Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML 4 in 21 Days

Chapter 1: The World of the World Wide Web



This chapter introduces basic Internet concepts. The objectives important to this chapter are:

  • What is the World Wide Web?
  • What are browsers?
  • What is a web server?
  • What is a URL?

Before discussing chapter one, we should talk about historical aspects of the Internet:

The Internet started as a computer network to be used by research entities who needed to contact and send information to each other about defense projects.

There are many different methods that were used to find and transfer information across the Internet before it became graphic and consumer oriented. They can still be used. Some are:

  • Usenet - discussion groups that hold typed conversations on the net
  • Gopher - a search engine for finding text files
  • Archie - a search engine that concentrates on filenames
  • Lynx - a web browser that is text only, and runs on UNIX systems
  • Mosaic - an early web browser that runs on Personal Computers

Current web browsers are programs that are used to view Internet or network based information. That information may be stored in various formats. Browsers can use various methods, or protocols, to get the information. Different protocols are required by the browser because different servers, computers that provide the files to other computers, use various protocols. Some are:

  • FTP - File Transfer Protocol, used to transfer (copy) files from the server to your computer (and vice versa)
  • Gopher - if a server is using gopher to provide files, the browser needs to use gopher to find and get them
  • HTTP - Hypertext Transfer Protocol, used on the World Wide Web to read Web documents

HTML is Hypertext Markup Language. Hypertext itself is a concept that has been around for a while and it means having links in documents that allow a reader to jump from one part of the document to another, or to jump to another document. HTML is the document language that WWW documents are written in. HTTP is the protocol that allows such jumping around in documents to take place.

Some important features of the Web:

  • Cross platform - Web documents can be on any sort of server, and a browser on any sort of computer can read them
  • Distributed - the Web, and the Internet, are distributed across thousands of computers, each having a part of the whole
  • Dynamic - the Web is growing and changing every moment, constantly evolving into something more
  • Interactive - a user participates in Web presentations, by making choices and proceeding as fast or slowly as desired

Browsers find their way to Web documents by using URLs, Uniform Resource Locators. (They are also called Universal Resource Locators.) This is a fancy name for the location name of a Web document. A full URL includes the protocol used to reach it, such as HTTP. The protocol is followed by a colon and two forward slashes. Just consider this as necessary punctuation for now. The URL for this site is:


which means to use the http protocol, contact the WWW server called "home" at the network called att.net, and open the default page in the directory called ~s.k.vincent. So, when you give a URL to a browser, you are telling it where to look and how to read the document it finds there.