Birth of the World Wide Web

So why do I prefer the World Wide Web to the original, unenhanced Internet? The original Internet was developed by hackers (no, not computer criminals but people who understood computer programming and loved to try out new things in their computer programs). They thought nothing of complex, arcane commands where you had to know the exact (long and detailed, no less) electronic address of the specific computer from which you wanted to transfer a file before you could send for it. Something like the early users of personal computers used DOS (long before the advent of Windows). There was a long and steep learning curve before you could start reaping the benefits of Internet access.

Things improved somewhat when Gopher appeared. Gopher was developed at the University of Minnesota to help people navigate the Internet without having to have such a prohibitively high level of technical expertise. The name came from a pun on the fact that Gopher "goes fer" your files (and also from the fact that the mascot of the Univ. of Minn. happens to be a gopher). Gopher provides a menu-driven means to access the Internet, much as does Macintosh (and, later, Windows). Gopher makes it possible for people to get around right away, but you have to go through a whole lot of menus to get where you are going, frequently. (It is true that you can get there directly once you have the address for where you want to go. The menus are best for exploration and obtaining the addresses.)

But Gopher was still just text. A picture may be worth a thousand words but unless you can see it, it is worthless. The World Wide Web, on the other hand, is capable of full color graphics plus sound and even video! Think of Gopher like the telephone. You can hear what your friend is saying when he is trying to tell you what a great time he had at Niagara Falls on his recent vacation trip there. With the World Wide Web, your friend can not only tell you about the Falls he can show you in full, living color, complete with the roar of the falling water!

Personally, I am interested in Web pages. Web pages are specially constructed documents which exist at Web sites (Web-capable computers) to display a company's wares or tell all about whatever group or entity has prepared the page. Web pages are full of links so people can point and click to go from page to page, whether the linked page is on the same computer or on a computer halfway around the world. (This is, to say the least, a handy feature.)

The World Wide Web, like the underlying Internet itself, has grown like Topsy. No one is "in charge" of it and all are invited to participate, as they are able. Governments at all levels (federal, state, county, city, etc.) have pages. Companies have pages. Schools have pages. Individuals have pages. Anyone with Web access can put up a Web page. (Trust me, if I have one, anyone can do it!)

Next segment *Finding the Good Stuff on the World Wide Web*

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Last Modified: 8/15/2006