The World Wide Web: the beginning and now

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 What is the Web?
 Early Ideas
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 Xanadu & Hypertext
 Berners-Lee & the Web


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What is the Web?

The World Wide Web is a global network that is based on the Internet. There are two important properties to its "client-server" architecture that allow it to function. The first is a set of file servers which store text, images, audio, video and other shared elements. The file servers send this data by way of the Internet to clients.

Clients are the second important feature to the Web architecture, and they exist on the user's end of the network - a.k.a. your computer. The client sends commands to the file servers to retrieve stored data, and then displays it on the user's end. The display of this data is handled through a web browser, such as Netscape Communicator or Microsoft Internet Explorer.

Click here for a diagram of the client-server architecture

All of these interactions work through a hypermedia system, and hypertext, which is a term that was made up by Ted Nelson around 1965. Hypermedia is a node-link architecture, where the nodes are web pages or media (such as video, audio, and images), and the links connect all of these together through a pattern of association. Hypertext only links documents together.

The World Wide Web contains a group of protocols that enable it to function. The first of these is HTTP: Hypertext Transfer Protocol. This protocol is used by clients and servers to communicate. The second protocol is HTML: Hypertext Markup Language. This language specifies document formats, and allows different clients to display the same document. It also allows a web designer to design his or her web pages. If you go to the "View" menu atop your web browser, and select either "Source" or "Page Source," you will see the HTML for this page. The third protocol of the Web is the URL: Uniform Resource Locator. This protocol describes the location of the file server being accessed, the location of the file on the file server, and specifies how to access the server and file. If you look at the top of your web browser in the location bar, you will see the URL of this web page. Files can be accessed through the web client a few different ways: by FTP (File Transfer Protocol - ftp://), by HTTP (http://), and locally (file://) (some info from Lecture).

This is just a brief review of how the web works. To fully understand this global hypermedia based network, it is essential to first look at the early ideas of information storage and hypertext - many of which would later influence those who were responsible for the development of the World Wide Web that we know today.


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