HTTP and The Web
When you say, 'the Internet,' what comes to mind for most people is, in fact, the World Wide Web. The World Wide Web, or just the Web, is not the Internet. Instead, it is a method of using the Internet to exchange information between computers. The Web uses http or hypertext transfer protocol and services known as web browsers and web servers to allow information in the form of web pages to be exchanged between local and remote computers.
On the local side, what you see is the web browser. Information from the remote computer is sent to your local computer using the http protocol. The web browser interprets that information and displays it on your local computer in the form of web pages.
The hypertext part of the http protocol refers to a non-linear method of presenting
information. Text is normally read in a linear fashion: word 2 follows word 1; sentence 3 follows sentence 2; paragraph 5 follows paragraph 4. The idea of hypertext allows information to be viewed in a non-linear way. This is the major difference between hypertext and the older, plain text methods of displaying information.
With hypertext, words and ideas can connect, not only with the words that directly surround them, but also with other words, ideas or images. Hypertext is not restricted to the Web. Most full-featured word processors will allow you to create locally stored pages in web or http format. These pages are read using your web browser and act as would any other web page, only they are stored on your local computer, not a remote computer.
On your local computer, you use a client program called a web browser. Contrary to what you might have been lead to believe, there are actually a number of web browsers available for both Windows and Linux. These include Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, and the Mozilla Firefox browsers.
You can also create your own web page. The easiest way to do this is to use one of the common word processors, such as OpenOffice, Microsoft Word, or WordPerfect. These programs will allow you to produce simple web pages, combining text, hypertext and images.
Plenty of people have made useful, clever and innovative web pages using these simple tools.
But these pages aren't flashy. Flashy means frames and scripts and animations. It also means spending lots of money on a fancy web page design program. These programs allow you to create many interesting effects on your web page, but they are more complex to use than the word processors that you are probably already familiar with.
Once you have the pages designed, you'll need a computer to put them on, so that other people can view them. This is called web hosting.
The hosting computer will be running a web server. It is possible to run one of these servers from your own home, using your own computer, but there are several drawbacks, the primary one of these being persistence. Information stored on a web server is only available when that server is powered up, operating properly and has an open connection. So, if you want to
run a web server from your own bedroom, you have to leave your computer on all the time; you have to make sure that the web server program is operating properly all the time (this includes troubleshooting hardware problems, controlling viruses, worms and other attacks,
and dealing with the inevitable bugs and flaws within the program itself), and you have to keep a connection to the Internet open. This is why most people pay someone else to do all this.
A web hosting company will store your web page on their computer. A perfect web hosting company will have multiple, redundant servers and a regular backup policy, so that your service is not lost because of hardware problems, a support staff to keep the server running despite hacker attacks and program bugs, and a number of open connections to the Internet, so that all your have to do is design your web page, upload it to the hosting company's server, hang up the phone, turn off the computer, and go to sleep, and your web page will be available to the entire world.
It's also possible to find organizations that offer free web hosting. Some of these organizations are funded by paid advertising, which means that anyone who wants to view your web page will first have to view someone else's advertisement. But they don't have to buy anything, and you don't have to pay anything.