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.