What is the World Wide Web

Article on: WWW - Hypertext and Multimedia

Overview:

This article appears in the VIW WISS-script August 1995 (non-exclusive). (c) Copyright Bruno Girschweiler

From our USA correspondent Bruno Girschweiler (WISS-33), who recently returned from Cambridge. He worked there for four months at the "W3 Consortium" as a guest at the M.I.T. with where the international web development is coordinated. Here is his introduction to the topic of "Information Superhighway".

BFG.- The myth "Information Superhighway" has become a reality: the World Wide Web is here, and perhaps the future of our "Infobahn" actually looks like its latest incarnation on the good old Internet, which is experiencing a real boom with its "coming of age". Some speak of 20 million users, there could be more - but in the world's greatest anarchy, nobody really knows that. The tendency, the almost exponential growth, is more important.

So much euphoria about something that nobody needs? WWW, three letters, and suddenly you want the world to turn backwards? U.S. Vice President Al Gore presented his blueprint for a "National Information Infrastructure" two years ago, and now should it be a reality?

A vast amount of human knowledge is accessible worldwide on any computer - if their complicated commands are mastered ... This beautiful, open accessibility remains gray theory as long as the genetic material of humans has not been adapted to the individual query languages.

The human brain works differently: associative thinking helps us to keep track even with large amounts of information. Well, that's exactly what hypertext techniques make possible. Instead of standing helplessly in front of a new term, we tap on it and receive further information on the topic. As with cross-references in a lexicon, you can now fish your way through a complex topic and request further explanations on related topics from the hypertext system.

The worldwide Internet is the basis of these possibilities - the associated information can be * anywhere * on earth, on any web server. The idea of ​​merging hypertext and multimedia has been implemented, it's called World wide web. . In addition to HTTP, "older" Internet protocols such as FTP, Gopher and even TELNET are seamlessly integrated.

This laid the foundation for the global triumph of online services. It will be a silent revolution, just as important as the introduction of the personal computer 15 years ago. The pace of growth in the states is high, Switzerland is still exercising its usual reluctance ... Who is faster, http://www.whitehouse.gov * 1), http://www.echo.lu * 2) or http: //www.marktplatz.ch?

(c) Copyright Bruno Girschweiler '

* 1) Web server in Washington D.C. * 2) European Commission Host Organization


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Technical background: WWW protocols

Invention and dissemination

BFG.- At the European nuclear research center CERN in Geneva, physicists grapple with a huge flood of information. Englishman Tim Berners-Lee asked himself how international cooperation in this area of ​​knowledge could be facilitated. With a background in telematics and word processing software development, he formulated "The Project", which was put into practice in 1990. It became possible to access related information from different computers from different terminals. Tim's design is based on recognized Internet standards and is expandable, so the first graphical client was a logical consequence. It was written in 1992/93 at the NCSA in the state of Illinois, USA, and it made the World Wide Web known and loved around the world under its product name Mosaic. In 1994 Netscape took over the browser market leadership, while the Web became known in business circles and triggered a veritable Internet boom in the United States. (Business Week cover story 14-Nov-94: The Internet. (...) It will change forever the way you do business.)

Tim Berners-Lee is now Director of the Web Consortium, which CERN and MIT agreed to set up in July 1994. The "W3 Consortium" (W3C) at the M.I.T. enjoys a similarly recognized neutral position as the "X Consortium" at the time, which standardized X-Windows for the UNIX world. The market forces are strong, however: CompuServe bought Spry for a whopping 100 million dollars, and AOL, CIS, Prodigy (IBM) and Netscape invested in Terisa Inc. to merge the security standards S-HTTP and SSL. With new software, secure business transactions can be carried out via the WWW, from paying for pizzas, weather reports, bank bonds to underwear and mountain bikes. We are also working on simpler, new means of payment (ecash, DigiCash) so that even small amounts can easily be debited, for example a few cents for information pages.

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HTTP

HTTP, the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, is based on proven Internet standards. The use of URLs, Unique Resource Locators, is particularly striking. A URL identifies a data source somewhere on earth along with the necessary access protocol. Classic Internet protocols such as FTP and TELNET are integrated into the web by using, for example, in web browsers

ftp://garbo.uwasa.fi/windows/util/winzip56.exe
Activates the File Transfer Protocol, which loads a useful compression tool onto your own Windows PC.

To fetch a web page from anywhere in the world, an address of this type is required: http://www.unige.ch/
what the "Home Page" of the University of Geneva calls up in the country of CH. Occasionally such addresses can be a bit long, e.g. http://www.w3.org/hypertext/WWW/People/BFG/ which means an information page of the author. Capitalization is important, so it is much more convenient to use the mouse to "browse" the web. For example, on BFG's site there is a search field that searches for