The World Wide Web Untangled

What is the World Wide Web? The World Wide Web, ofter referred to as WWW, is an information space where items of interest (resources) are identified by Uniform Resource Identifier, or URI’s, which are global identifiers. Most people think that the World Wide Web is synonymous with the Internet; however, the WWW is a service that operates over the Internet.

The resources on the WWW are written in hypertext, which is viewed with a program called a web browser — for example, Internet Explorer or Netscape. The web browser retrieves the resources, which are documents better known as web pages from web servers, to display them on your computer monitor. The act of following hyperlinks on the WWW is called ‘surfing’ or ‘browsing’ the Web.

The phrase ‘Surfing the Internet’ was coined by a librarian, Jean Armour Polly, in an article entitled ‘Surfing the INTERNET, which was published in June of 1992 in the Wilson Library Bulletin. Other similar terms were used on the Usenet news group in 1991 and 1992 and verbally before that in the hacker community.

The idea behind the World Wide Web can be traced back as far as 1980 when Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau built ENQUIRE. The concept of ENQUIRE was different from the Web we use today, but it did lay a foundation for the WWW as we know it. In 1989 Berners-Lee wrote ‘Information Management: A Proposal’, which described an even more elaborate management system for information. In 1990, he published a more formal proposal for the acutal World Wide Web (the one we have today) and the next day he wrote the first Web page. Later that year, Berners-Lee built the tools necessary for a live and working Web — the very first web browser which doubled as a Web editor and the first Web server.

The brilliant breakthrough that Berners-Lee had was to ‘marry’ hypertext to the Internet. He tackled the project himself and developed a system of globally unique identifiers for the resources that can be found on the Web and elsewhere — the Uniform Resource Identifier (URI). Flash forward to the future, 3 years later in 1993, CERN announced that the World Wide Web would be free to anyone for use, with no fees.

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