The Digital Research Initiative|
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Is there some kind of confusion?Yes. Many people think that The World
Wide Web (aka "the Web" or "WWW") is the entire Internet. The truth is that the Web is just one small but very popular part of the Internet's big picture.
The Web really is the millions of millions of text files which are stored on millions of Web servers. All of these files are connected in a Weblike fashion via "hyperlinks." These hyperlinks, or simply "links" can be clicked-on while viewing the pages in Web browsers and doing so will send you to a related Web page. These links do just what they are called--they link.
This is not a new idea. In 1945, a Presidential adviser called Vanuver Bush wrote of a system called the "Memex" that would contain all of your important information and link these pieces of information with other information that they are related to. Later, this idea evolved into "hypertext"--text with hyperlinks built right in. This is why when viewing Web pages, you can jump from page to page based on your interests--in effect "surfing information."
It gets betterIn its infancy, the Web was mostly reknown because it operated with these links on every page--everything linked to everything else. But as time went on, Web developers realized that by making links out of every word whose subject had a related Website somewhere else, they were losing their audiences to foreign sites. This is like a television announcer suggesting you check out the Disney Channel when he mentions cartoons. Another problem was that sites weren't really providing much information, they were simply providing links. Well, this present a problem when there is nothing but links, because then there is nothing of value.
So, since its inception in 1994, The World
What do you mean "in?"You are never really "in" a site, that is a word used to mean that you are looking a the contents of a Web page. Basically, the user utilizes a special piece of software called the "Web browser" which downloads copies of web pages from their homes on the Internet and displays these pages on your screen.
Web pages themselves are merely text documents with special "markup tags" which tell the browser how to display the page--what colors to use and how to format the text. Also, these tags can tell the browser to also download sound, graphics, digital movies, and even small programs along with the text pages and incorporate them in the displaying of the page. These tags also are used to make "hyperlinks," and for these reasons, the syntax of the tags is called "Hypertext Markup Language," or "HTML."
This sounds simple enoughOkay, then we can make it harder to understand: When the web browser allowed the Web to be born, people were drawn to it. One might say that people were sold on the Internet by the Web, and all they have done since is email. Regardless, as the Web has become more and more influential--at least in the eyes of companies and their executives--Web browsers have become the most important pieces of software to have. The one who controls the Web browser controls the world, right?
Perhaps the logic here is that if I make Web browsers, then I can determine how people see the Web. This is what has drive Microsoft to market their Internet Exploere as competition to Netscape Communications's Navigator program, which is currently the leader. The issue is, however, that each time either of these two companies attempts to drive the way the Web has seen, Webmasters have ignored their efforts and continued to make pages the "older" way. This has caused much of the browser to be meaningless, except for those who really fear Microsoft.
The inability of one company to steer Web technology is due to the role that "standards" play in the developement of the Internet. A "standard" is a universally-agreed-upon way of doing things. For example, ASCII files are plain text files which can be read by any text editor on any computer anywhere in the world. Everything from an Apple I to a 300 Megahertz Aptiva can edit an ASCII text file. Therefore, this is the format used for text on the Internet, be it text for email messages or Web pages. This is a standard. When a company tries to push its patented technologies to Web developers, they generally fail, because most Web developers want their pages to be accessible to the widest possible audience. Standards make this possible, but specialty technologies do not.
Meanwhile, the Web browser has developed into an application which can be used to fufill many of your Internet needs. With Netscape Communicator, you can check your email, download files via FTP, participate in video conferences, and oh yeah, surf the Web. However, despite all this, most people only use their Web browsers for their original purpose, and leave the email and video conferencing to other programs.