Education And Debate

Guide to the Internet: The world wide web

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 09 December 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:1552
  1. Mark Pallen, senior lecturera
  1. Department of Medical Microbiology, St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College, London EC1A 7BE
  1. Correspondence to:

    The world wide web provides a uniform, user friendly interface to the Internet. Web pages can contain text and pictures and are interconnected by hypertext links. The addresses of web pages are recorded as uniform resource locators (URLs), transmitted by hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP), and written in hypertext markup language (HTML). Programs that allow you to use the web are available for most operating systems. Powerful on line search engines make it relatively easy to find information on the web. Browsing through the web— “net surfing”—is both easy and enjoyable. Contributing to the web is not difficult, and the web opens up new possibilities for electronic publishing and electronic journals.

    The world wide web (WWW, W3, or simply “the web”) is the crowning glory of the Internet, providing a uniform, user friendly interface to the net. It allows information to be presented in a sophisticated and attractive format, interlacing pictures with text. Simply by clicking on highlighted text, you can surf the net or search for information.

    The web has fuelled such an explosion of interest in the Internet that it is easy to forget quite how new it all is. Although Tim Berners-Lee and his coworkers first put forward proposals for the world wide web in 1989-90, the web was catapulted to success only with the release of Macintosh and Windows versions of Marc Andreessen's world wide web client program (or “web browser”), Mosaic, in the autumn of 1993. Since then, the web has shown astonishing exponential growth.

    Anatomy of the web

    The web page is the basic unit of information on the web. Four elements are needed for its creation, transmission, or retrieval: hypertext; uniform resource locators (URLs); hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP); and hypertext markup language (HTML).


    Hypertext1 underpins the web. The term “hypertext” was coined by Ted Nelson in the …

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