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Last updated on 11/28/19

What is the web?

In the last chapter, you learned that the internet is a set of connections between machines, many of which are computers, as you’d expect. Now, it’s time we learned a bit about the web. At this point, maybe you’re thinking, "Hey, I’ve already learned enough about the internet, what do I care about some small difference between the internet and the web?"

By learning about the web, we’ll start to encounter some vocabulary that speaks more to you than references to 1960s computer scientists. Web vocabulary involves terms like browsers (like Google Chrome or Internet Explorer), HTTP, URLs, downloading, and more.

The Web

The web is a part of the internet, even though people often use the two terms interchangeably. It was invented in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee, who was a computer scientist at the European Organization for Nuclear Research. What Tim Berners Lee invented sounds awfully similar to the internet: a way to share things over a network.

Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the World Wide Web
Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the World Wide Web

The internet and the web sound similar to each other because the web is built on top of the internet. What does it mean to be built on top of the internet? Consider the analogy of a postal service. By defining a base set of relationships and connections, like a post office that has mail trucks that go out to houses, you can then build more complicated systems on top of the first one. You can then create a package service on top of that same postal service, for example.

Now lets come back to the internet and the web. The internet is a group of computers, whereas the web is a group of machines and their documents. When you download a file through the web, you are accessing an external file (a file that is not located on your device) and creating a local copy on your device. 

web page is another common example of one of these documents. It is similar to a Microsoft Word document you might have saved on your computer, but on a web page, the document is usually presented in a more stylistic way. These web pages are passed around the web using a protocol (or a set of rules defining communication) called HTTP: hypertext transfer protocol. This means that what's being passed around is called hypertext. So, what's that, and what's an example of a web page?

Surprise! The page you are viewing right now is an example of a web page! Web pages include text, images, and much more, but the major difference between web pages and traditional text documents is that web pages are written in a different language that is responsible for structure and formatting. This language is called HTML. We'll learn more about HTML itself in the next chapter.

For now, consider that the web is called the web because it's a ton of documents that all connect to each other in a giant web! On OpenClassrooms, for example, you have a link to other courses (which are other hypertext documents behind the scenes), or even a link to our Twitter account (which is a hypertext document on another site entirely).

In the next chapter, we will briefly explore HTML, even though you're not expected to become an expert in it!

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Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement