1. Which browser is best? A browser is the software you use to view the Web (analogous to a using a word processor to create documents). The battle rages between two: Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. Both are excellent, have nearly the same features, and are free, so the choice comes down to personal preference. The newer versions have more security safeguards and features, so it's worth your while to upgrade.

2. How do I get a domain name for my Web site, and how much will it cost? First, contact a Web-hosting service to receive your Internet Protocol (IP) address--a series of numbers that identifies your domain. Then, go to www.networksolutions.com and fill out the registration form. Registration costs $70 for the first two years and $35 each year thereafter.

3. Is it safe for me to use my credit cards on the Web? Yes. The transaction process is even safer on the Web than it is in face-to-face transactions, as long as you deal with a secure site. (Make sure the Web address line starts with https:// not just http://.) In the worst-case scenario, your credit-card company will protect you with a maximum liability exposure of $50.

4. What are "cookies"? Should I be concerned about them? Cookies are small strings of text that Web sites place on your hard drive to "remember" you when you return. If a site greets you by name, it's probably using cookie technology. But don't worry--cookies will not give away the secrets on your hard drive. However, if you're concerned about anonymity and you don't mind re-entering your preferences and passwords, you can refuse cookies by setting your browser options. On PCs, you can view your cookie files by looking in your C:\Windows\Cookies directory.

5. How much do Web sites learn about me when I visit? Unless you give them additional information, Web sites can tell only what Internet service provider you're using, what domain, country, and continent you're connecting from, what type of computer, monitor, browser, or operating system you're using, and what search engine and key words you used to get to the site.

6. How can I protect myself from unsolicited e-mail, or "spam"? Do what I do when I receive e-mail messages from unknown senders: Don't read them. Just highlight and delete suspect messages, which may be advertisements, promotions for questionable products, get- rich-quick schemes, or pornography links.

To help reduce the amount of spam you receive, sign up only for lists that interest you. Create an account for yourself from a free e-mail provider, such as www.hot mail.com, and use that address when you sign up for a list, keeping your primary e-mail address for business contacts.

Check out the filtering programs in your e-mail software that automatically delete repeat junk-mail messages; use free anti-spam software, such as SpammerSlammer (www.spammerslammer. com); and use remote filtering sites such as BrightMail (www.brightmail.com). And don't ever reply to spam messages, even if they give you an unsubscribe option.

For more on protecting yourself from unwanted e-mail, how to file a complaint, or the latest in spam legislation, visit the Consumer Protection Division at www.wa.gov/ago/junkmail/. i