Your Internet Literacy
Some months ago a colleague asked me the sort of
question I often hear: "Where on the Internet can I
find. . . ?" I replied "Amazon." He said, "What's
That shocked me. How could he not know about
Amazon? It's the Internet's largest retailer,
founder Jeff Bezos was on the cover of Time
magazine as Man of the Year, and basically it's now
a cultural icon.
The Internet has gone from dozens of web pages
10 years ago to billions today, from few people
having heard about the Internet to today when some
web sites are familiar to almost everyone.
So it's time to test your Internet literacy, to
see how familiar you are with the canon. You get 2
points for having visited each site listed below or
1 point for at least having heard about it.
Of course you've heard about Amazon, which began as
a bookseller and then branched into videos, CDs,
and eventually most product categories.
Google is so popular that it's now a verb. There's
even a famous New Yorker cartoon in which two men
are sitting at a bar, and one says, ""I can't
explain it--it's just a funny feeling that I'm
being Googled." (To Google someone is to check out
him or her by searching on that person's name on
Groups. Quite a few of you will lose points on
this one, but this is a unique and extraordinary
resource. It's a searchable database of the Usenet
discussion groups dating back over 20 years. Usenet
is a very important part of the history of the
Internet. If you missed this one, give yourself
credit if you're familiar with Yahoo
Groups, which offers millions of discussion
groups. Give yourself an extra point if you've
actually started a group.
portal. This was probably the first web site to
make it big time. And still today it's a leading
portal. Whatever it is you want, it's here--news,
sports, weather, white pages, yellow pages, TV
schedules, movie information, and much much
5. My Yahoo.
All of you with Yahoo e-mail accounts automatically
get 2 points here. If you personalize Yahoo, you
open up yet another world of useful tools, from
e-mail to free online storage and file sharing to
stock portfolio tracking. Also, appointment
calendar, address book, calculator, and more.
6. eBay. eBay
is so huge it's a culture of its own. There are 50
million registered users of this auction site,
which bills itself as "The World's Online
Marketplace." Each year eBay has billions in
annualized gross merchandise sales. This site has
become such a presence that it's now hard to
imagine life without it. There are regular news
reports about novel items being auctioned,
including recently a whole town (winning bid was
This site is now owned by eBay and was one of the
early second-hand sites that really broke through.
The original focus was books, CDs, and videos, but
now it has a wider range of offerings. The name
comes from the early promise that all items would
be less than half the cost of the original selling
price. Nowadays the price is whatever the market
will bear, but it's still a great place for low
prices, as well as a good way to get rid of your
You get 2 points if you've ever used any price
comparison search engine such as these two, which
are among the most popular. You should always do a
price-comparison search before buying anything
online, especially computer or electronic
With the rise of Google, About has become less
necessary. But I believe it's still an important
part of the canon because it organizes the Internet
in such useful ways. Every topic has a human editor
who finds and annotates the best sites in a
10. CNet or
ZDNet. If you're
a casual user you may not have heard of these
sites, but anyone with an interest in technology
will be familiar with them. They offer technology
news and reviews, shopping, and price comparison.
They also have software and freeware download areas
that are among the best on the Internet.
So how did you do? Here's how to rate
16-20 points: A bona fide Internet expert.
11-15 points: You are Internet literate.
6-10 points: Time to give some of these sites a
0-5 points: Where have you been?
© 2003 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D.