The Web and How it Works

WWW: World Wide Web. Also spelled WorldWide Web, World-Wide Web or World-Wide-Web. Also called Web or W3. Developed in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee with sponsorship by the European Particle Physics Laboratory, known as CERN. The server program used with the client program, called Mosaic, to form a web, which is used to distribute information on the Internet. For example, an electronic paper about the history of UNIX found on one host may have hypertext references to an electronic paper about MULTICS found on another host half-way around the world. All of this information is linked together to form an intricate web of information. -from UNIX: An Open Systems Dictionary

From the user's perspective, the World-Wide Web is a non-linear sequence of pages, containing a combination of text and graphics. Any page may contain hypertext-highlighted or underlined words or phrases that the user can click on for more information, sending him or her deeper and deeper into the Web's structure.

To link to the Web, the user needs only an Internet connection and an interface tool such as Mosaic, acting as a client. Using an address line called a Uniform Resource Locator (URL), the user can link immediately to an organization's home page. From there, the possible links are infinite, giving the user access not only to that organization's server, but to other servers as well, where hypertext links are present.

Organizations and companies with Web servers have obtained a permanent Internet connection, allowing clients to access their home pages via the organization's own URL (usually beginning http://). Their servers contain documents coded with HyperText Markup Language (HTML), a tagging code whose functions include designating the links to other pages. The Web's standard protocol is Hypertext Transport Protocol (HTTP). Organizations maintain their own documents and servers and update the information as needed. Some documents may have restricted access, requiring a password, or allow the user to send information back to the server using a form.

As an abstract information space, the Web is independent of all networks and administration is completely decentralized. "Anybody can publish, anybody can make links, and so to a certain extent, it's self-organizing or self-disorganizing," says Web creator Tim Berners-Lee. "The saving grace is that you make extra links only if you think they're worth reinforcing. Only rich and useful areas become reference points.