- a system of globally unique identifiers for resources on the Web and elsewhere, the universal document identifier (UDI), later known as uniform resource locator (URL) and uniform resource identifier(URI);
- the publishing language HyperText Markup Language (HTML);
- the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP).
for paragraph, and such) that surrounds the words in order to draw the text on the screen.
Many web pages use HTML to reference the URLs of other resources such as images, other embedded media, scripts that affect page behavior, and Cascading Style Sheets that affect page layout. The browser will make additional HTTP requests to the web server for these other Internet media types. As it receives their content from the web server, the browser progressively renders the page onto the screen as specified by its HTML and these additional resources.
Most web pages contain hyperlinks to other related pages and perhaps to downloadable files, source documents, definitions and other web resources. In the underlying HTML, a hyperlink looks like Example.org, a free encyclopedia
Such a collection of useful, related resources, interconnected via hypertext links is dubbed a web of information. Publication on the Internet created what Tim Berners-Lee first called the WorldWideWeb (in its original CamelCase, which was subsequently discarded) in November 1990.
Over time, many web resources pointed to by hyperlinks disappear, relocate, or are replaced with different content. This makes hyperlinks obsolete, a phenomenon referred to in some circles as link rot and the hyperlinks affected by it are often called dead links. The ephemeral nature of the Web has prompted many efforts to archive web sites. The Internet Archive, active since 1996, is the best known of such efforts.
Dynamic updates of web pages
Many hostnames used for the World Wide Web begin with www because of the long-standing practice of naming Internet hosts (servers) according to the services they provide. The hostname for a web server is often www, in the same way that it may be ftp for an FTP server, and news or nntp for a USENET news server. These host names appear as Domain Name System or (DNS) subdomain names, as inwww.example.com. The use of 'www' as a subdomain name is not required by any technical or policy standard and many web sites do not use it; indeed, the first ever web server was callednxoc01.cern.ch. According to Paolo Palazzi, who worked at CERN along with Tim Berners-Lee, the popular use of 'www' subdomain was accidental; the World Wide Web project page was intended to be published at www.cern.ch while info.cern.ch was intended to be the CERN home page, however the dns records were never switched, and the practice of prepending 'www' to an institution's website domain name was subsequently copied. Many established websites still use 'www', or they invent other subdomain names such as 'www2', 'secure', etc. Many such web servers are set up so that both the domain root (e.g., example.com) and the www subdomain (e.g., www.example.com) refer to the same site; others require one form or the other, or they may map to different web sites.
The use of a subdomain name is useful for load balancing incoming web traffic by creating a CNAME record that points to a cluster of web servers. Since, currently, only a subdomain can be used in a CNAME, the same result cannot be achieved by using the bare domain root.
When a user submits an incomplete domain name to a web browser in its address bar input field, some web browsers automatically try adding the prefix "www" to the beginning of it and possibly ".com", ".org" and ".net" at the end, depending on what might be missing. For example, entering 'microsoft' may be transformed to http://www.microsoft.com/ and 'openoffice' to http://www.openoffice.org. This feature started appearing in early versions of Mozilla Firefox, when it still had the working title 'Firebird' in early 2003, from an earlier practice in browsers such as Lynx. It is reported that Microsoft was granted a US patent for the same idea in 2008, but only for mobile devices.
In English, www is usually read as double-u double-u double-u. Some users pronounce it dub-dub-dub, particularly in New Zealand. Stephen Fry, in his "Podgrammes" series of podcasts, pronounces it wuh wuh wuh. The English writer Douglas Adams once quipped in The Independent on Sunday (1999): "The World Wide Web is the only thing I know of whose shortened form takes three times longer to say than what it's short for". In Mandarin Chinese, World Wide Web is commonly translated via a phono-semantic matching to wàn wéi wǎng (万维网), which satisfies wwwand literally means "myriad dimensional net", a translation that very appropriately reflects the design concept and proliferation of the World Wide Web. Tim Berners-Lee's web-space states that World Wide Web is officially spelled as three separate words, each capitalised, with no intervening hyphens.
Use of the www prefix is declining as Web 2.0 web applications seek to brand their domain names and make them easily pronounceable. As the mobile web grows in popularity, services like Gmail.com,MySpace.com, Facebook.com and Twitter.com are most often discussed without adding www to the domain (or, indeed, the .com).
Scheme specifiers: http and https
The scheme specifier http:// or https:// at the start of a web URI refers to Hypertext Transfer Protocol or HTTP Secure respectively. Unlike www, which has no specific purpose, these specify the communication protocol to be used for the request and response. The HTTP protocol is fundamental to the operation of the World Wide Web and the added encryption layer in HTTPS is essential when confidential information such as passwords or banking information are to be exchanged over the public Internet. Web browsers usually prepend http:// to addresses too, if omitted.
The primary function of a web server is to deliver web pages on the request to clients. This means delivery of HTML documents and any additional content that may be included by a document, such as images, style sheets and scripts.
Every time a web page is requested from a web server the server can identify, and usually it logs, the IP address from which the request arrived. Equally, unless set not to do so, most web browsers record the web pages that have been requested and viewed in a history feature, and usually cache much of the content locally. Unless HTTPS encryption is used, web requests and responses travel in plain text across the internet and they can be viewed, recorded and cached by intermediate systems.
When a web page asks for, and the user supplies, personally identifiable information such as their real name, address, e-mail address, etc., then a connection can be made between the current web traffic and that individual. If the website uses HTTP cookies, username and password authentication, or other tracking techniques, then it will be able to relate other web visits, before and after, to the identifiable information provided. In this way it is possible for a web-based organisation to develop and build a profile of the individual people who use its site or sites. It may be able to build a record for an individual that includes information about their leisure activities, their shopping interests, their profession, and other aspects of their demographic profile. These profiles are obviously of potential interest to marketeers, advertisers and others. Depending on the website's terms and conditions and the local laws that apply information from these profiles may be sold, shared, or passed to other organisations without the user being informed. For many ordinary people, this means little more than some unexpected e-mails in their in-box, or some uncannily relevant advertising on a future web page. For others, it can mean that time spent indulging an unusual interest can result in a deluge of further targeted marketing that may be unwelcome. Law enforcement, counter terrorism and espionage agencies can also identify, target and track individuals based on what appear to be their interests or proclivities on the web.
Social networking sites make a point of trying to get the user to truthfully expose their real names, interests and locations. This makes the social networking experience more realistic and therefore engaging for all their users. On the other hand, photographs uploaded and unguarded statements made will be identified to the individual, who may regret some decisions to publish these data. Employers, schools, parents and other relatives may be influenced by aspects of social networking profiles that the posting individual did not intend for these audiences. On-line bullies may make use of personal information to harass or stalk users. Modern social networking websites allow fine grained control of the privacy settings for each individual posting, but these can be complex and not easy to find or use, especially for beginners.
Photographs and videos posted onto websites have caused particular problems, as they can add a person's face to an on-line profile. With modern and potential facial recognition technology, it may then be possible to relate that face with other, previously anonymous, images, events and scenarios that have been imaged elsewhere. Because of image caching, mirroring and copying, it is difficult to remove an image from the World Wide Web.
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The intellectual property rights for any creative work initially rests with its creator. Web users who want to publish their work onto the World Wide Web, however, need to be aware of the details of the way they do it. If artwork, photographs, writings, poems, or technical innovations are published by their creator onto a privately owned web server, then they may choose the copyright and other conditions freely themselves. This is unusual though; more commonly work is uploaded to websites and servers that are owned by other organizations. It depends upon the terms and conditions of the site or service provider to what extent the original owner automatically signs over rights to their work by the choice of destination and by the act of uploading.
Some users of the web erroneously assume that everything they may find online is freely available to them as if it was in the public domain, which is not always the case. Content owners that are aware of this widespread belief, may expect that their published content will probably be used in some capacity somewhere without their permission. Some content publishers therefore embed digital watermarks in their media files, sometimes charging users to receive unmarked copies for legitimate use. Digital rights management includes forms of access control technology that further limit the use of digital content even after it has been bought or downloaded.
Proposed solutions vary to extremes. Large security vendors like McAfee already design governance and compliance suites to meet post-9/11 regulations, and some, like Finjan have recommended active real-time inspection of code and all content regardless of its source. Some have argued that for enterprise to see security as a business opportunity rather than a cost center, "ubiquitous, always-on digital rights management" enforced in the infrastructure by a handful of organizations must replace the hundreds of companies that today secure data and networks. Jonathan Zittrain has said users sharing responsibility for computing safety is far preferable to locking down the Internet.
Many formal standards and other technical specifications and software define the operation of different aspects of the World Wide Web, the Internet, and computer information exchange. Many of the documents are the work of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), headed by Berners-Lee, but some are produced by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and other organizations.
Usually, when web standards are discussed, the following publications are seen as foundational:
- Recommendations for markup languages, especially HTML and XHTML, from the W3C. These define the structure and interpretation of hypertext documents.
- Recommendations for stylesheets, especially CSS, from the W3C.
- Recommendations for the Document Object Model, from W3C.
Additional publications provide definitions of other essential technologies for the World Wide Web, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Uniform Resource Identifier (URI), which is a universal system for referencing resources on the Internet, such as hypertext documents and images. URIs, often called URLs, are defined by the IETF's RFC 3986 / STD 66: Uniform Resource Identifier (URI): Generic Syntax, as well as its predecessors and numerous URI scheme-defining RFCs;
- HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), especially as defined by RFC 2616: HTTP/1.1 and RFC 2617: HTTP Authentication, which specify how the browser and server authenticate each other.
There are methods available for accessing the web in alternative mediums and formats, so as to enable use by individuals with disabilities. These disabilities may be visual, auditory, physical, speech related, cognitive, neurological, or some combination therin. Accessibility features also help others with temporary disabilities like a broken arm or the aging population as their abilities change. The Web is used for receiving information as well as providing information and interacting with society. The World Wide Web Consortium claims it essential that the Web be accessible in order to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with disabilities. Tim Berners-Lee once noted, "The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect." Many countries regulate web accessibility as a requirement for websites. International cooperation in the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative led to simple guidelines that web content authors as well as software developers can use to make the Web accessible to persons who may or may not be using assistive technology.
The W3C Internationalization Activity assures that web technology will work in all languages, scripts, and cultures. Beginning in 2004 or 2005, Unicode gained ground and eventually in December 2007 surpassed both ASCII and Western European as the Web's most frequently used character encoding. Originally RFC 3986 allowed resources to be identified by URI in a subset of US-ASCII. RFC 3987allows more characters—any character in the Universal Character Set—and now a resource can be identified by IRI in any language.
Between 2005 and 2010, the number of web users doubled, and was expected to surpass two billion in 2010. Early studies in 1998 and 1999 estimating the size of the web using capture/recapture methods showed that much of the web was not indexed by search engines and the web was much larger than expected. According to a 2001 study, there were a massive number, over 550 billion, of documents on the Web, mostly in the invisible Web, or Deep Web. A 2002 survey of 2,024 million web pages determined that by far the most web content was in the English language: 56.4%; next were pages in German (7.7%), French (5.6%), and Japanese (4.9%). A more recent study, which used web searches in 75 different languages to sample the web, determined that there were over 11.5 billion web pages in the publicly indexable web as of the end of January 2005. As of March 2009, the indexable web contains at least 25.21 billion pages. On 25 July 2008, Google software engineers Jesse Alpert and Nissan Hajaj announced that Google Search had discovered one trillion unique URLs. As of May 2009, over 109.5 million domains operated.[not in citation given] Of these 74% were commercial or other domains operating in the
.com generic top-level domain.
Frustration over congestion issues in the Internet infrastructure and the high latency that results in slow browsing has led to a pejorative name for the World Wide Web: the World Wide Wait. Speeding up the Internet is an ongoing discussion over the use of peering and QoS technologies. Other solutions to reduce the congestion can be found at W3C. Guidelines for web response times are:
- 0.1 second (one tenth of a second). Ideal response time. The user does not sense any interruption.
- 1 second. Highest acceptable response time. Download times above 1 second interrupt the user experience.
- 10 seconds. Unacceptable response time. The user experience is interrupted and the user is likely to leave the site or system.
There are other components of the Internet that can cache web content. Corporate and academic firewalls often cache Web resources requested by one user for the benefit of all. (See also caching proxy server.) Some search engines also store cached content from websites. Apart from the facilities built into web servers that can determine when files have been updated and so need to be re-sent, designers of dynamically generated web pages can control the HTTP headers sent back to requesting users, so that transient or sensitive pages are not cached. Internet banking and news sites frequently use this facility. Data requested with an HTTP 'GET' is likely to be cached if other conditions are met; data obtained in response to a 'POST' is assumed to depend on the data that was POSTed and so is not cached.
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