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What is the World Wide Web and where did it come from?

Below is a series of questions and answers that will help you learn more about the World Wide Web:

1) What's the difference between the Internet and the World Wide Web?

Quite a bit, actually. They both are global communications networks that allow people to exchange information computer-to-computer, but that's where many of the similarities end. It's like the difference between an epic novel, say 'Doctor Zhivago,' and the movie version of the same story. They're related, but different. The Internet, like the book, is big and sweeping in scope but it demands a lot of time and effort. There are no pictures, no sounds to help you digest the vast amount of information presented. The Web, on the other hand, is like the movie. It's grand in scale, but not as comprehensive as its textual counterpart. Still, it's a lot simpler, takes less time and effort to digest and it's loaded with colors and noises. You can probably even find a picture of Omar Sharif if you look hard enough.

2) What makes the Web different from other collections of information?

Links. Let's say you're reading an encyclopedia entry about the history of Russia when you come across a reference to Doctor Zhivago. You suddenly develop an overwhelming urge to learn more about the author, Boris Pastarnak, so you point to the word "Pastarnak" and presto -- the encyclopedia automatically turns to the page that includes a biography of the author. Now that's fantasy, of course. We all know encyclopedias don't work that way. But the World Wide Web does. With the help of a system called hypertext, you can click on certain words or graphics and connect automatically to other web pages that may have more information about that certain subject. The connection is what we call a link. It's usually either underlined or in a different color. And the best part is, you don't need to know how hypertext works. You just need to know how to point your mouse and click.

3) Where did the Web come from?

Switzerland. Sort of. In 1980, a British computer scientist named Tim Berners-Lee was working at a Swiss physics laboratory when he got fed up with his computerized daily schedule planner. The phone numbers he saved and the documents he wrote were stored on separate databases and there was no easy way to connect them. So he did something about it. He created a hypertext computer program that allowed him to make the connections. Later, he expanded his idea outside the office and developed a program that could link databases around the world. He called his vision the "World Wide Web." When he distributed the software in 1991 other computer whizzes immediately started building on it. Eventually, a group of students at the University of Illinois came up with a program called Mosaic. It was the first web browser, a tool that turned Berners-Lee's textual world into a graphical, point-and-click wonderland. Some of the folks who developed Mosaic went on to invent Netscape Navigator.

To learn more about the Internet and World Wide Web, try one or all of the sites below:



 
 
 
 



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