World Wide Web: what it is and how the global net works

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For all of us, users of the Net and, more specifically, online professionals, March 12, 1989, should be remembered as a special day: on that date, in fact, Tim Berners-Lee first described how the World Wide Web, which would later become the main service of the Internet and the system for using most content hosted online, works. Let’s try to get a good understanding of what the WWW or World Wide Web is, how it works, and why it is different from the Internet.

What World Wide Web means and what it is

In fact, it is good to remember that World Wide Web does not mean the Internet, but is “only” a part of it (although the one that is probably the most substantial): with this acronym we refer precisely to what in Italian we call the Net, that is, the system that allows us to manage the large amount of online content, which precisely in 1989 was imagined as a tool to allow the approximately 17,000 scientists at CERN to store and share their scientific experiments.

Technically speaking, taking the definitions from the prestigious Encyclopedia Britannica, the World Wide Web or WWW, also nicknamed Web or Network, is the main information retrieval service of the Internet (the worldwide computer network). The Web offers users access to a wide range of content, via the deep web, the dark web, and the surface web, which is the most commonly accessed, connected via hypertext or hypermedia links, such as hyperlinks, which are electronic connections that link related information in order to allow a user easy access to it (i.e., links). Hypertext allows a user to select a word or phrase from the text and then access other documents that contain additional information related to that word or phrase. Hypermedia documents have links to images, sounds, animations and movies. The Web operates within the basic Internet client-server format; servers are computer programs that store and transmit documents to other computers on the network when requested, while clients are programs that request documents from a server when the user requests them. Browser software allows users to view retrieved documents, and special browsers and platforms such as Tor allow users to do so anonymously. A hypertext document with corresponding text and hyperlinks is written in HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and assigned an online address called a Uniform Resource Locator (URL).

The history of the WWW and the invention of Tim Berners-Lee

The daddy of this revolution is Tim Berners-Lee, a British scientist, who invented the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1989 while working at CERN in Geneva, a laboratory that serves more accurately as the hub and focal point of a vast community that includes more than 17,000 scientists from over 100 countries. In order to simplify and optimize the demand for automatic information sharing among scientists in universities and institutes around the world, it became necessary to devise and develop a reliable system for communication and transmission of data and information, and the basic idea of the WWW was precisely to merge the evolving technologies of computers, data networks, and hypertext into a powerful and easy-to-use global information system.

To be precise, in the paper on <strong>information management systems</strong> presented in March 1989 to his handlers at CERN in Geneva (using the computer that housed the first server in the history of links, namely a <strong>NeXT</strong> created by the company founded by Steve Jobs who had just left Apple), Berners-Lee called and called this system “MESH,” but as early as the following year the first web page with the three letters we know well today was published.