A worldwide collection of hyperlinked text, images, and other types of computerized data.

The web is a client-server system in which there are many servers all over the internet, which provide documents to the clients, web browsers which users use to access the web.

The fundamental type of document is a text file written in HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language). HTML is a markup language in which the text is interspersed with symbolic codes that represent formatting, document structure, and hyperlinks. These documents are normally accessed by a system called HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol), which is somewhat similar to FTP in that a client asks a server for one or more documents, and the server sends them, or gives an error if it is unable to.

Hyperlinks are simply references to other documents in the web. These references have a common form, called a URL (Uniform Resource Locator), which is designed to make it possible to reference any network-accessible document, including those accessible by methods other than HTTP. URLs can specify older methods of accessing documents (such as FTP) which predate the web, and are extensible to handle access methods not yet dreamed of.

Thus, the web can be thought of as encompassing essentially all forms of communication over the internet. Though most of the networking not based on HTML documents transported over HTTP are often not considered to be part of the web, most of them can be accessed from the web.

Writing this in October 2001, it appears as if the term 'World Wide Web' has fallen into disuse. 'Internet' now seems to be the preferred generic term for what was once a distinct entity, with 'Web', 'Information Superhighway', and semi-parodic terms such as 'Infobahn' and 'Cybernet' having also vanished along the way.

Once upon a time magazines ran features detailing the differences between Gopher and Usenet and the World Wide Web. Nowadays, everything is 'The Internet'. 'World Wide Web' is so 1997.

'Hyperlink' itself appears to have fallen from popular consciousness - people nowadays seem to prefer the less whizzy 'link' instead.

I cut and paste the following document from the W3C site with the objective of providing some historical perspective to people that are new to WWW.
To see where it all begun, in relation to the language, you want to read The first version of HTML, from 1992.

Some early ideas for HTML

The Web owes its origins to many people, starting back in medieval times with the development of a rich system of cross references and marginalia. The basic document model for the Web was set: things in the page such as the text and graphics, and cross references to other works.
These early hypertext links were able to able to target documents to a fine level thanks to conventions for numbering lines or verses.

Vannevar Bush in the 1940's, in his article As we may think, describes his vision for a computer aided hypertext system he named the memex. His vivid description of browsing the Web of linked information, includes the ability to easily insert new information of your own, to add to the growing web.
Dr. Bush was the Director of the US Office of Scientific Research and Development, and coordinated war time research in the application of science to war.

Other visionaries include Douglas Engelbart, who founded the Augmentation Research Center at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in 1963. He is widely creditied with helping to develop the computer mouse, hypertext, groupware and many other seminal technologies. He now directs the Bootstrap Institute, which is dedicated to the development of collective IQ in networked communities.

Ted Nelson has spent his life promoting a global hypertext system called Xanadu. He coined the term hypertext, and is well known for his books: Literary Machines and Dream Machines, which describe hypermedia including branching movies, such as the film at the Czechoslovakian Pavilion mat Expo `67.

The ACM SIGWEB, formerly SIGLINK, has for many years been the center for academic research into hypertext systems, sponsoring a series of annual conferences. SIGLINK was formed in 1989 following a workshop on hypertext, held in 1987 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Bill Atkinson best known for MacPaint, an easy to use bitmap painting program, gave the world its first popular hypertext system HyperCard. Released in 1987, HyperCard made it easy for anyone to create graphical hypertext applications. It features bitmapped graphics, form fields, scripting and fast full text search. HyperCard is based on a stack of cards metaphor with shared backgrounds. It spawned imitators such as Asymmetrix Toolbook which used drawn graphics and ran on the PC.
The OWL Guide was the first professional hypertext system for large scale applications, it predates HyperCard by one year and followed in the footsteps made by Xerox NoteCards, a Lisp-based hypertext system, released in 1985.

Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Caillau both worked at CERN, an international high energy physics research center near Geneva. In 1989 they collaborated on ideas for a linked information system that would be accessible across the wide range of different computer systems in use at CERN.
At that time many people were using TeX and Postscript for their documents. A few were using SGML. Tim realized that something simpler was needed that would cope with dumb terminals through high end graphical X Windows workstations. HTML was conceived as a very simple solution, and matched with a very simple network protocol HTTP.

CERN launched the Web in 1991 along with a mailing list called www-talk. Other people thinking along the same lines soon joined and helped to grow the web by setting up Web sites and implementing browsers, such as, Cello, Viola, and MidasWWW.
The breakthrough came when the National Center for Supercomputer Applications (NCSA) at Urbana-Champaign encouraged Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina to develop the X Windows Mosaic browser. It was later ported to PCs and Macs and became a run-away sucess story. The Web grew exponentially, eclipsing other Internet based information systems such as WAIS, Hytelnet, Gopher, and UseNet.

Quoted from http://www.w3.org/MarkUp/ - Copyright © 1995-2001 W3C® (MIT, INRIA, Keio), All Rights Reserved.
This material has been copied in compliance with the copyright owner Document Notice and License, available at http://www.w3.org/Consortium/Legal/copyright-documents-19990405

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