Thursday, February 25, 2010

How Does the Web Work?

Day 7/150

For a class on the Fundamentals of Web Design I'm planning to teach at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, I shall begin with a presentation about how the web works. The way the web works has a big influence on how a designer will compose a web page. I believe such knowledge should be among the few dominate considerations for any conscientious designer. It is step one in learning to design web site; first understand the environment where your creation will be displayed.

A survey of web sites that attempt to answer this question, a complication like this can be formulated:
  1. There is a difference between the Internet and the Web.
  2. The Internet is the catch-all word used to describe the massive world-wide network of computers. The word "internet" literally means interconnected networks, a network of networks.
  3. The World Wide Web, (or simply the Web) refers to the portion of the Internet that is the collection of thousands of web servers and clients using HTTP to communicate and the huge amount of information available using the same protocol.
  4. Nobody "owns" the Internet - although there are companies that help manage different parts of the networks that tie everything together, there is no single governing body that controls what happens on the Internet.
  5. The Web is sometimes referred to as a client-server system. Your computer is the client; the remote computers that store electronic files are the servers. Web software is designed around a distributed client-server architecture.
  6. A Web client (called a Web browser if it is intended for interactive use) is a program which can send requests for documents to any Web server. 
  7. A Web server is a program that, upon receipt of a request, sends the document requested (or an error message if appropriate) back to the requesting client.
  8. It is important to note that every web page on the Internet  has its own unique web address, known as a Universal Resource Locator (or URL).
  9. A DNS server is an index of domain names and their corresponding IP address, the numerical location of the web server on the Internet.
  10. A HTTP client (web browser) send a request, which is routed through the Internet to the address of web host for the domain.
  11. The web server responds to the request with either an error message or the HTML formatted document
  12. HTML is a text-based string, which is interpreted by the web browser, and presented to the user
So, to publish a document on the web you need to acquire several things:
  1. web host: you will rent space on a computer that is configured to respond to requests from web clients (browsers).
  2. domain: the web host comes with an IP address, because all computers connected to the Internet must have an address - you will register a name to be listed with the corresponding IP address
  3. dns server: this service is provided by your web host, your domain registrar, or an independent service and lists your web site's domain name and IP address for Internet routers.
My index of web sites that answer this question:

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