People everywhere should have the knowledge they need to tap into the full power of the internet, and to use it to make their lives and the world better. This means that everyone needs the skills to read, write and participate online. For this to happen, web literacy must be foundational in education, alongside skills like reading and maths.

Web literacy includes three main aspects:

  1. Reading: Understanding basic web mechanics used to search for and locate resources and information, including the ability to judge the credibility of these sources. 
  2. Writing: Building and creating web content to make meaning, including how to add information or links to a webpage, ways to remix existing content and basic coding/programming skills.
  3. Participating: Connecting and contributing to communities that share, build, and sustain meaningful content online, including understanding how to keep content, identity and systems safe.

Internet use is expanding, with the broad majority of people worldwide – 60 per cent – expected to be online by 2020. The integration of the internet into people’s daily lives is helped by hardware and software that are easy to use and require little technical understanding. This lowers the barrier to entry and makes the internet increasingly accessible. 

What’s more, while TV and modern radio promote the passive consumption of content, the internet offers everyone the opportunity to create and share it just as easily as they can consume it: no sophisticated technical skills or large financial investment required. This is what has made the internet an open, innovative space. 

Yet, technical simplification also means that people are required to understand less about the tools they use every day – tools that are increasingly complex. For most people, technology is a mystery.

A lack of understanding of the internet’s fundamentals is a barrier to creating and participating online, which often results in people seeing the internet as merely ‘TV 2.0’. In more extreme cases, it can lead to false impressions about the nature of the internet itself. For instance, a study in Nigeria and Indonesia showed that over 60 per cent of participants believe Facebook is the internet.

Web literacy is necessary for people to understand and be able to take full advantage of all the internet has to offer. Using the internet without also building core web literacy skills is like learning the alphabet, but not the vowels – something fundamental is missing, making it difficult, if not impossible, to fully understand or use it effectively.


Stock Media by Dualstock / Pond5

Like reading, writing and arithmetic, web literacy is both a competency and an activity. You don’t just learn ‘about’ reading: you learn to read and comprehend. You don’t just learn ‘about’ arithmetic: you learn to count and calculate. Likewise, you don’t just learn ‘about’ the web: you learn, for instance, how to search to expand the frontiers of your knowledge. Or you learn a new skill. Or how to share your own work online. 

Universal web literacy doesn’t mean that everyone needs to learn to code complex web pages. A lesser degree of technical awareness and empowerment can be very meaningful. For many, learning how to customise the programs on their devices or how to more easily find reliable information online creates a powerful, and valuable, sense of agency.

What can we do about it?

  • Take charge of your own web literacy: Explore our core curriculum to identify the skills you want to learn.
  • Learn to spot fake news: Take a fake news quiz, or follow this helpful infographic  from the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions.
  • Become a web teacher: Use these activities and instructions to help your kids and your community build strong web literacy skills.
  • Tell your school – and those of your kids – that web literacy is essential to education, and should go beyond having computers in the classroom.

Mozilla is a global community of technologists, thinkers and builders working together to keep the Internet alive and accessible, so people worldwide can be informed contributors and creators of the web.

See also

External links