The WWW or W3 in short is the most popular and promising method of accessing the Internet. Main reason for its popularity is use of a concept called hypertext.
Hypertext is a new way of information storage and retrieval that enables authors to structure information in novel ways. An effectively designed hypertext document can help users locate desired type of information rapidly from vast amount of information on the internet. Hypertext documents enable this by using a series of links.
A link is shown on screen in multiple ways such as a labeled button, highlighted text, or different color text than normal text if your computer has color display, or author-defined graphic symbols.
A link is a special type of item in a hypertext document connecting the document to another document that provides more information about the linked item. The latter document can be anywhere on the Internet (in the same document in which the linked item is, on the same computer in which the former document is , or an another computer at the other end of the world).
By “connect”, we mean that a user simply selects the linked item (using a mouse or key command) and the user sees the other document on his/her computer terminal almost immediately.
The concept of hypertext can be best illustrated with an example. Let us assume that following hypertext document is currently displayed on your computer’s screen:
Now, if you use your mouse to click anywhere on the link of displayed document, withing a few seconds you will find yourself connected to the computer at that website, and the document giving detailed information will be displayed on your computer screen.
Hypertext documents on the Internet are known as Web Pages. Web Pages are created by using a special language called Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML in short). HTML is a subset of a more generalized language called standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML in short) that is a powerful language for linking documents for easier electronic access and manipulation. HTML is now a de-facto industrial standard for creating Web Pages.
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The WWW uses client-server model, and an Internet Protocol called Hyper Text Transport Protocol (HTTP in short) for interaction between computer on the Internet. Any computer on the Internet using the HTTP protocol, is called a Web Server, and any computer accessing that server is called a Web Client.
Use of client-server model and the HTTP allows different kinds of computers on the Internet to interact with each other. For example, a Unix workstation may be a web server and a Windows PC may be a web client, if both of them use the HTTP protocol for transmitting and receiving information.
To be used as web client, a computer needs to be loaded with a special software tool known as WWW browser (or browser in short). Browsers normally provide following navigation facilities to help users save time while Internet surfing (process of navigating the Internet to search for useful information):
- Unlike FTP and Telnet, browsers do not require a user to log in to a server computer remotely, and then to log out again when the user has finished accessing information stored on server computer.
- Browsers enable a user to visit a server computer’s site directly and access information stored on it by specifying its URL (Uniform Resource Locator) address. URL is an addressing scheme used by WWW browsers to locate sites on the Internet.
- Browsers enable a user to create and maintain a personal hotlist of favorite URL addresses of server computers that the user is likely to visit in future frequently. A user’s hotlist is stored on his/her local web client computer. Browsers provide hotlist commands to enable a user to add, delete, update URL addresses in hotlist, and to select an URL address of a server computer from hotlist, when the user wants to visit to server computer.
- Many browsers have a “history” feature. These browsers maintain a history of server computers visited in a surfing session. That is, they save (cache) in local computer’s memory, the URL addresses of server computers visited by a user during a surfing session, so that if the user wants to go back to an already visited server late on (in the same surfing session), the link is still available in local computer’s memory.
- Browsers enable a user to download (copy form a server computer to local computer’s hard disk) information in various formats (i.e., as a text file, as an HTML file, or as a PostScript file). The downloaded information can be later (not necessarily in the same surfing session) used by the user. For example, downloaded information saved as a PostScript file can be later printed on a PostScript- compatible printer, where even graphics will be reproduced properly.