What Is The Web?


What is the web? Dumb question? Maybe. Still, if you want to know a little bit about the workings of the internet read on. What really is the internet?

The internet is literally an interconnected network of computers located all over the world storing easily accessible data or information.

To explain it further we will use a metaphor that seems most appropriate for the internet, a library. Only this library is:

The Infinite Interconnected Library

You’ve probably heard it before.

Yes, the internet or world wide web (not the same thing but for the sake of this argument think of them as the same) is like a giant library that has so much information available it boggles the mind.

To break it down we can think of the internet as the library with an astronomical number of shelves which hold an astronomical number of books that have an astronomical number of chapters.

The library then is the internet, the shelves are the servers, the books are the web sites, and the chapters are the web pages.

Internet = Library

So if we think of the internet as a giant library what are we saying? We are saying that the internet is a storage place for information for people to access, just like a library.

Using arcane technical mumbo jumbo we can surf the web using our own personal computers to access the information stored on these computers.

The way we access this information does differ, ftp (file transfer protocol), gopher (going on places having easy rationale……. no, I made that up), www (world wide web), and others. The important point here is that the internet is a bloody huge storehouse of information accessible to anyone from anywhere with an internet connection.

Servers = Shelves

Now to the servers are shelves metaphor. First, what are servers? Easy, storage computers. Simply put servers are storage computers that serve up information or data, hence the name server. So calling a server a shelf may be a bit of stretch but the comparison is sound in that they both store information of a narrower scope than the whole library. Just a piece of the pie, with the library being the pie.

Web Sites = Books

Now it gets really obvious. What are on the shelves of a library? Books. What are on the internet storage computers? Web Sites. Admittedly this ignores the different kinds of access mentioned above (ftp, www, gopher and etc.) because in actuality servers store information, not web sites. Web sites are, however, made up of information stored on servers and in an attempt to keep it simple we can think of this information as web sites. So we know that the internet is a bunch of interconnected computers storing information for web sites.

Web Pages = Chapters

The Web Sites are made up of web pages. Though books have pages, the pages of a web site are more like chapters of a book as they cover individual topics. These pages are made up of many pieces of information that are assembled by your computer usually using a web browser.

The assembly instructions for this information are in a data file that the browser finds using an address known as a domain name. This data file also contains directions to the pieces of information (graphics, photos, text, video, audio and etc) needed to make the web page.

The browser uses the instructions and directions to build the page you see on your computer in real time right there on your computer. All of this happens in the background of course and all we see is the page appearing with a click of the mouse.

This can take a lot of time because the pieces of data have to be moved onto your computer through your internet connection.

Less of a problem today with the advent of more available high speed internet connections also known as the fat pipe. (Another metaphor, this one using plumbing and the not so flattering reference to large.)

Web pages are cool but the real power of the internet comes from hyperlinking or links.

Why this Library is The Infinite Interconnected Library

OK. So we have a giant easily accessible library.

That’s really great but it gets even better. Within each shelf, within each book, within each chapter is the built in ability to access the entire book from anywhere to anywhere!

You can jump around all over everywhere! An attention deficit disorder’s dream! This is made possible of course through hyperlinks or what we now just call links.

Furthermore, every book can connect to every other book!

This is a nonlinear process that facilitates the sound bite reality of the Western World by making it possible to move through masses of information at a break neck pace absorbing only the bits and pieces that appeal to you.

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