer Newshour or perhaps see a QuickTime video clip of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun". These elements of the Internet can only be sampled through the use of a browser.

The World Wide Web is that portion of the Internet that supports multimedia elements. Some portions of the Internet are text-based only and other areas are dynamically enhanced with color, graphics, sound and video.

What if the your entire world were only visible if you wore a pair of glasses? A browser is nothing more than a pair of glasses which allows you to view the World Wide Web portion of the Internet. Ah!, but were it so simple. There are your basic drug store variety of glasses, then there are full prescription, designer frames and optical choices.

Not all areas of the Web are visible through all types of browsers, or glasses. Browsers such as the ones that come with America Online and other basic Mosaic-type clones don't support all the HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) tags that more sophisticated browsers, such as Netscape and Explorer, support. HTML is the language or set of codes used to construct a web site. All browsers allow you to see the basics of the World Wide Web...but whether you see a skeleton or an elegantly clad interface depends on the sophistication of the browser you use, and of course upon your hardware.

Clearly the real battle of the browsers is taking place between Netscape and Explorer. Netscape is by far the most popular browser, having taken both Wall Street and cyberspace by storm. But Explorer, by Microsoft, is nipping at Netscape's heels and is proving to be a full-figured, hearty browser, in my opinion.

Microsoft Explorer makes a terrific effort at content organization and even enables users to create a customized start-up page with references that are unique to your particular interests and needs. Explorer also supports some unique HTML "tags" that make it seem more multi-dimensional than Netscape.

Explorer does not, however, support a third party mail client. In order to e-mail directly from Explorer, you must configure the Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft's own mail client. The latest version of Netscape, 2.0, just released February 5th, does include a full mail utility in addition to other multimedia enhancements. The posturing for browser dominance continues between Microsoft and Netscape with the ultimate prize being control and major marketing dollars. That's why you and I get the browsers for free...at least for now.

Visit the Netscape home page for a free download of Netscape version 2.0 http://www.netscape.com or check out the Microsoft Network home page for a free download of Microsoft Explorer, now available in Windows 3.1 and Macintosh versions as well. Remember you must have an Internet connection to configure these browsers.

America Online users, however, can now download Netscape and use this as their browser of choice rather than the one included with AOL. Many AOL users have reported a remarkable improvement in web browsing, since downloading Netscape. From AOL press CTRL+K and type in Netscape. Follow the easy download instructions, and voila! Netscape through AOL.

To test what your browser can "see", go to the following website: http://www-dsed.llnl.gov/documents/WWWtest.html Here you'll be able to experience which features are included in your browser and determine if additional applications need downloading. I browse, you browse, they browse. We'll all be browsing soon! I still prefer the verb.

Feedback? E-Mail cschuler@ceeprompt.com

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