Simple Introduction to the World Wide Web

What is the World Wide Web?

The World Wide Web (WWW) is a distributed hypermedia system started by CERN (the European Laboratory for Particle Physics). The 'Web' consists of linked hypertext documents and 'objects' (pictures, animations, sounds, databases, etc.).

The World Wide Web is the the closest thing to a universal compendium of human knowledge that has yet been developed. On one hand it is like a worldwide public library, on the other hand it is a method and medium for electronic publishing. Imagine the Encyclopedia Brittanica merged with People magazine.

What do I need to explore the World Wide Web?

One explores the Web by running a Web 'browser.' This is a client program that connects with Web servers and reads and interprets hypertext documents called 'pages.' Ideally a web browser will take advantage of the characteristics of the computer system for which it was developed.

The least capable Web browser is an ASCII-based hypertext browser such as LYNX. Perhaps the only advantage to LYNX is that one can telnet to LYNX clients from mainframe sessions. Versions of LYNX are available for the Macintosh, IBM-PC DOS, Vax VMS and other computer platforms.

A more powerful Web browser is the hypermedia NETSCAPE client program developed by by NETSCAPE Communications Corporation. NETSCAPE clients (and helper applications) are freely available for the Macintosh, the IBM-PC running MS Windows or OS/2, and other platforms.

Universal Resource Locators

A Web browser is 'pointed' at a Web hypertext (or hypermedia) page through the use of a Universial Resource Locator (URL). The URL specifies the Internet location of the resource and its type. An example URL is:

One would point their Web browser at this page by running the appropriate 'open URL' command. In common use URL's are traded among Internet users through conferences, catalogs, newsletters, Usenet NEWS and other methods.

Web Resources at Penn State

A good place to begin exploring the World Wide Web is with the Penn State Home Page located at URL

Many Web browsers in Penn State publc computer labs are set to display this page when initially run. The Penn State Home Page has references to other Web and Gopher services at Penn State.

Getting More Information

The best way to learn about the World Wide Web is to go to a browser and start exploring. Here are a number of links relevant to our study of the World Wide Web.

This page is maintained and made available for educational use by Dr. Gerry Santoro,