As the web has become a crucial part of our modern lives, it’s not uncommon to wonder what the web is and how it has developed over the years.
Besides, you might be thinking how is it different from the internet or are they the same?
In short, the internet is a network of computers that are connected to each other and share information. And the web, or the world wide web, is the collection of all web pages available on this network.
Continue reading to learn more about the web, its history, and how it works. We will also look at the common web-related terms and what they mean in this detailed guide.
What Does Web Mean?
The web is short for ‘world wide web’, ‘WWW, or ‘W3’ and refers to an interconnected system of web pages accessible through the Internet.
As per the W3C, the Web is simply an information space. Some of the first specifications defined for web technologies includes URLs, HTTP, and HTML.
Each web page is a document written in HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and contains images, videos, or other web content. These documents are linked together using hyperlinks to create a web of interconnected information.
The term ‘web’ can also refer to the collection of all public websites on the Internet or just the part of the Internet that can be accessed using a web browser.
The World Wide Web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 while working at CERN. He proposed a system of linked documents that could be accessed via the internet and his proposal led to the development of the first web browser – WorldWideWeb (later renamed Nexus).
The first website was created by Berners-Lee in 1991 and it was a basic page with some text and hyperlinks. Over the years, the web has evolved to become the largest repository of information in the world with billions of websites and trillions of web pages.
How Does the Web Work?
The web works because of a set of protocols called the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP).
This protocol defines how messages are formatted and transmitted, and what actions web servers and web browsers should take in response to various commands.
To understand how the web works, let’s take a look at how a typical web page is loaded in your browser.
When you enter a URL into your web browser, it sends an HTTP request to the server that hosts the website.
The server then fetches the requested web page and sends it back to your browser. The browser then reads the HTML code and renders the page on your screen. If the page contains images, the browser will send additional HTTP requests to fetch those as well.
Once all the assets are downloaded, the web page is displayed on your screen. This process happens within seconds and automatically whenever you load any web pages.
See the detailed explanation on this Mozilla Web docs page.
How did the Web begin?
The web started back in 1989 when Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist at CERN, invented it as a way to share information between scientists quickly and easily.
See the official CERN website (screenshot above) detailing the birth of the web.
Within a few years, people outside of CERN were using the web to communicate and share information.
You can see the first website published here as still maintained by CERN (see screenshot).
It was quite a humble beginning for the World Wide Web! See a complete archive of the list of products related to the WWW project.
How is the Web different from Internet?
Although used interchangeably by most people, the Web and the Internet don’t mean the same thing.
The Internet is a network of computer networks – it’s the infrastructure that allows devices to connect to each other and share information. The World Wide Web, or simply the ‘Web’, is a system of information that is accessed via the Internet.
The web is one of the applications built on top of the Internet – without the Internet, there would be no World Wide Web.
To put it more simply, if the Internet is the highway, then the Web is all the cars, trucks, and motorcycles driving on it.
What are some common web-related terms?
Now that you know a bit about the web, let’s take a look at some of the common web terms you’ll come across:
Web page: A web page is a document that is written in HTML and displayed in a web browser. It can include text, images, videos, and other multimedia content.
Website: A website is a collection of web pages that are all related to each other and are typically accessed from a single URL.
Web server: A web server is a computer that stores web pages and makes them available to computers connected to the internet.
Domain name: A domain name is a unique address that identifies a website on the internet. It typically consists of two parts – the ‘www’ and the ‘example.com’ (known as a top-level domain).
URL: A URL is the Uniform Resource Locator – it’s the web address of a particular web page.
Hyperlink: A hyperlink is a link from one web page to another – usually, you’ll see these underlined in blue and when you click on them, they’ll take you to a new page.
HTML: HTML, or Hypertext Markup Language, is the code that is used to create web pages.
Browser: A browser is a software application that allows users to access, view, and navigate the web. Common examples include Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari.
Search engine: A search engine is a tool that helps users find information on the internet. The most popular search engine is Google.
This is just a basic overview of some of the most common web related terms – there are many more that you’ll come across as you explore the web.
The Power of the Web
Nowadays we use the web for everything from reading the news and checking our email to booking holidays and watching videos.
We can even control our homes using the internet – turning on the lights, heating up our ovens and unlocking our doors.
The web has transformed how we live and work – making it easier and faster to do things. We can now shop online (from ever-growing eCommerce platforms), work from home (using popular Work From Home Websites offering remote jobs) and keep in touch with friends and family who live far away with just a few clicks of a button.
The web continues to evolve with new technologies and ways of using it emerging all the time. Who knows what the future of the web will bring!
Now you know a little more about what the web is and how it all began. Next time you log on, take a moment to think about how amazing it is that you can instantly connect with anyone in the world who also has an internet connection.