World Wide Web
The World Wide Web is a freely accessible digital space where documents and other resources, interconnected by hyperlinks, can be accessed over the Internet.
The web, as the World Wide Web is commonly known, was invented in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee who envisioned a digital space, accessible by anyone with an Internet connection, that would allow the free exchange of information. After launching the web while working for CERN, Berners-Lee founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in 1994 to serve as the standards organization for the web – an organization he leads to this day.
The web is built on the following key concepts and principles:
- Free & open source: While not everything on the web is free and open-source, the basic architecture that undergirds the web is freely accessible and ongoing development is done via an open-source method.
- Hyperlinks: Documents on the web do not exist in a vacuum. Instead, they are connected to other web pages by hyperlinks. These links create a massive grid that charts a path from one web resource to another related web resource.
- Unique Identifiers: Each web resource can be located by using a unique identifier called a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) or Unique Resource Identifier (URI).
Frequently Asked Questions
Where did the name World Wide Web come from?
The concept of hyperlinks predates the creation of the World Wide Web (WWW), and a grouping of hyperlinked documents was already referred to as a web of information. When Tim Berners-Lee included the idea of hyperlinking into his proposal for the WWW the concept of the web went global – or world wide – and in 1990 the term WorldWideWeb was coined.
What does it mean to say that the web is freely accessible?
The chances are that you had to pay for the internet connection you're using right now, and if you didn't, someone else did. However, the web itself is freely accessible. How can this be?
When you pay your Internet Service Provider (ISP), what you are actually paying for is the cost of the equipment and technical support necessary to maintain a connection to the Internet, not access to the web. If CERN and Tim Berners-Lee had wanted too, they could have made the technologies that power the web proprietary and require that anyone who wanted to publish or access content on the web pay a fee for the privilege of doing so. If that had happened, and the web had still grown to its current state, you'd be paying a two fees every month: one to your ISP for internet access, and the second to the W3C for web access.
Is the Internet the same thing as the web?
While the terms are often used interchangeably in common practice, technically speaking the Internet and the web are not the same thing. The Internet is a massive network of computer networks that spans the globe and makes Internet-enabled services possible. The web is just one of many Internet-enabled services. Examples of Internet-enabled services you are probably familiar with include e-mail, VoIP telephony, and TLS/SSL (the protocols used by secure websites).