What is the World Wide Web Anyway?

The World Wide Web, usually referred to simply as the Web, is a system for displaying, formatting and accessing multimedia information over a network such as the Internet. Although the World Wide Web is often referred to as the Internet, they are actually two different things. It is helpful to know the difference.

The Internet is the global collection of computers that transfer information and has the wiring that makes all of this possible. The World Wide Web is just a smaller part of the Internet. The Web provides an immensely popular and accessible way to publish electronically, offer services or simply express one’s creativity. Since the WWW is only a part of the Internet, the Web couldn’t exist without the Internet. However, the Internet would still be the Internet without the Web.

One of the most distinguishing features of the Web is its ability to hide all of the underlying technology from the user. When you access a web site or a link in a web document, your browser locates and brings you the information. You do not have to worry about where the information is located because the browser manages all storage, retrieval and navigation tasks automatically.

This feature has lead to problems because of the ease of being able to click on inappropriate web sites without knowing what is on the other end. Many times unsuspecting children will click on a link with a favorite character’s name on it only to discover that it is actually a pornographic site. This is a technique often used to attract a younger audience.

Now technically speaking, a “web site” is a set of files residing on a computer, usually called a server or a host. You access the site with software called a web browser, which displays the files as “pages” on your screen. The pages can contain files of text, pictures, sounds, animation, and interactive forms.

Most of which can easily be downloaded to your computer. Web pages are written in HyperText Markup Language (HTML), which is a simple coding system that tells the web browser how to display the information with its pictures and text.

You can think of web sites as the equivalent of a book – it may contain a single page or a whole series of chapters. Every site, and every page, has its own unique reference known as a ‘web address’ or ‘URL’.

While the simplistic approach to navigating around the Web has been a big factor in the success of the Internet, it has also presented some problems. Parents must always be conscious of where their children are surfing on the Net. It doesn’t take long to show someone how to click on a link and they are off exploring in uncharted territory.