The Words of the Internet

Clear & Convincing Feature Article

Every year at the ABA TechShow, a technology survey of the attendees, mainly lawyers or those working in law offices, is conducted. Recently, in answer to whether they used a “web-based service,” only 30% answered yes; 70% said no, they used no web-based service.

The answer implies that 70% of the respondents don’t use e-mail, e-file, research, or shop online. Since Pew research indicates that 84% of Americans use the Internet, that interpretation of the results seems unlikely. Perhaps the better interpretation is confusion over the meaning of the term “web-based service.” Maybe it’s lack of knowledge of the vocabulary of the Internet, not lack of use of the Internet that is in question.

What is a “web-based service?” It is information accessed over the Internet rather than being found in your computer’s memory. The Internet is defined as a worldwide system of millions of computers all connected together in a network. Like the legal world with its special language, the computer and Internet worlds also have unique vocabularies.

What are some of those words? We can start with the basics.

When you check your e-mail or electronic mail, electronically or e-file a court document, or go to the SBM Member Directory to find an address, you are using the world wide web (www). Other terms include:

  • Internet address or URL (Uniform Resource Locator)—The group of letters and numbers that takes your computer to a specific page on the Internet. It looks like www.michbar.org or http://www.michbar.org. The http means Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, a language that allows transfer of files.
  • Website—A place to visit on the Internet with things to read, places to do research, and your e-mail.
  • Server—A server is a computer or device on a network that manages network resources. Anyone on the network of computers can store files on the server.
  • Network server is a computer that manages how much information is on the network, sort of like the traffic on a highway.
  • Database server—Often abbreviated DB, a database is basically a collection of information organized in such a way that a computer program can quickly select desired bits of data. Think of it as an electronic filing system.

Measurement of the units of information on your computer starts with a bit, the tiniest and then moves upward to a Byte (8 bits), Kilobyte (1,000 bytes), Megabyte (1,000,000 bytes) and finally, a Gigabyte, which is 1,000,000,000 bytes. My antique iPhone 4s has 6.1 Gb or over 6 billion bytes or 48 billion bits or a whole lot of stuff.

Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Safari are browsers or software downloaded on your computer used to view web pages on the Internet. Computer viruses can come into your computer through e-mail or the Internet by way of a browser. Thus it’s a good idea to have an anti-virus program on your computer. Think of it as your computer’s vaccination against a deadly disease.

When you access the Internet with a browser or go online to search the Internet, you will start with a search engine such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo search. When you open a web page, the language used to create it is HTML or Hyper Text Markup Language, which, unless you’re computer programmer or web designer, you don’t have to know or understand.

The language of computers and the Internet, unlike the language of the law—which generally remains comfortably steady over centuries—is constantly changing.

It is, however, necessary that lawyers keep up as shown in the ABA Model Rule 1.1 on Competence with Comment 8, which reads:

To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education, and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.

Knowing computer and Internet vocabulary is a first step to become technologically conversant and “maintain the requisite knowledge and skill” to be considered competent to practice law. And you’ll be able to talk to your children or grandchildren.

Roberta GubbinsRoberta Gubbins has served as the editor of the Ingham County Legal News. Since leaving the paper, she provides services as a ghostwriter editing articles, blogs, and e-blasts for lawyers and law firms. She is the editor of Briefs, the Ingham County Bar Association e-newsletter, and The Mentor, SBM Master Lawyers Section newsletter.

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