And for most of us, the internet means one thing above all else: Google. The search giant just keeps getting bigger and bigger. According to recent figures, at least nine out of ten internet searches by people in the UK are conducted through Google.
Of course, getting a multitude of results from a Google query is child's play. The problem is that the internet is a victim of its own success, so sorting through exhaustive answers can be frustrating in itself; you know you're there or thereabouts, you just can't quite find exactly what you need.
The good news is there are a number of simple things you can do immediately to make sure that you are making the most of your searches. Try bearing these simple points in mind next time you ask Google a question:
• Using generic terms will often return many millions of results. Try to be as specific as possible - if you can use unique words then you will cut through much of the dross at a stroke.
• Don't worry about punctuation. In almost all cases, you can leave out full-stops, commas, etc. - unless they feature in the specific phrase you are searching for. Likewise, Google will ignore articles like 'a' or 'the' and most pronouns.
• Capitalisation: don't bother. Google simply doesn't care whether you've spelled it 'London' or 'london'. Or even 'loNdOn'.
• Suffix specifics? Although using unique words is a good thing, it's best not to be too specific in terms of suffixes. If your search includes a noun or a verb, try to use the root - i.e. 'browser', not 'browsers'; 'search', not 'searching' - to avoid Google excluding something that might be of interest.
• Don't forget that Google will only serve up results which include all the words in your query.
Use those first principles in conjunction with these operations to get the desired the effect.
• Exclude unwanted words - use a minus sign to avoid Google misinterpreting what you want. For example, if you were interested in sea birds, but less so in a Brighton-based football team, you could search for: 'seagulls -albion'.
• Narrow the dates you search for - for results between, say, 2000 and the present day, try adding '2000...2012' to your query.
• After an exact phrase (and can remember it)? Use "quotation marks" to cut to the chase.
• Include variants on a search term using an asterisk. For example, use 'length *whale' to perform a search that would include results on numerous common species of whales.
• Many sites will feature their own internal search, but these are often not as good as allowing Google to take the strain. To search for, say, BBC News pages featuring dogs, try 'site:bbc.co.uk/news dogs', giving a list of all mentions on the site as indexed by Google.
Of course, there's a whole lot more tricks, depending on how deep you want to dive into the science of the internet. And to help you get the most out of your web experience, try getting online with TalkTalk, a UK broadband provider.