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What is the World Wide Web?

Address bar of a Web browser with the beginning of a web address using the h t t p s protocol

The World Wide Web is an Internet information system that uses the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) to make digital documents available to ordinary users either by directly requesting them, or by way of links contained in other documents.

Tim Berners Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989 while working at CERN. It's purpose, according to CERN, was "to give universal access to a large universe of documents."

To that end, Sir Tim and his colleagues invented both the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, and a new language called Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). Both the HTTP protocol and the progeny of the orginal HTML language remain in use to this day, powering every site on the Web.

Many people use the terms "Internet" and "Web" or "World Wide Web" interchangeably. That is incorrect. The World Wide Web is the Internet service with which most people are most familiar, but it is not in and of itself the Internet. It is only one of many services that use the Internet

Let me explain that to you.


How is the Internet Different from the World Wide Web?

The Internet consists of digital devices that are interconnected using wires, fiber optic cable, radio towers, and satellites. Every device that is connected to the Internet is part of the Internet. The Internet is designed to enable the transfer of ones and zeros between the connected devices, using any of many service protocols. Those ones and zeroes can be part of many kinds of data such as email, streaming video, or Web sites like this one. The Internet doesn't much care. It just moves the ones and zeroes around.

The World Wide Web is one of the services that uses the Internet to move its ones and zeroes around. Its purpose is to allow ordinary users with little or no technical knowledge to access data stored on other computers, which can be located anywhere in the Internet-connected world.

Computers whose primary reason for existence is to serve data to users who are requesting information stored on the Web are called Web servers. (Sometimes things just make sense.) Computers and other devices that are requesting data from a Web server are called clients. The specific client software the user is using to communicate with the server (usually a Web browser like Edge, Safari, Chrome, or Firefox) is called a user agent.

By design, the World Wide Web is among the easiest Internet services to use. If you can type and click (or tap), then you can use the Web. In fact, you're using it right now.