Internet 101/ Beyond the Web

November 1998

Managing:Technology

Internet 101/ Beyond the Web

You've mastered your surfing skills, now it's time to take over the on-line world

Many people think "Internet" and "World Wide Web" are synonymous, but the Internet is a much more inclusive term and virtual "place." Once you've connected to your Internet service provider's (ISP) server, you can use different types of software to take full advantage of the Internet's capabilities.

This is the fourth and final installment of Professional Jeweler's "Internet 101." The series, which began in July, offers step-by-step instructions on getting acquainted with the World Wide Web and making the best use of it in your business.

E-Mail
Electronic mail is the most widely used feature; experts predict e-mail soon will be as ubiquitous as fax machines. As it becomes a new medium of communication for your store, it's important to use it effectively:

  • Find an e-mail software program that suits your needs. Your Web browser software will read e-mail, but you also can get software that customizes the way you receive and send your mail. Look for programs that more efficiently handle attached files, route mail with designated properties to different storage folders and send automatic responses when you're away from the store.
  • Check your e-mail regularly (at least a few times a week) and reply to all inquiries. If you link an e-mail address to your store's Web site, assign somebody to read the mail every day and forward each message to the person who can answer it.
  • Use your e-mail to communicate with customers. Collect e-mail addresses with other customer information and use the medium for customer surveys, greetings, promotions and newsletters. Never send an unsolicited promotional message – make sure your customers know they'll be on your mailing list.
  • Avoid attaching large files; they can take several minutes to download and annoy recipients. Also, any formatting you use in a message, such as italics, font color or boldface, will be lost by the time the message arrives. Use ALL CAPS or a line on each side of a word (_underline_) to add emphasis instead. Never type an entire message in all caps – it's the equivalent of shouting and is considered rude in the on-line community.
  • Add links to Web pages within an e-mail message simply by typing the entire URL, including the "http://." To link to another e-mail address, type "mailto:" and the address with no space between them (e.g., mailto:askus@professionaljeweler.com). Always type your e-mail address underneath your name in the message closing in case it doesn't show up in the mail header.

FTP
Software called file transfer protocol (FTP) does exactly that; it transfers files from an Internet server to your hard drive and vice versa. If you have your own Web site, you'll use FTP software (Fetch and Anarchie are two popular ones) to "put up" the pages you've created on your computer for the rest of the world to see. Your ISP will let you use your user ID and password to gain access to your little piece of hard drive space on its server.

You also can use FTP to download free software, images and plug-ins. FTP software provided by your ISP will often have preset "bookmarks" of servers (a popular one is an archive housed by the University of Michigan) that store software and games available to the public. You can browse these archives, or you can do a search at www.filez.com for fonts, software, movies, graphics and sound files.

Newsgroups
Usenet is a network of on-line communities called "newsgroups" where you can share information about hobbies or business, ask and answer questions, and meet others with similar interests. You can download news "reader" software such as NewsXPress or Free Agent that allow you to read news posted in the groups to which you subscribe; you can look also at newsgroup archives and post your own messages at Web sites such as www.dejanews.com and www.reference.com.

There is a newsgroup for every topic, including jewelry (alt.rec.crafts.jewelry) and marketing (misc.business.marketing.moderated). Look for moderated newsgroups to avoid promotions.

Telnet
With telnet software (such as NCSA Telnet, Hytelnet and Net Term), you can use your Internet connection to log in to a remote computer terminal, much the same as if your modem were communicating directly with the remote computer's modem. Once you've "telnetted," you have access to the remote "host's" capabilities – services, memory and disk storage space. This is especially useful for connecting to on-line catalogs, research databases and information services. Most organizations' Web sites will provide links to their telnet-accessible services.

Chat
Internet relay chat (IRC) and other programs like it allow you to chat in "real time," writing back and forth with other users who are logged on at the same time. It's a contrast to bulletin boards, where users generally post their messages then wait hours or days for responses. Depending on the "channel" you use, there can be thousands of people connected at one time. You can anonymously have conversations with people all over the world and, depending on which "room" you enter, you can discuss topics important to you with like-minded people. To find lists and ratings of IRC channels visit www.liszt.com/chat.

Services such as America Online and Microsoft Network also have their own chat rooms, and you now can find Web-based chat services on sites such as Yahoo! (www. yahoo.com) that use Java so you don't have to download chat software.

– by Stacey King



Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


 

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