a web site

Primary tabs

  1. introduction
  2. what it is
  3. what it isn't
  4. where it is
  5. history


A web site is a location in the WWW (World Wide Web). Located in a web site are a collection of WWW resources, such as a bunch of HTML pages, pictures and so on. The basic tool used to examine a web site is a web browser. One web site usually has one domain name to identify it, such as www.xinhuanet.com.

Popular web sites include Google, Amazon and Ebay.

what it is

A web site is one location in the WWW. Each web site covers some small area of human endeavor. There are a near many different types of web site. A site may be full of mad scientist research material or contain only a single photo of a man and his dog advertising their true love.

Many web sites are visited by people. A site aimed at people has web pages to look at. A web page is a collection of different resources (text and image files) that are stuck together by the web browser.

In recent years many web sites have appeared that are only visited by computers. These sites are there to be used by B2B (Business to Business) transactions. A site used by computers may have nothing at all for a person to look at: it is purely there to get a job done. Sales and marketing guys like to talk about B2B web sites and tend to call any other type of company web site a B2C (Business to Consumer) site.

A web site is full of pages that are either static or dynamic. If a page does not change no matter who is looking at it, such as a title page, is called static. A static page is contained in a file that is copied from a store every time someone asks to look at it. The only time the static page changes is when the site author edits it. A page that looks different depending on who the customer is viewing it is dynamic, such as a shopping cart page. A dynamic page is generated by a program such as an application server.

LIC table: common types of web site
type page type description
blog dynamic (weB LOG) A journal where people can write their own entries and read everyone else's.
brochure static A few pages that act like an advert. It may introduce a company or show a catalog of products.
diary static A journal where the site owner publishes his thoughts.
holding page static One page that proves that a web site exists. It does nothing interesting.
productivity tool dynamic A site that helps a person to do her work. Many tools are available to help with tasks like time management, customer support, or conference registration. Companies like put these tools on their intranet sites for their employees to use.
search engine dynamic A site containing a text search tool and an absolutely enormous library of web pages.
store dynamic A catalog where goods are displayed combined with an ordering system to allow visitors to put goods in their virtual shopping cart and buy them.
B2C static or dynamic (Business to Consumer) A site that a company creates for its customers to use. Customers are usually the general public. B2C is quite a wide category: any of the sites above may be a B2C site.
B2B dynamic (Business to Business) A company places a productivity tool that business partners can use on a B2B site. It is entirely automated. The general public are barred from the site.

The bigger and busier a web site is, the more components it is built from. A web site may be comprised of one set of pages on one computer running one web server, or it may be a hundred proxies, load balancers, databases, application servers and other systems scattered across the world that have all been linked together to present one tidy virtual location to the Internet world. You can rely on a web site having these things.

  • a web server to answer requests
LIC topography: A web browser
in the USA views a web site in China

Yep, not much to rely on. A web site aimed at people usually also has these things.

  • web pages
  • an IP address
  • a DNS name
  • a site maintainer who keeps the site up to date

A complex web site may have all these things behind the scenes:

  • a database server
  • an application server
  • an LDAP server
  • links to other computer systems

The process of visiting a site involves a lot of computer work behind the scenes. A person visits a web site by typing a URL into a web browser. The web browser sends a request to the web site for a resource. The web browser's request is routed across the Internet and arrives at the business end of the web site, the web server. The request can go halfway round the world in a few seconds. The web server replies and sends a copy of the resource back to the web browser. The web browser presents the resource to the person. The language that a web browser and web server use to talk to each other is defined by the HTTP protocol.

what it isn't

An indivisible thing. A web site is a type of thing in the same way that a vehicle is a type of thing. If something is a web site then the only thing you can be sure of is that HTTP is involved somewhere. A 30 ton truck and a motorcycle both involve wheels but you really shouldn't drop a freight container on your bike. It is a simple label that does not tell you anything about how many DNS names it has (if any), what content it provides, what the infrastructure is that powers it, who the target audience is, or indeed anything else.

where it is

From a customer point of view, web sites are not really anywhere within the LIC. They are the external perception of the services powered by the LIC. From a technical support point of view, we use the web site name to indicate all the bits and pieces that make a web site go. This could be any combination of servers, data, bits of networking kit and organisation back-end systems.


(adapted from http://www.zakon.org/robert/internet/timeline/)

In 1989 there were 100,000 Internet hosts. This number was, increasing at an enormous rate.

In 1990 Tim Berners-Lee complete the WWW idea and launched the first web site. The first web server was called nxoc01.cern.ch.

In 1991 the World-Wide Web (WWW) was released released by CERN (Centre European pour la Recherche Nucleaire; European Organization for Nuclear Research in English)

By 1993 there were hundreds of web sites. the US White House (http://www.whitehouse.gov/) and the United Nations (http://www.un.org/) web sites were launched.

By the end of 1994 there were 10,000 web sites. WWW became the second most popular service on the Internet, in front of telnet and behind ftp-data. New web sites included the Japanese Prime Minister (http://www.kantei.go.jp/), UK's HM Treasury (http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/) and New Zealand's Info Tech Prime Minister (http://www.govt.nz/). First Virtual, the first cyberbank, opened up for business.

In 1995 WWW became the most popular service on the Internet. New web sites included the Vatican (http://www.vatican.va/) and the Canadian Government (http://canada.gc.ca/).

By 1996 there were 100,000 web sites.

In 1997 the number of web sites topped 1,000,000.

In 1999 the First Internet Bank of Indiana (https://www.firstib.com/), the first full-service bank available only on the Net, opened for business.

By 2004 there were around 45,000,000 web sites.