The rules of netiquette: definition, origin and importance

The Internet is generating more followers of distance education than radio and television did in its heyday. However, the awareness of responsibility among its users does not grow at the same rate. Unfortunately, the famous netiquette rules seem to be unknown to a large part of netizens.

«The golden rule of netiquette is: on the other side of the monitor is a person!»

In that sense, it’s very easy to follow the rules when everyone sees us. It’s part of social proof. But what’s the point of the rules if we don’t follow them when we’re alone? Especially, in front of our computer, interacting with people we «don’t know, we don’t care about and, possibly, we’re not interested in.»

In case you didn’t know them, in this article I’m going to share what Netiquette rules are. I will also address the origin of the term, its meaning and its radius of action. Started?

What do netiquette rules mean?

Many Digital Learners still have doubts about paying for online courses

The word netiquette is the origin of the union of the English word net (network) and the French etiquette (label). These words were chosen to refer to the way of behaving at the table, as a way to bring rules of good neighborliness to the users of the network of networks.

In addition, netiquette rules refer to the set of rules that must be followed when browsing the Internet. Understanding that when surfing the net we interact with people, these rules are a simulation of the rules of coexistence between human beings in real life.

» Netiquette rules represent Internet culture. The word was first published on a USENET forum in 1982, with its English equivalent netiquette

These rules are based on the statement: «The Internet is a privilege for the user, but it implies a responsibility». They describe a behavioral protocol when making contact with other users on the Internet.

This protocol is promoted by other Internet users in order to provide greater security and combat network problems. These problems include fraud, fake news, yellow news, fake profiles on social networks and spam or junk mail.

What are the rules of netiquette rules on social media?

Netiquette on social networks
Netiquettes regulate user behavior on social media. Image courtesy of

Just like when surfing the rest of the net, netiquette on social media is a set of rules used to respect others. Many of these rules of coexistence are described in the terms and conditions of service of the main social networks.

However, most users use rules of coexistence as a personal custom, without anyone imposing them. By logical common sense. Some of these rules are related to:

  • Ask permission before uploading a photo or video to the people in the image.
  • Do not upload to the network what may harm your neighbor. Once uploaded and shared, it is impossible to erase and follow the trail.
  • It helps to create a pleasant atmosphere. Issue your opinions without hurting others. Respect the opinions of other users.
  • Moderate your comments and only make constructive criticism. Beware of destructive criticism, it can hurt the one you criticize. Also your reputation on the network. In many countries, attacking the integrity and morals of others is punishable by law. Remember what Benito Juárez said: «respect for the rights of others is peace.»
  • Type correctly. Or at least give it a try! It is one of the least enforced rules on the network, but not doing so can damage your reputation as a professional.
  • Build your digital reputation. Pay attention to how you want to look and project it. Make sure your digital identity is in line with what you want to project.
  • You must be responsible. Although it may seem like child’s play, social media is very serious! They give most of the online interaction and you are responsible for your actions in it. All your acts: the good and the bad deeds.
  • Report, if necessary. Use the form available on each social network to report the reckless Internet user. Whenever you consider that other users behave inappropriately. Of course, be careful to use this medium lightly.

Recommended reading:

Why You Should Observe Netiquette Rules While Studying Online

I know you’re thinking «a moment, but if I’m supposed to control my schedule and my class pace when I studied online, are there really rules I should follow?»

The answer is yes and no.

It is not necessary to follow these rules if you are exclusively watching a video or are reading or studying some electronic material of the class. In these cases you apply your own rules, your own rhythm. Why? Well, because you are not interacting with anyone. It’s you, your brain, and the content in front of you.

The vast majority of online courses include webinars or online meetings within their class schedule and, in these cases, whether we should follow rules specified in them. You should also follow these rules if you are doing online research.

Ask yourself «I would dare to tell you this personally. If the answer is no, re-read and rewrite your message» chris Johnson.

In these virtual environments we interact as in any other educational space, so we must respect certain rules of coexistence. In this context of learning, as in any interaction between human beings, «digital relationships» are also formed.

Emergence of socio-cultural differences on the Internet

The Internet was a universal network since its inception. But it was not born as such. In its beginning, the Internet had very few users, but when it became popular, it became evident to adopt a norm that traces patterns of behavior to Internet users.

During the decades of the 80’s and 90’s the aggressiveness and obscenity of many Internet users made a large part of them rethink the use of the network of networks. On the Internet there are no borders and it is very common that in any mailing list of Western users there are people from Eastern countries, for example. They have other cultures and what seems very normal to us, for them is not so normal.

Although writing on social networks disinhibits us, we must always remember that on the other side of the screen there is a person. And that we should not do to this person what we would not like to be done to us.

The rules of Netiquette according to the broadcast medium

Netiquettes limit spam
Netiquettes limit spam. Image courtesy of Pixabay

Netiquette rules comprise all forms of direct or indirect interaction with other users within the network of networks. Therefore, the scope of its rules is limited only to the means of dissemination used to achieve such interaction. Each medium imposes its own rules, according to its interests and its own objectives. Now let’s look at some netiquette rules, depending on the interaction platform being used:

  • Social networks: each social network has its own rule and its own form of interaction. On Facebook, for example, everyone can decide who their «friend» can be and in which image they want to be «tagged.» Continuing with the example of Facebook, a wall is like a living room, where whoever visits it must respect the rules of the owner of the room.
  • Blogs: Interaction on blogs is strictly regulated by their administrator, whether this is a company or a person. Blogs regulate comments that are ill-intentioned or that violate social rules. In this regard, in many blogs, these comments must go through a moderation, before being published.
  • Chat: The main rule of behavior here is respect for the theme of the chat. It is important to use the icons and the number of links that have been determined in the terms and conditions of each chat.
  • Forums: A logical rule of behavior in forums is that the answers submitted obey exclusively the questions or concerns raised. The level of language is also very important.
  • Virtual meetings: These meetings are usually used to generate brainstorming regarding a specific topic, previously coordinated and with rules previously agreed between the participants. These rules include the intervention time of each participant, the interaction with the moderator, among others.
  • Webinar: in the webinar it is the speaker or speaker who dictates the rules. While most of the time is spent on the participation of the speaker, there is always a space to intervene and ask questions.

history of netiquette rules

It should be remembered that in the beginning computers were used only for the storage and calculation of data. Later, other functionalities were added, until the great potential that these devices had for social interaction was discovered. Thanks to this, discussion sites were added, obviously, we talked about the forums.

Usenet protocols

It is at this time (1979), when the USENET protocols emerge, an acronym for the term in English «Users Network». In Spanish it reads as a network of users. USENET was a worldwide network of constantly distributed and updated servers, which save and transmit messages.

Users could read news and create their own articles.This feature is used by the USENET News service. This is a set of files dedicated to discussing various techniques and hobbies.

Users could read or send to different newsgroups in hierarchical order. However, only a minority of the groups were moderate. In these cases, messages sent by users did not go through USENET. Instead, they were emailed for approval.

«USENET became the largest information and debate network in the world, mainly thanks to the large number of users and groups, the scarcity of resources required, the speed, anonymity, its free access and its decentralization.»

Despite its enormous popularization, USENET functioned as an anarchic network, where there were no strict rules of useand the news that was sent to the groups did not have a well-defined hierarchy. However there was an attempt to stop the spam. Thanks to these attempts, the terms «FAQ» and «Spam» were introduced with USENET.

Netiquette rules to save bandwidth

Great advances in computing and increased bandwidth did not prevent a still very slow connection until 1987, when Intel used a high-speed modem to connect its offices in the United States.

However, because long-distance dial-up connections were several times more expensive than they are today, most businesses and government institutions could not afford this luxury.

The Internet in general was still very slow, which made it necessary to impose some «netiquette» features on the network, to save bandwidth. These rules were as follows:

  • Use of 7-bit ASCII if possible. This is because some computers ignored the eighth bit.
  • Env{iar emails without attachments.
  • Signatures of emails of no more than 4 lines.
  • Do not quote unnecessary text in the email or announcements in the e-newsletter.
  • Reply to emails with as little text as possible.

The emergence of netiquette rules as we know them today

We already know that the Internet is a reality thanks to ARPANET, which appeared in 1969. But its expensive and complex operation were the main causes that allowed only a small group to have access to the network, until 1991. It was precisely in August of that same year that Berners Lee used NextCube as the world’s first server and used Word Wide Web as the first browser.

By December of that same year, Berners Lee had already created all the tools needed to make a website work properly.

What happened in 1991 led to an explosive growth in the use of the Internet. If by 1987 there were barely 10,000 computers connected, already in 1992, there were more than a million computers on the network. And in 1996, this number would be multiplied by 10.

While the term was first used in a USENET forum in 1982, the netiquette rules as we know them today were worked out in 1994. The USENET forum took place on that date. By then, the Internet was the privilege of a small group, therefore, the rules were aimed at saving «bandwidth».

In 1995 the Internet was already a reality to which millions of users had access. It was mandatory to regulate its use. On October 28 of that year, Sally Hambrige, a member of Intel’s board, produced the official document called RFC 1855.

This document was prepared for company employees to learn how to behave while using the Internet. RfC 1855 is important because it is the first official netiquette regulation of a large company.

The first netiquette rules, elaborated for the interaction between users

Virginia Shea published, in 1994, the book entitled «Netiquette» which contains 10 basic rules of behavior on the net. These rules will be described in the next section.

According to, RFC 1855 defines Internet etiquette rules on behalf of the community involved in the development of Internet standards, the Internet Enginering Tax Force (IETF). While this document was created for internal use, the published memo specifies that «organizations can take it and adapt it for their own use.»

The material was organized into three sections. Namely:

  1. Direct communication, including mail and conversation.
  2. Many communications, involving mail and conversation.
  3. Information services, involving WWW, Gopher, FTP, MUD and MOODS

and a fourth section that included bibliographic information.

You can consult the complete RFC 1855 document in this link.

Both Shea’s book and Intel’s RFC 1855 document are very professional guidelines, thought of the interaction between network users. However, they are not immovable rules, so each institution can adapt them to its own reality.

Virginia Shea’s 10 Netiquette Rules

Virginia’s is the first book related to the rules of netiquette in the English language. Its publication coincided with the time of greatest growth of the Internet.

In this section we explain Virginia Shea’s 10 netiquette rules. But the book is in English, so, even maintaining the original context, this section will show the rules adapted to our idiosyncrasies, In other words, the rules described here are not a literal translation of the book of Virginia.

In the following infographic our friend Milagro Péres of Educando en la nube 2.0, she shares the 10 rules of netiquette.

But we do not end here, after the ichnography, you will be able to see each rule in detail.


Remember that on the other side there is a human being

The emergence of the Internet made people finally feel free to express their opinions to everyone. By force of a click! At the same time, that freedom is expressed to thousands, if not millions, of people whom the individual does not know, this brings out his most brazen and antisocial side.

This is a golden rule of the Bible «do not do to another what you would not like to be done to you.» Remember that this applies even more on the internet. Don’t offend! Before you say anything offensive, think, «Would I have liked to have that said to me?» or better yet, would you say this in your face to someone?


Follow the same standards of behavior on the network that you use in real life

It seems that the network has no limits. Seriously, the internet seems like a world where you can browse freely. It even seems as if the limit is set by the user. ! Don’t kid yourself! Most people are already on the Internet, so the reputation you build on the Internet is worth as much as the one you build in real life.

You have to be ethical and keep in mind that transgressing the law on the Internet «is lacking in netiquette». Something that seems as simple as violating the terms and conditions of a certain website, even without reading it, can land you in jail.


You should know where in cyberspace you are

Talking about gossip on TV used to be fun, but on the Internet it can be dangerous. Sending emails with fake news to journalists’ inboxes, for example, can lead to serious problems.

Remember that «netiquette is valid from one website to another». In other words, netiquette rules change from one website to another. Make sure you know what the rules are on the page where you’re browsing. Since most websites don’t have them, it’s in your best interest to continue reading Virginia Shea’s netiquette rules until the end.


Respect each other’s time and bandwidth.

At the time Virginia published this book, this rule was very important, because the bandwidth speed was very limited. Relatively, today it is not so much.

Although they are the least, there is a group of people who have several computers and spend all day downloading videos in high definition format. It is not bad that you download the videos you need, but I advise you to read your Internet service contract, since it always specifies the limit number of downloads.

Even today, downloading files continuously can affect the bandwidth of other users connected to the terminal of the company that provides the services. Keep in mind that each terminal has a certain bandwidth and this is distributed among the users who are connected to it.

On the other hand, when you send an email with an attachment, make sure it is important and of great interest. The internet has made our lives run faster than a plane, so don’t waste anyone’s time with an irrelevant message.


Show your good side and take care of your reputation

As in real life, people who write and share messages and multimedia files online want to «like each other». Take care of your reputation by taking care of your spelling. Be careful to send out-of-tune messages, unless you want to give an image of «big macho» or «the laughing boy.»

Write about what you know consistently. When providing data on a specific topic, be sure to give the source or at least say where you got it from. You don’t know everything and people know it.

Take care of your image, your «voice», but above all avoid anonymity. Remember that on the Internet, as in real life, in the end, everything is known. Do not hide in anonymity to do «misdeeds».


Share your knowledge

If you are an expert in a subject, contribute your knowledge to the large network of networks. Believe me when I tell you that the Internet will give it back to you in spades. There are millions of people looking for advice on the web from trusted experts. If this is your case, you will surely find your fan club quickly.

Collaborate on a wiki, volunteer as a contributor to a website, or create your own. If you are not an expert, but you are interested in contributing, always remember to recommend the advice of experts, many people do not know where to find information and you will be a guide for them. «Sharing knowledge makes the Internet a better place every day.»


Helps keep debates and controversies under control

On the Internet, as in real life, there are many people who are passionate about a topic and with their own opinions, but do the rules of netiquette penalize passions? Of course not.  These types of messages can be fun and passionate people often deserve to collaborate with them.

Up to that point, all good. The problem comes when that passion has no control and becomes a festival of insults, strong and out-of-tune messages that make a «pure camaraderie, a battlefield without quarter.»

When you discover people who act this way, don’t read their emails, don’t follow them on Facebook, don’t tweet their messages. Erase them from your online life and you will collaborate with making the Internet a better place!


Respect others, collaborate with privacy

I guess you’re not a hacker, but if you are, beware of getting into another user’s computer without their consent. The state intelligence services have very good hackers hired and, if they discover you, they are at the disposal of justice, to expose your «digital misdeeds».

Also don’t read your colleagues’ emails when they leave the emails open. If they discover you, every time someone suspects that they have stolen information, they will find in you the perfect bait. Respecting the privacy of others is one of the main rules of netiquette.


Do not abuse the advantages you may have

In cyberspace it is much easier to feel free to abuse others. Most of the people we interact with, we don’t see them, we don’t know them, they don’t hurt us!, this seems to be the axiom of Internet abusers.

Don’t use the Internet to humiliate others. Always help other users, become a helping hand and you will gain friends, instead of opponents.


Admonish the mistakes of others in private

In Latin America, many people cheat in spelling tests, even worse, a large number of teachers of this subject are very permissive, this explains why there are so many people writing on the Internet as if they were in elementary school.

When you see this, it is valid to correct users, but do it kindly, without arrogance and in private! Never forget. Even if it is an error in some information published on some website, send the comment in a private email and not in the comments part of the publication. Conclusion

The two key reasons for netiquette were speed and anonymity. Because typing on the Internet was so easy and fast, pointing and clicking often resulted in careless tasks and, as a result, brought with them unintentional errors and hasty belligerence. The main purpose of the netiquette rules was to help people «get the message they want to convey, is in fact, the message they write or send.»

Anonymity on the Internet provided a unique opportunity for people to get out of their own way and behave in violent, rude and insensitive ways. Another goal of netiquette is to create rules to minimize that temptation and make the Internet a friendlier environment for everyone.

Well, you already know the rules of netiquette. Share in a comment the netiquette rules they use in your work or in your place of study.


  • Netiquette on social networks. S/f, CanalTic Education.
  • Netiquette and social networks. s/f. Educating.
  • Netiquette, s/f, without author. Encyclopedia.
  • Brief first history of netiq, s/f, R. Stewart Ellis,
  • History of netiquette, Eugene Florido, 9 October 2016, blog by Eugene Florido.
  • 10 Basic rules of netiquette, s/f, without author. Faith and Joy.

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