People often preface their questions to WorldStart by saying the are “computer illiterate” or “web illiterate.”  But exactly what does it mean to be literate online?

The folks at Mozilla, the group behind Firefox put up this interesting graphic as an example of what they believe web literacy to consist of.


This may look complicated, but it’s really broken down into three basic skills: The abilities to read, write, and participate.

On a simplistic level, you could read a post on Facebook and then participate by knowing how to comment and writing a comment.

But let’s break down the skills, as defined by Mozilla, in a little more depth.


Reading is the most important skill. If you can’t read the content or locate the content, you certainly can’t share or participate.

Reading means not only being able to read, but also having the skills to navigate the web. You must understand how to get to a site. You need to be able to type in a web address in the address bar and understand what web address look like.  If someone tells you a site is at, you need to understand how to type into an address bar.


You also need to understand how to use search engines to find sites and topics you’re looking for on the web.


But once you find what you’re looking for, you also need to be able to understand it. You should be able to look at information from multiple sources and make judgments about the quality of that information. You should know how to research whether something is true and evaluate the credibility of the site that’s giving you the information.  Just because someone posts something on Facebook or on a blog, that doesn’t mean it’s true. You need the skills to find the truth and to recognize fake stories, fraudulent sites, scams, and potential traps to distribute malware.  You need both the ability to evaluate and to synthesize the material you find.


Being able to read is the beginning of web literacy, but there’s still more.  In part 2 of this article, we’ll explore the writing on the web and why it’s such an important skill.

How do you rank your skills for reading on the web?  Are you able to find what you need and navigate to the sites you want?  Do you think you’re good at filtering out what’s real and what’s not?  Let us know in the comments.

~ Cynthia