The World Wide Web (commonly shortened to the Web) is a system of interlinked hypertext documents accessed via the Internet. With a Web browser, a user views Web pages that may contain text, images, videos, and other multimedia and navigates between them using hyperlinks. The World Wide Web was created in 1989 by British scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee, working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland, and released in 1992. Since then, Berners-Lee has played an active role in guiding the development of Web standards (such as the markup languages in which Web pages are composed), and in recent years has advocated his vision of a Semantic Web.
First, the server-name portion of the URL is resolved into an IP address using the global, distributed Internet database known as the domain name system, or DNS. This IP address is necessary to contact and send data packets to the Web server.
The browser then requests the resource by sending an HTTP request to the Web server at that particular address. In the case of a typical Web page, the HTML text of the page is requested first and parsed immediately by the Web browser, which will then make additional requests for images and any other files that form a part of the page. Statistics measuring a website's popularity are usually based on the number of 'page views' or associated server 'hits', or file requests, which take place.
Having received the required files from the Web server, the browser then renders the page onto the screen as specified by its HTML, CSS, and other Web languages. Any images and other resources are incorporated to produce the on-screen Web page that the user sees.
Most Web pages will themselves contain hyperlinks to other related pages and perhaps to downloads, source documents, definitions and other Web resources. Such a collection of useful, related resources, interconnected via hypertext links, is what was dubbed a "web" of information. Making it available on the Internet created what Tim Berners-Lee first called the WorldWideWeb (a term written in CamelCase, subsequently discarded) in 1990.
The underlying ideas of the Web can be traced as far back as 1980, when, at CERN in Switzerland, Sir Tim Berners-Lee built ENQUIRE (a reference to Enquire Within Upon Everything, a book he recalled from his youth). While it was rather different from the system in use today, it contained many of the same core ideas (and even some of the ideas of Berners-Lee's next project after the World Wide Web, the Semantic Web).
In March 1989, Berners-Lee wrote a proposal which referenced ENQUIRE and described a more elaborate information management system. With help from Robert Cailliau, he published a more formal proposal for the World Wide Web on November 12, 1990. The proposal was modeled after EBT's (Electronic Book Technology, a spin-off from the Institute for Research in Information and Scholarship at Brown University) Dynatext SGML reader that CERN had licensed. The Dynatext system, however technically advanced (a key player in the extension of SGML ISO 8879:1986 to Hypermedia within HyTime) was considered too expensive and with an inappropriate licensing policy for general HEP (High Energy Physics) community use: a fee for each document and each time a document was charged.
A NeXTcube was used by Berners-Lee as the world's first Web server and also to write the first Web browser, WorldWideWeb, in 1990. By Christmas 1990, Berners-Lee had built all the tools necessary for a working Web: the first Web browser (which was a Web editor as well), the first Web server, and the first Web pages which described the project itself.
The first server outside of Europe was created at SLAC in December 1991 .
The crucial underlying concept of hypertext originated with older projects from the 1960s, such as the Hypertext Editing System (HES) at Brown University--- among others Ted Nelson and Andries van Dam--- Ted Nelson's Project Xanadu and Douglas Engelbart's oN-Line System (NLS). Both Nelson and Engelbart were in turn inspired by Vannevar Bush's microfilm-based "memex," which was described in the 1945 essay "As We May Think".
Berners-Lee's breakthrough was to marry hypertext to the Internet. In his book Weaving The Web, he explains that he had repeatedly suggested that a marriage between the two technologies was possible to members of both technical communities, but when no one took up his invitation, he finally tackled the project himself. In the process, he developed a system of globally unique identifiers for resources on the Web and elsewhere: the Uniform Resource Identifier.
The World Wide Web had a number of differences from other hypertext systems that were then available. The Web required only unidirectional links rather than bidirectional ones. This made it possible for someone to link to another resource without action by the owner of that resource. It also significantly reduced the difficulty of implementing Web servers and browsers (in comparison to earlier systems), but in turn presented the chronic problem of link rot. Unlike predecessors such as HyperCard, the World Wide Web was non-proprietary, making it possible to develop servers and clients independently and to add extensions without licensing restrictions.
On April 30, 1993, CERN announced that the World Wide Web would be free to anyone, with no fees due. Coming two months after the announcement that the [(protocol)#Decline|Gopher] protocol was no longer free to use, this produced a rapid shift away from Gopher and towards the Web. An early popular Web browser was ViolaWWW, which was based upon HyperCard.
Scholars generally agree, however, that the turning point for the World Wide Web began with the introduction of the Mosaic Web browser in 1993, a graphical browser developed by a team at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (NCSA-UIUC), led by Marc Andreessen. Funding for Mosaic came from the High-Performance Computing and Communications Initiative, a funding program initiated by the High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991, one of several computing developments initiated by Senator Al Gore. Prior to the release of Mosaic, graphics were not commonly mixed with text in Web pages, and its popularity was less than older protocols in use over the Internet, such as [(protocol)|Gopher] and Wide Area Information Servers (WAIS). Mosaic's graphical user interface allowed the Web to become, by far, the most popular Internet protocol.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) was founded by Tim Berners-Lee after he left the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in October, 1994. It was founded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Laboratory for Computer Science (MIT/LCS) with support from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) -- which had pioneered the Internet -- and the European Commission.
Usually, when Web standards are discussed, the following publications are seen as foundational:
Additional publications provide definitions of other essential technologies for the World Wide Web, including, but not limited to, the following:
"We are left with the alarming question as to whether privacy should be put before global security." wrote Abhilash Sonwane of Cyberoam. Among services paid for by advertising, Yahoo! could collect the most data about commercial Web users, about 2,500 bits of information per month about each typical user of its site and its affiliated advertising network sites. Yahoo! was followed by MySpace with about half that potential and then by AOL-TimeWarner, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and eBay. About 27% of websites operated outside
Proposed solutions vary to extremes. Large security vendors like McAfee already design governance and compliance suites to meet post-9/11 regulations, and some, like Finjan have recommended active real-time inspection of code and all content regardless of its source. Some have argued that for enterprise to see security as a business opportunity rather than a cost center, "ubiquitous, always-on digital rights management" enforced in the infrastructure by a handful of organizations must replace the hundreds of companies that today secure data and networks. Jonathan Zittrain has said users sharing responsibility for computing safety is far preferable to locking down the Internet.
Many countries regulate web accessibility as a requirement for web sites.
Many different kinds of information are available on the Web, and for those who wish to know other societies, cultures, and peoples, it has become easier.
The increased opportunity to publish materials is observable in the countless personal and social networking pages, as well as sites by families, small shops, etc., facilitated by the emergence of free Web hosting services.
Over 100.1 million websites operated as of March 2008. Of these 74% were commercial or other sites operating in the
.com generic top-level domain.
Standard guidelines for ideal Web response times are:
These numbers are useful for planning server capacity.
There are other components of the Internet that can cache Web content. Corporate and academic firewalls often cache Web resources requested by one user for the benefit of all. (See also Caching proxy server.) Some search engines, such as Google or Yahoo!, also store cached content from websites.
Apart from the facilities built into Web servers that can determine when files have been updated and so need to be re-sent, designers of dynamically-generated Web pages can control the HTTP headers sent back to requesting users, so that transient or sensitive pages are not cached. Internet banking and news sites frequently use this facility.
Data requested with an HTTP 'GET' is likely to be cached if other conditions are met; data obtained in response to a 'POST' is assumed to depend on the data that was POSTed and so is not cached.
The ephemeral nature of the Web has prompted many efforts to archive Web sites. The Internet Archive is one of the most well-known efforts; it has been active since 1996.
This use of such prefixes is not required by any technical standard; indeed, the first Web server was at "nxoc01.cern.ch", and even today many Web sites exist without a "www" prefix. The "www" prefix has no meaning in the way the main Web site is shown. The "www" prefix is simply one choice for a Web site's host name.
Some Web browsers will automatically try adding "www." to the beginning, and possibly ".com" to the end, of typed URLs if no host is found without them. All major web browser will also prefix "http://www." and append ".com" to the address bar contents if the Control and Enter keys are pressed simultaneously. For example, entering "example" in the address bar and then pressing either just Enter or Control+Enter will usually resolve to "http://www.example.com", depending on the exact browser version and its settings.
The English writer Douglas Adams once quipped:
It is also interesting that in Mandarin Chinese, "World Wide Web" is commonly translated via a phono-semantic matching to wàn wéi wǎng (万维网), which satisfies "www" and literally means "myriad dimensional net", a translation that very appropriately reflects the design concept and proliferation of the World Wide Web.