Chapter 2. How the Web Works

I got started in web design in early 1993—pretty close to the start of the Web itself. In web time, that makes me an old-timer, but it’s not so long ago that I can’t remember the first time I looked at a web page. It was difficult to tell where the information was coming from and how it all worked.

This chapter sorts out the pieces and introduces some basic terminology. We’ll start with the big picture and work down to specifics.

The Internet Versus the Web

No, it’s not a battle to the death, just an opportunity to point out the distinction between these two words that are increasingly being used interchangeably.

The Internet is a network of connected computers. No company owns the Internet; it is a cooperative effort governed by a system of standards and rules. The purpose of connecting computers together, of course, is to share information. There are many ways information can be passed between computers, including email, file transfer (FTP), and many more specialized modes upon which the Internet is built. These standardized methods for transferring data or documents over a network are known as protocols.

The Web (originally called the World Wide Web, thus the “www” in site addresses) is just one of the ways information can be shared over the Internet. It is unique in that it allows documents to be linked to one another ...

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