The World Wide Web, or just the Web, is the most popular part of the Internet by far. Once you spend time on the Web you will realize that there is no limit to what you can discover. The Web allows rich and diverse communication by enabling you to access and interact with text, graphics, animation, photos, audio and video.
Speaking the Same Language
The World Wide Web, or just the Web, is the most popular part of the Internet by far.
Although the terms are often used interchangeably, the Internet, and the Web, are not the same thing. The Internet is a physical network of computer networks scattered all over the world. The Internet is the network that allows two computers on opposite sides of the world to exchange information. However, in order for two computers to exchange information over the Internet, they need to be communicating in the same way or using the same communication protocol. Communication protocols are where the Web comes in. The Web is the portion of the Internet that uses HTTP, or HyperText Transfer Protocol, to transfer information.
There are many other protocols used to transfer information over the Internet that aren’t part of the Web. Some of which you probably use on a daily basis. Here are three of the most popular protocols other than HTTP:
- SMTP: Simple Mail Transfer Protocol is the most common email protocol.
- FTP: File Transfer Protocol is the protocol used to transfer files to and from web servers.
- SSL: Secure Sockets Layer is a protocol used to transmit sensitive data in encrypted format rendering the data unintelligible in the event that the transmission is intercepted.
What is the Web?
So just what is the Web? On the simplest level, the Web consists of five things:
- A client: The computer or mobile device used to access the Internet.
- An application: Software used to access the Web, such as a web browser or an app on your smartphone.
- An ISP: A connection to the Internet through an Internet Service Provider.
- A server: The computer where the information being accessed is hosted.
- A network: Routers and switches that direct the flow of information between the client device and the server.
The Web is sometimes referred to as a client-server system. Your computer is the client, and the remote computers that store electronic files are the servers. The Internet connects the client and the server so that they can communicate, and the result is your experience on the Web.
Navigating the Web
Let's say you want to access the Louvre museum website. First you enter the address or URL of the website in your web browser. Then your browser requests all the data files that comprise the web page from the web server that hosts the Louvre's site. The server transmits the data over the Internet to your computer. Your web browser interprets and assembles the data, displaying it on your computer screen.
The Web is the portion of the Internet that uses HTTP, or HyperText Transfer Protocol, to transfer information.
The Louvre's website also has links to the sites of other museums, such as the Vatican Museum. If you click the link, you access the web server for the Vatican Museum. In this way, information scattered all across the globe is linked together.
The “glue” that holds the Web together is called hypertext and hyperlinks. This feature allows electronic files on the Web to be linked so you can jump easily between them. On the Web, you navigate, commonly known as browsing or surfing, through information based on your interest at that particular moment.
Finding Information on the Web
If you don’t have a particular destination in mind when you access the Internet, or if you are looking for information that you aren’t sure where to find, you will undoubtedly use a search engine to find what you’re looking for.
The three most popular search engines are Google, Bing, and Yahoo!. While each ranks websites a little differently and offers slightly different search capabilities, all search engines function in a similar way.
A search engine is a program that compares search terms to an index of Web content. It does this in three steps:
- First, the search engine sends out programs called spiders or web crawlers, which are written to track down webpages, and send the web page content back to a database.
- A second program, called an indexer, reads the information sent back by the spiders and adds it to a massive index of web page content.
- Third, when a search term is entered, the search engine pulls relevant content from the index, sorts it to provide the most relevant information first, and then sends back a list of results.
Every search engine is built with a proprietary algorithm that categorizes and sorts webpages differently. This is why the search results from Google will not be exactly the same as the search results from Bing, even if identical search terms are entered. So if you’re looking for information with one search engine, and you can’t find it, it’s always worth giving a second engine a try.
The Applications that Make the Web Work
To access the Web you need a web browser, such as Internet Explorer, Edge, Firefox, Chrome, or Safari. How does your web browser distinguish between the different types of data on a webpage and decide how to render that information? The answer lies in the files that comprise a webpage.
When your browser is served is web page from a server it receives three types of files:
- HTML files: Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) files are used to deliver content. They contain the text, links, and references to the media that make up the content of the web page.
- CSS files: Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) files provide formatting for the HTML content. CSS files tell the browser how to present the content in the HTML files.
- Media files: Images, videos, and audio files.
HTML consists of wide variety of elements used to tell the browser the meaning of the content that is being viewed. For instance, in HTML, all paragraph are tagged with a paragraph tag that looks like this:
<p>Paragraph Content</p>. There are also tags for headers, tables, form fields, lists, images, videos, and much more. All of these tags tell the browser that the information contained within the tags is one certain kind of information, and not another.
On the simplest level, the Web consists of five things: a client, an application, an ISP, a server, and a network.
HTML is also used to serve up media files. So if your page contains a variety of images, a video, and an audio file, HTML tags are used to tell the browser where those media files are located on the server, and what position on the page they should occupy relative to the rest of the information on the page.
While HTML is used to define and deliver content and media, CSS is used to format the content. It dictates things like image size, font style, background color, and the spacing between different HTML elements. CSS files tell the browser what the website should look like, and adapt the website to a variety of device viewport sizes.
The Web is the portion of the Internet that uses the HTTP communication protocol to transfer information between a client, such as a computer or mobile device, and a web server. However, that dry definition doesn’t do justice to the reality of what the Web is. The Web is where information about any topic is just a few keystrokes away. So whether you want to be informed, entertained, or educated, you’ll find the content you seek on the Web.