Chapter 1. The Web in a Nutshell
The first edition of this book was published in 1996, when the Web was young and its possibilities were endless. As we write this third edition, the Web has since matured, and many of its possibilities have long been realized. Although the excitement of those early days has tempered and the technology has for the most part stabilized, it remains an integral part of our everyday lives. Venture capitalists might have moved on to newer ways to make a killing, but the Web's importance has not diminished, and its technology remains both vital and vibrant.
In this chapter, we give the world's quickest introduction to web technology. This book is by impatient writers for impatient readers, so don't expect much history or analysis here, just a basic tour of how everything fits together.
1.1. Clients and Servers
The tool most people use on the Web is a browser, such as Netscape Navigator, Internet Explorer, Opera, Mozilla, or Lynx. Web browsers work by connecting over the Internet to remote machines, requesting specific documents, and then formatting the documents they receive for viewing on the local machine.
The language, or protocol, used for web transactions is Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or HTTP. The remote machines containing the documents run HTTP servers that wait for requests from browsers and then return the specified document. The browsers themselves are technically HTTP clients.
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