Internet essentials

Aims and objectives

This module will:

  • help you understand what the internet is and how it is regulated
  • explain the basics of cyber security.

At the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • implement strategies to protect your identity in an online environment
  • identify the elements of uniform resource locators (URLS)
  • resolve common issues with your web browser.

2. The web and web browsers

The web has revolutionised today's society, and is now an essential tool used for accessing information and communicating with each other. 

What is the web?

The web is a collection of hypertext pages, documents and other resources that can be located by a uniform resource locator (URL) using a web browser (described in the next section). An essential technology in web publishing is Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). HTML allows authors to tag or "mark up" their content in order to control how the content is displayed in a web browser. Using HTML, authors can add hyperlinks to their content, linking or referring to other web pages, objects, and files.

Surface, invisible and dark web

The surface web includes websites and pages that are indexed by web search engines. This indexing process uses internet bots, sometimes known as "web crawlers" or "spiders". The indexed, and therefore searchable, web represents a minority of the overall content on the web. The invisible web includes websites and pages which are not indexed by web search engines. Non-indexed websites include:

  • pay-walled or password protected content
  • material stored within databases
  • financial and medical information
  • email content
  • unlinked or private content 
  • archived websites

Many of the websites and databases you will access as part of your studies exist in the invisible web. For instance, many library databases cannot be searched on the web by users without library access, as the contents are pay-walled.

The so-called dark web is made up of anonymous websites (with masked Internet Protocol addresses) that are only accessible by those using specific software. 

 How Google Search works (YouTube, 5m15s)

Web browsers

A web browser is an application you can use on your computer or mobile device that provides a graphical interface for navigating the web and viewing web pages. Popular web browsers include Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer / Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Apple's Safari, and Opera, though since 2012 Chrome has become the dominant browser.

 Browsers market share history, 1993-present (YouTube, 30s)

Web browser compatibility at UQ

Websites and learning platforms at UQ are only compatible with certain browsers. For instance, some versions of Internet Explorer are incompatible with Learn.UQ. For the best user experience and security, you may need to use a specific browser and ensure that it is upgraded to the latest available browser version.

Check your browser version using the following links:

If an application or UQ website is not working on your browser, one of the first things you can try is reopening the website or application in a different browser.

Browser settings

Browser settings, or preferences, control how your browser operates. By changing your browser settings, you can control:

  • default homepage
  • bookmarks bar
  • default search engine
  • security settings
  • password settings
  • where your downloads are saved.

Clearing your cache

Web browsers automatically store (cache) website information in order to make your browsing experience faster the next time you visit a particular site.

If your browser, or a website you are viewing, is not working as expected, clear your browser’s history. This will delete the stored website information and may result in your issue being fixed. Refreshing your cache regularly also helps to protect your privacy.


Web browsers sometimes automatically block pop-up windows. TechTerms defines pop-up windows as "a type of window that opens without the user selecting 'New Window' from a program's File menu". While most pop-ups are advertisements, sometimes you will need to interact with a pop-up window. Please see the instructions on how to configure your browser to allow pop-ups.


Cookies are a small piece of data inserted by a web page into your browser. Cookies allow websites to remember you when you next visit the website. By using cookies, websites can improve your user experience, for instance by remembering your website settings from session to session.

Some types of cookies, including third-party tracking cookies, have been criticised for infringing on user’s privacy and enabling marketing companies to build sophisticated customer profiles on internet users. Tracking cookies can store large amounts of data about your browsing habits, including which websites you have visited, time spent on websites, and links clicked.

Watch Gary Kovacs discuss internet tracking in Tracking the trackers (6m40s). Were you surprised by how many sites were tracking Gary's internet usage by the end of the day?

Browser extensions & add-ons

You can extend the functionality of your web browser by using browser extensions or add-ons. Extensions can:

  • change the appearance or accessibility of your browser
  • allow you to interact with other apps or software from your web browser
  • protect your privacy
  • run specific tasks (e.g. take a screenshot, check your spelling).

Consider installing a browser extension to stop internet tracking. Privacy Badger is available for Chrome, Firefox and Opera. Disconnect and uBlock are available for most browsers.

These links have further information:

Duration:   Approximately 20 minutes

Graduate attributes

Knowledge and skills you can gain to contribute to your Graduate attributes:

 Critical judgement

 Ethical and social understanding

Check your knowledge

Check what you know about this topic:

Take the quiz

Support at UQ

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