World Wide Web (WWW)
What is the World Wide Web?
The W3C defines the World Wide Web as "the universe of network-accessible information, an embodiment of human knowledge."
The World Wide Web is what most people think of as the Internet. It is all the Web pages, pictures, videos, and other online content that can be accessed via a Web browser. The Internet, in contrast, is the underlying network connection that allows us to send emails and access the World Wide Web. The early Web was a collection of text-based sites hosted by organizations that were technically gifted enough to set up a Web server and learn HTML. It has continued to evolve since its original design, and it now includes interactive (social) media and user-generated content that requires little to no technical skills.
History of the World Wide Web (WWW)
Tim Berners-Lee, a British scientist, invented the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1989 while working at CERN. The web was originally conceived and developed to meet the demand for automated information-sharing between scientists in universities and institutes around the world. The first website at CERN – and in the world – was dedicated to the World Wide Web project itself and was hosted on Berners-Lee's NeXT computer. In 2013, CERN launched a project to restore this first-ever website: info.cern.ch. On 30 April 1993, CERN put the World Wide Web software in the public domain. Later, CERN made a release available with an open license, a more sure way to maximize its dissemination. These actions allowed the web to flourish.
In March 1989, Tim laid out his vision for what would become the web in a document called “Information Management: A Proposal”. Believe it or not, Tim’s initial proposal was not immediately accepted. In fact, his boss at the time, Mike Sendall, noted the words “Vague but exciting” on the cover. The web was never an official CERN project, but Mike managed to give Tim time to work on it in September 1990. He began work using a NeXT computer, one of Steve Jobs’ early products. By October of 1990, Tim had written the three fundamental technologies that remain the foundation of today’s web (and which you may have seen appear on parts of your web browser):
- HTML: HyperText Markup Language. The markup (formatting) language for the web.
- URI: Uniform Resource Identifier. A kind of “address” that is unique and used to identify each resource on the web. It is also commonly called a URL.
- HTTP: Hypertext Transfer Protocol. Allows for the retrieval of linked resources from across the web.
Tim also wrote the first web page editor/browser (“WorldWideWeb.app”) and the first web server (“httpd“). By the end of 1990, the first web page was served on the open internet, and in 1991, people outside of CERN were invited to join this new web community.
The Original Proposal by Tim Berners-Lee
Evolution of the World Wide Web
The web has changed a lot since it was first created.
The first websites were made up of simple pages of just words and pictures, a bit like online books or magazines. Most people couldn’t create their own web pages. Back then, to make a webpage you had to write HTML code by hand.
- Web 2.0
As the web began to develop, people started communicating and sharing more. They used social network sites and blogs. It became much easier to create your own content on the web and to share it. This new type of web became known as Web 2.0.
Although the way people use the web has changed, the technologies haven’t. Many of the technologies that ran the first web pages are still in use today.
- The modern web
The web is still changing today. Search engines have become better at reading, understanding and processing information. They have found clever ways to find the content we want and can even show us other things that might interest us.
Web Standards and Accessibility
Many formal standards and other technical specifications and software define the operation of different aspects of the World Wide Web, the Internet, and computer information exchange. Many of the documents are the work of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), headed by Berners-Lee, but some are produced by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and other organizations.
Usually, when web standards are discussed, the following publications are seen as foundational:
- Recommendations for markup languages, especially HTML and XHTML, from the W3C. These define the structure and interpretation of hypertext documents.
Recommendations for stylesheets, especially CSS, from the W3C.
- Recommendations for the Document Object Model, from W3C.
Additional publications provide definitions of other essential technologies for the World Wide Web, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Uniform Resource Identifier (URI), which is a universal system for referencing resources on the Internet, such as hypertext documents and images. URIs, often called URLs, are defined by the IETF's RFC 3986 / STD 66: Uniform Resource Identifier (URI): Generic Syntax, as well as its predecessors and numerous URI scheme-defining RFCs;
- HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), especially as defined by RFC 2616: HTTP/1.1 and RFC 2617: HTTP Authentication, which specify how the browser and server authenticate each other.
There are methods for accessing the Web in alternative mediums and formats to facilitate use by individuals with disabilities. These disabilities may be visual, auditory, physical, speech-related, cognitive, neurological, or some combination. Accessibility features also help people with temporary disabilities, like a broken arm, or aging users as their abilities change. The Web receives information as well as provides information and interacts with society. The World Wide Web Consortium claims that it is essential that the Web be accessible, so it can provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with disabilities. Tim Berners-Lee once noted, "The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect." Many countries regulate web accessibility as a requirement for websites. International cooperation in the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative led to simple guidelines that web content authors as well as software developers can use to make the Web accessible to persons who may or may not be using assistive technology.
World Wide Web Vs. The Internet
The Web, as it's commonly known, is often confused with the internet. Although the two are intricately connected, they are different things. The internet is, as its name implies, a network -- a vast, global network that incorporates a multitude of lesser networks. As such, the internet consists of supporting infrastructure and other technologies. In contrast, the Web is a communication model that, through HTTP, enables the exchange of information over the internet.
The Web consists of pages that can be accessed using a Web browser. The Internet is the actual network of networks where all the information resides. Things like Telnet, FTP, Internet gaming, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), and e-mail are all part of the Internet but are not part of the World Wide Web. The Hyper-Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is the method used to transfer Web pages to your computer. With hypertext, a word or phrase can contain a link to another Web site. All Web pages are written in the hypertext markup language (HTML), which works in conjunction with HTTP.
The Web gives users access to a vast array of documents that are connected to each other by means of hypertext or hypermedia links—i.e., hyperlinks, electronic connections that link related pieces of information in order to allow a user easy access to them. Hypertext allows the user to select a word from the text and thereby access other documents that contain additional information pertaining to that word; hypermedia documents feature links to images, sounds, animations, and movies. The Web operates within the Internet’s basic client-server format; servers are computer programs that store and transmit documents to other computers on the network when asked to, while clients are programs that request documents from a server as the user asks for them. Browser software allows users to view the retrieved documents.