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August 29, 2017

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Here's the The Lowdown from DN Journal,
updated daily
to fill you in on the latest buzz going around the domain name industry. 

The Lowdown is compiled by DN Journal Editor & Publisher Ron Jackson.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Internet But Were Too Embarrassed to Ask

Those of us in the domain business are generally assumed to be Internet experts but I would be the first to admit we don't know everything and might even blow an answer or two on some of the basics. For example, is the Internet and the World Wide Web the same thing? If not, what's the difference? If some of us don't know that, how wide is the "knowledge gap" within the general public with respect to this amazing medium that has changed all of our lives in such a dramatic way?

The Public Interest Registry (the operators of the .org domain) wondered about that too, so they conducted an in depth survey that revealed  consumers know significantly less about the internet than they think (something we may be guilty of as well). While 84% believed they were “knowledgeable” about the 

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internet, the findings showed most consumers fell far below that mark. For example, on that Internet vs. the World Wide Web question, only 20% knew the World Wide Web is different from the internet (The correct definition of the internet is a system of interconnected networks that allows different computers to connect with one another. The World Wide Web is an information system on the Internet that allows documents to be connected to other documents by hypertext links).

PIR's nationwide survey assessed internet knowledge among users ranging from millennial-aged digital natives to the baby boomer generation – including basic internet history facts, definitions of key internet terms and best practices for safe internet use. To combat 

this knowledge gap among consumers, Public Interest Registry has also compiled a variety of resources including a “How Well do You Know The Internet?” quiz, infographic and more into an invaluable resource called Internet 101

PIR noted, "The survey results underscore the need for widespread internet education among users and spotlight critical issues from net neutrality to global internet access disparities. Public Interest Registry’s Internet 101 Survey also reinforces the organization’s goal to provide useful information for individuals and companies on topics ranging from internet operations to online security to help users more safely and effectively harness the power of the World Wide Web."

Here are some other basic Internet facts that stumped many respondents:

  • Only 29% of participants correctly identified the meaning of HTTP, with 31% admitting outright they did not know the meaning of the term

  • 68% of people could not identify the decade when the World Wide Web was invented

  • Only 31% of users could correctly define a “domain name system”

  • Less than 50% of participants correctly identified HTTPS as a more secure protocol that’s safer to share personal or financial information

While the survey revealed a handful of widely held misconceptions about the internet, consumers did fare slightly better on the below questions.

  • Most participants (59%) correctly defined a URL as another term for a web address

  • 66% of people correctly identified a domain name from a browser, an email address and a social media handle

  • 80% of users knew that they could find official information from their Congressman at a .gov domain name

Battle of the Ages – Millennials vs. Boomers

Millennials may have grown up using the internet, but users from the boomer generation are more knowledgeable than both millennials and Generation X when it comes to basic information about the internet, from online safety to internet operations. Here are a few areas where boomers outpaced their younger counterparts.

  • More baby boomers could identify a safe site (47%) than millennial or Generation X users. 

  • 34% of boomers compared to 29% of millennials knew the World Wide Web was created in the 1980’s

  • Fewer millennials (42%) knew the correct definition of the internet than boomers (46%) More boomers knew the correct percentage of the world’s population with access to the internet than the other age groups surveyed

Public Interest Registry CEO Brian Cute noted, “The survey revealed that 50% of U.S. internet users think more people globally are connected to the internet than actually are, which is a reminder of the work that must be done to close the global internet education and the internet access gap. Public Interest Registry hopes this survey will not only educate, but also help spark dialogue around internet issues such as access, cybersecurity threats and more.”  

Internet 101 – What You Should Know   

There’s a lot for users to learn about the internet – how it works and the issues impacting future internet regulation and access. Of those surveyed, the average user has been online for 17 years, which shows that long term internet use alone does not equate to a better understanding of this powerful tool. Users must be provided the resources they need to more confidently use the internet. Below are few facts to get up to speed on the basics.

Brian Cute
CEO, Public Interest Registry

  1. A total of 47% of the world's population has access to the Internet, which amounts to approximately 3.9 billion people globally who are not online.[2]

  2. The World Wide Web was invented in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee in a paper called “Information Management: A Proposal.” The concept was initially deemed “vague, but exciting” by Berners-Lee’s boss.

  3. The HTTP at the beginning of a website stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, the standard over which data is sent between a browser and a site.

  4. A site that begins with HTTPS is a secure site that is safer to insert credit card info or personal information. The “S” at the end stands for secure and means that communications between your browser and the website are encrypted.

  5. HTML is the standard language for creating websites, but a variety of web development languages such as Java and Python exist to help make webpages more dynamic and complex.

  6. While the internet is not managed or regulated by any one individual, organization or country, some organizations help maintain the internet, such as The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) which manages internet protocols and domain name systems.

  7. The first generic top-level domains created in the early development of the internet were: .org, .com, .net, .gov, .edu, .mil and .int

  8. If you’d like to create a website, you can purchase a domain name from a registrar

For more information on the Internet 101 Survey and to test your own knowledge of the internet please visit https://pir.org/internet101/.


[1] This report presents the findings of a survey conducted among a sample of 1,014 adults comprising 506 men and 508 women 18 years of age and older. The online omnibus study is conducted twice a week among a demographically representative U.S. sample of 1,000 adults 18 years of age and older.  This survey was live on May 22-24, 2017.  

(Posted August 29, 2017)

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