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What is an Internaut?

By R. Kayne
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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In cyber slang, in internaut is a person who is ultra-familiar with the Internet. The word is a combination of the words “Internet” and “astronaut,” and it is derived from the use of the word "cyberspace" to describe the Internet; an astronaut travels into outer space, and an internaut works in cyberspace. Other terms that are roughly analogous with internaut are cybernaut or netizen, although each has its own connotation. The common thread among them, however, is an implication that the person's experience and knowledge of the Internet or cyberspace goes beyond that of the casual user.

Knowledge and Experience

An internaut is online savvy, normally through years of online experience, with a thorough knowledge of how to use search engines, Internet resources, forums, newsgroups and chat rooms to find information. The more someone knows about the Internet, its history and politics, the more likely that the term “internaut” fits him or her. The less he or she knows, the more likely that a different term would be more fitting.

Differences Between Terms

"Cybernaut" probably is closest in meaning to "internaut" in terms of in-depth knowledge of the online world, but the scope of that knowledge might be different. "Internaut" might be a more academic term, relating to knowledge of the Internet itself and information in general. "Cybernaut" might be more closely associated with being skilled within online gaming communities and virtual role-playing worlds. Although there are no hard and fast rules to slang, “cybernaut” seems to suit people whose familiarity comes from growing up with the Internet, and “internaut” might be more closely associated with people who had a hand in building it and/or in witnessing its growth.

A netizen, or citizen of the Internet, also has a specific connotation that implies someone familiar with netiquette. Many enthusiasts of newsgroups and Web forums realize that these forums rely on voluntary cooperation. Before participating in a forum, a good netizen will read the frequently asked questions (FAQ) and general charter in order to participate within the community in a way that supports it. An internaut or cybernaut would also know to do this. A netizen, however, might not have any special knowledge of the Internet.

Usage of Terms

Each of these terms is sometimes used generally to refer to members of the online community when the writer or speaker intends to impart more respect to the community than the general term “Web surfers” affords. A person might refer to members of an online community as netizens or internauts — or when speaking to a younger crowd, cybernauts. This is similar to the way that an emcee might address a gathering of people as “ladies and gentlemen,” regardless of the nature of the gathering.

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Discussion Comments
By accordion — On Jul 18, 2011

Honestly, I do a lot with the internet and am friends with quite a few computer geeks and internet geeks, and I have never heard this term before. Maybe it is an older internet generation thing, I don't know, but for people in high school, college, and slightly older, I don't think it is a very popular concept.

By croydon — On Jul 17, 2011

I wonder if I could be considered an Internaut or a cybernaut. I don't really consider myself to have special knowledge of the internet, but I have been using it for more than 17 years now.

My father was in charge of technology at my high school and he had us chatting online to other schools in the United States using IRC when most people still had no idea what the internet was.

And I spend a lot of time on online communities. I know I at least rank as a netizen.

I think someone should put up an online quiz so you can judge your status!

By umbra21 — On Jul 17, 2011

@bythewell - I know it can be frustrating, but you have to remember that the internet hasn't been around all that long.

There are still plenty of people who are new to forums and online games and so on, and who just don't know there is a search feature, or that talking in caps is a big deal.

You just have to put them straight gently, and politely.

If they continue with bad behavior after that, ignore them!

By bythewell — On Jul 16, 2011

I think more people should try to be good "netizens". I can't believe how many people will charge into a forum or chat room without even a basic knowledge of the area.

Reading the FAQ and guidelines is a start, but even that isn't what I'm talking about. Some people seem to break the most basic online usage rules. Like talking all in caps, all the time. Or private messaging someone to talk without permission.

But, I have to confess what really annoys me is when a forum gets hit with a bunch of really basic questions. People should ask if they don't understand something, that's true. But the answer is already easily available.

If the person had bothered to use the search feature even a little bit, they would have found it.

It just seems like there shouldn't be all that many people left who don't know these things.

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