Friday, 6 November 2009

The Internet & The World Wide Web


The Internet. The biggest thing to happen to information since the printing press; an unmissable business opportunity; the future of democracy; a place for people to come together and exchange ideas; a place where the storehouses of knowledge have finally been thrown open to everyone.

Technical innovation often gets people excited but it is hard to think of a recent invention that has caused quite as much excitement as the Internet and the World Wide Web. How big an impact have they really had?

A Thought Experiment

Lets try a thought experiment. Put any cynicism to one side for a moment and imagine that the Web and the Net have been uninvented. As of now they no longer exist. How would your life change? Ignoring the global economic crisis which would make the credit crunch look like a golden age lets look at the impact on our everyday lives.

Work and study in a Webless world would require organisational skills that have atrophied in the children of the digital age. Tasks that the Web has made almost effortless would suddenly become much harder. Resources and information that we are used to having at our fingertips would suddenly be unattainable.

What is the outcome of our thought experiment? Personally I find that my cynicism is replaced by a sense of awe that anyone managed to get anything at all done before the Web was invented.

History & Definitions

The Internet has come a long way. It started out as the American Military's answer to the question of how to stay in touch after a Third World War. It quickly moved from being an interesting experiment in military communications to being a very useful way for academics to share information. It was the Web which really brought the Internet out into the open, allowing it to escape academia and take on roles that its inventors never imagined.

People often confuse the Internet and the Web but actually they are different. The Internet is the infrastructure, the actual network of computers. The Web is a system of hyperlinked documents which allows us to navigate and move around that network. The analogy that Richard Butterworth used in his lecture was that "the Internet is a road and the world wide web is a type of car that you can drive around on that road." (Lecture 3: The Internet and the World Wide Web).

HTML and My Website

The World Wide Web relies on HTML. It is the markup language which is used to tell browsers how to display webpages. In a world which is increasingly dependent on the Web, gaining a basic understanding of HTML is a a very good idea. With that in mind I have created this very simple website.

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