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See glossary for definitions of technical words.
See Cambridge Online's fair use policy before using discussion groups.

The best known parts the internet are the web and email. Most people use the web just to read websites. Email is used for individual correspondence between people who know each other. But there are other ways of communicating using the internet.

    ~   Contacting websites
    ~   Web-based discussions
    ~   Email groups
    ~   Chatrooms
    ~   Moderated/unmoderated discussions
    ~   Social networks
    ~   Tips for participating in discussions

Websites often offer contact details, perhaps via an email address. Contact Cambridge Online here.

Many websites allow discussion online. These may be called boards, forums, groups or newsgroups. You type your message into an online form or email it, and soon it will appear with all the other messages. Other people can then reply to your message. These messages may be grouped into topics called threads. There are Cambridge boards and forums and more general groups and boards.

Some websites are more specific. There are Cambridge boards where you can a scientist a question, or find accomodation. There are worldwide websites where you can share photos or video clips.

You need an email address to join an email group. Anyone in the group can send an email to the whole group at once. Google and Yahoo run email groups as well as web-based groups. You can join an existing group, or set up your own.

In a chatroom, a group of people 'chat' online. They do this be reading existing messages, and typing in replies, which appear immediately. The communication is more like a real conversation. Some chatrooms are web-based (but may require Java), and others require software that you download from the web.

Some interactive websites allow messages to appear instantaneously, while others have a shorter or longer wait. This may be because they are moderated. This means that every posting is inspected before it goes online to screen out illegal or unacceptable messages. Instantaneous websites may have a moderator who will delete unsuitable messages after they appear. Unmoderated discussions allow anything, so be warned!

Social networking websites allows everyone who registers with them to describe themselves online. They can then find other people, either existing friends, or strangers with common interests. You should always be careful about what personal information you supply on social network websites, or indeed any other interactive website. Remember, anyone in the world can read it, criminals, spammers, your potential future employer!

A Wiki website can be used in two ways. It is a website full of information logically organised, so you can read or look at it. But it is made by its own readers. So you can help to make it better by changing it or adding to it. Each Wiki will explain how to do this on its own website. Wikipedia is the best known Wiki. It seems bizarre that these websites should be reliable, but if anyone tries to mess them around, other people fix them quite quickly.

Tips for participating in interactive websites

    ~   Check out the website carefully before joining in. How does it work?
    ~   Try not to annoy the other people using the website.
    ~   Avoid giving your full name, address or telephone number.
    ~   Consider using a nickname.
    ~   If you give your email address, you may get spam (junk email).
    ~   If you get into a situation you don't like, just leave the discussion.
    ~   Think before seeing in person anyone you first meet online. Take care to meet in public, and perhaps bring along a friend.

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