A CDE Definition
World Wide Web
(1) (WorldWideWeb) The first Web browser, written by Tim Berners Lee and introduced in early 1991. It ran on the NeXT platform, which was also used as the first Web server. See NeXT.
(2) (World Wide Web) An Internet-based system that enables an individual or a company to publish itself to the entire world, except to countries or locations that prohibit the free interchange of information. The major service on the Internet, the Web is the world's largest online shopping mall and the world's largest source of information, news and commentary. To understand the difference between the Web and the Internet, see Web vs. Internet.
The "Web" is made up of "Web servers," which are computers that store and disseminate "Web pages" to anyone with an Internet connection. Web pages are interactive documents that contain text, graphics, animations and videos. The pages often contain embedded programs that cause them to function the same as software that users install in their computers, smartphones or tablets. As a result, the Web is a "global server" that provides a source of all applications and data (see Web 2.0).
Hyperlinks and Web Addresses
The heart of the Web is the hyperlink, which connects each page to each other by address, whether the document is on the same website or on a site half way around the world. In the mid-1990s, the novel concept of "click here" (click the hyperlink) caused the Web to explode. The address of a website or Web page within the site is officially known as the "uniform resource locator." To get anywhere in the technolgoy business, you must understand the term "URL" (see URL).
The Web Browser
Web pages are accessed by the user via a Web browser application such as Internet Explorer (IE), Firefox and Safari. The browser renders the pages on screen, executes embedded scripts and invokes additional software as needed. For example, Flash animations and video are rendered by Flash plug-in software that is tailored to each type of Web browser.
HTML Is the Rendering Format
A Web page is a text document coded with HTML tags that define how the text and graphics are displayed on screen. Web pages can be created with any text editor or word processor. They are also created in HTML authoring programs that provide a graphical interface for designing the layout, and such programs generate the HTML tags behind the scenes. Many applications export documents directly to HTML, thus basic Web pages can be created in numerous ways without HTML coding. The ease of page creation helped fuel the Web's growth.
Websites Are Made Up of HTML Files
A website is a collection of Web pages, each of which is an HTML file. Large organizations deploy their public websites either on inhouse servers, on their own servers co-located in a facility that provides power and Internet access or on servers in a cloud service (see cloud computing). Such public sites may contain hundreds and thousands of pages and databases that hold millions of records.
Small to medium websites are often maintained by third-party hosting companies for fees that start as little as USD $5 a month. They can also be hosted by the same Internet service providers (ISPs) that deliver Internet access to the building. For individuals who want their own website, many ISPs host a personal site at no extra cost, but it is typically limited by size and traffic.
The public Web spawned the private "intranet," an inhouse website for employees. Protected via a firewall that lets employees access the Internet, the firewall restricts uninvited users from viewing internal information. There is no difference in hardware and software architecture between a private website (intranet) and a public website. The difference is who has access.
HTTP Can Deliver Anything
HTML pages are transmitted to the user via the HTTP protocol. A Web server stores HTML pages for a website, but it can also be a storehouse for any kind of file delivered to a client application via HTTP. For example, the Windows version of this encyclopedia is available as an HTTP application. The content is hosted on the Computer Language Company's Web server and delivered to the encyclopedia client program in the user's PC. The Windows client is an HTTP-enabled version of the popular interface first introduced in 1996 for stand-alone PCs.
Where It Came From - Where It's GoingThe Web was developed at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva from a proposal by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989. It was created to share research information on nuclear physics. In 1991, the first command line browser was introduced. By the start of 1993, there were approximately 50 Web servers, and the Voila X Window browser provided the first graphical capability. In that same year, the graphics-based Mosaic browser was introduced (see Mosaic), CERN launched its Macintosh browser, and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) in Chicago debuted the X Window version of Mosaic.
From a Couple Hundred to a Trillion URLs
By 1994, there were approximately 500 websites, and, by the start of 1995, nearly 10,000. By the turn of the century, there were more than 30 million registered domain names. A decade later, more than a hundred million new domains were added. In 2010, Google claimed it found a trillion unique addresses (URLs) on the Web as it maneuvered from site to site to populate its search engine.
Everyone Has a Vested Interest
ISPs, cable and telephone companies want to sell more connectivity. Webmasters want visitors. IT managers want security. The publishing industry wants to preserve its copyrights. Software publishers want to sell more Web-based products, and hardware companies want to sell more Internet infrastructure.
From Anywhere to Anywhere
Using Web-based protocols and mobile devices, the Web has enabled anyone within reach of a cell tower to monitor or analyze an activity anywhere on the planet as well as obtain information and make every conceivable business transaction no matter the time of day. The Web has an exciting future. See first website, Web 2.0, Internet, HTTP, HTML, World Wide Wait and Wild Wooly Web.
Before/After Your Search Term
Terms By Topic
Click any of the following categories for a list of fundamental terms.