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World Wide Web: How the Web Works

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  • 0:05 Who Invented the Web
  • 1:53 How It Works
  • 5:38 Lesson Review
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jill Heaney

Jill has taught college-level business and IT. She has a Doctorate in Business Administration and an M.S. in Information Technology & Leadership.

In this lesson, an overview of the World Wide Web is discussed, including its development and operation. The various technologies that enable the Web to work are also described. Topics include Web browsers, hypertext markup language, hypertext transfer protocol, hyperlink and FTP.

Who Invented the World Wide Web?

Grandma: Come on in Wendy. It's good to see you, dear.

Wendy: Great to see you, too, Grandma. Show me this new computer you just had set up. This is very nice! You will be able to access so much information and visit a variety of websites. It will keep you so busy, you may not have enough time to knit anymore!

Grandma: Oh, I don't know about that! I just hope it isn't too difficult to access the World Wide Web. Come to think of it, I am familiar with the term World Wide Web but I don't exactly know what it means. Can you describe it to me in simple terms?

Wendy: Of course! The World Wide Web, commonly referred to as the Web, is a system of interlinked, hypertext documents accessed through the Internet. It enables the retrieval and display of text and media to your computer.

Grandma: Who invented the Web?

Wendy: The World Wide Web was developed by Tim Berners-Lee in 1991. It began as a project at the European Particle Physics Laboratory referred to as CERN. Berners-Lee, being familiar with hypertext, or linked words within text used to jump to other text or documents, proposed the idea of creating a global hypertext system. This system would allow individuals to link their documents together to create a web of interconnected documents. He named his system the World Wide Web.

The World Wide Web's full potential was not realized until Marc Andreessen, an undergraduate student at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois, realized the vast public potential the Web had. His vision was to go beyond text and create hypermedia. This included linking graphics, sounds and video elements. The first graphical Web browser was born. It was called NCSA Mosaic. With this development, the Internet spread rapiIdly into homes, businesses and higher education institutions.

The first graphical web browser introduced to the public
NCSA Mosaic Web Browser Image

How Does the World Wide Web Work?

Grandma: You know a lot about how the Web was created. How does it actually function?

Wendy: The World Wide Web is based on several different technologies that make it possible for users to locate and share information through the Internet. These include Web browsers, Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP).

To access webpages, you must use a Web browser, usually referred to as a browser. Web browsers are programs that display text, data, pictures, animation and video on the Internet. Web browsers provide the software interface that enables you to use your mouse to click hyperlinked resources on the World Wide Web. Web browsers were initially only used for surfing the Web. They are now more universal and allow users to do many more tasks, including conducting searches, e-mailing, transferring multimedia files, participating in discussion groups and much more. Some examples of commonly used Web browsers are Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Safari.

Grandma, you have Internet Explorer already installed on your computer. You will double click this icon to launch Internet Explorer. You are now connected to the World Wide Web.

Grandma: That was easy! How do I find the Publisher's Clearing House Website?

Wendy: You can either conduct a search or type the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) into the address bar. To conduct a search, click in the Web search box, type Publisher's Clearing House and click search. Your search will return a listing of results. The Website you want will most likely be listed at the top. Click on the hyperlink of the result that you want, and you will be directed to the Publisher's Clearing House Website.

You can perform specialized searches in a web browser.
Perform Searches in Web Browser

Grandma, did you know that websites are a collection of Web pages? Each website has a home page. The home page is the first page of a website in which you are taken to a starting point. From there, you can access other content. You are now on the Publisher's Clearing House homepage. You can click the other links to access information about Publisher's Clearing House or to enter their sweepstakes.

Grandma: No, Wendy, I didn't know that.

Wendy: The next technology that plays an integral role in the operation of the Web is Hypertext Markup Language. Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is a programming tool that uses hypertext to establish dynamic links to other documents. It is known as the Web's programming language and it provides a general structure for creating Web pages. If you wanted to create your own website you would use HTML.

HTML allows webpage developers to create hyperlinks. These are the clickable images or words on a webpage. Clicking on a hyperlink will take you to another webpage or file specified by that link.

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