First Edition, June 1996
You've decided to build a Web site. Congratulations! You will find that it is an excellent way to reach potential clients, and also a great way to distribute information to current clients and the general public, if you wish. This chapter is a basic primer for beginners on connecting to the Internet. Experienced Internet users will probably want to skip ahead in this manual. When we say this chapter is basic, we mean it. This is basic information for the average user. In any event, the Internet is evolving so rapidly that much of what we write here will be outdated in a few months. If you have questions that are not covered here, please contact us.
Let's look at your basic equipment requirements first. Unless you're connected via something like a university or governmental network, to get on the Internet you'll need a PC or a Macintosh. If you're using a PC, it should have at least Windows 3.1, and 4 or more megs of RAM to view the World Wide Web's graphical interface. Of course, you'll need a modem and a phone line.
The next thing you'll need to think about is getting Internet access if you don't already have it. You can't access the World Wide Web to view your Web site and others without first having Internet access. Think of the Internet as a great global city, and the Web as a neighborhood in the city. To get to the neighborhood, you have to get to the city first.
There are currently three main types of Internet access providers:
(Strictly speaking, any organization that offers Internet access can be considered an ISP, including the major online services, but we are using the term here to refer to dedicated Internet service providers, as is conventional in the online world.)
In the wake of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, many other kinds of entities will be offering Internet access, especially telephone and cable television companies. Some major telephone companies (e.g., AT&T and MCI) have already plunged into the Internet access market in a big way, and perhaps they will come to dominate it. At present, the cable television companies appear to have inherent technological advantages in terms of infrastructure, capacity and cost-effectiveness, but so far they have not generally moved quickly to offer Internet services to the public. All things considered, at present we strongly recommend you get your Internet access from a dedicated, commercial ISP (unless you are fortunate to already have free institutional access).
ISPs are companies ranging in size from tiny mom-and-pop shops to large national organizations. It is the business of an ISP to make it possible for you to connect to the Internet through your modem (or through an even higher speed connection if you want to spend the extra money). We recommend that you look around for a good local or national ISP and get your Internet access through them. Here are some things you should keep in mind when you shop for an ISP:
Whatever operating system you're using, if you're connecting to the Internet over a modem you must have a dialer program of some kind, which the ISP should provide, or tell you how to get.
The ISP ideally should also give you a basic package of Internet programs, including an email program, such as Eudora; some kind of FTP (file transfer protocol) software; a Usenet news reader; and a Web browser, preferably Netscape. You don't have to know what all these terms mean when you call the ISP. Just ask them if they provide these types of software.
How can you find an ISP? Surprisingly, at least in the areas we're familiar with, there is still no listing in the Yellow Pages for Internet Service Providers (or even a listing for the word "Internet"). If your local newspaper has a business section, check there for ISP ads. (In New York, check the New York Times' Tuesday Science section.) Ironically, one of the best places to learn about ISPs is from the Internet itself. If, once you're signed up, you decide you'd like to switch ISPs, you may want to check the Web itself for candidates. One excellent resource is The List [http://www.thelist.com].
For users in much of the Southeastern United States, we recommend MindSpring Enterprises of Atlanta [http://www.mindspring.com], with whom we have a partnering agreement. Check with us to see if you're included in Mindspring's expanding service area, and we'll be happy to order the service for you. (If you order directly from Mindspring, please go out of your way to record that you were referred by us.)
The second kind of Internet access is through the major online services. Online services such as CompuServe, America Online, Prodigy, and the Microsoft Network all now offer Internet access. They all currently have their own proprietary browser software that allows you to access the Web. One advantage to this kind of Internet access, especially for AILA members, is CompuServe's AILA Infonet, an excellent resource. Another advantage is that it is often very easy to set up: you can call CompuServe and have them send you computer disks to install, or you can download the necessary software over your modem, and then they'll walk you through the process. And getting to the Web itself is generally a well-marked trail on the major online services. For computer novices, especially those who are a little terror-stricken at trying to use a computer, much less a modem, signing onto the Internet at first through an online service might be a good way to cure the phobia. However, we do not recommend this type of access for heavy Web use, for the following reasons:
As soon as you have your Internet access and get a good Web browser, you'll be ready to access the Web. You may want to start browsing the Web to get ideas for your Web site. Be sure to make it a point to stop by http://ilw.com, the home of Immigration Lawyers on the Web. There you can see examples of effective and well-planned Web sites, as well as links to other valuable resources and an email link to our Webmaster, Gordon, who will guide you through the process of setting up your own Web site.
For more information on this topic, see c|net's The Ultimate Guide to Internet Service Providers [http://www.cnet.com/Content/Reviews/Compare/ISP/howto.html].
Hake Internet Projects, LLC.
Silver Spring, MD USA
301-589-7766 voice · 301-589-9798 fax