WWW FAQs: How does the web work?

2007-03-21: Web pages, such as the one you are now reading, "live" on web servers all over the Internet. Those pages are written in HTML (HyperText Markup Language), a simple language that allows us to create hypertext links from one page to another. Designers put the content of the page (the text of the page) in the HTML file, and usually determine what the page will look like with a separate "style sheet" file. Style sheets are written in a language called CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).

Web browsers, such as the program you are using right now on your computer to see this web page, speak to web servers in a language (a "protocol") called HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol).

But before the web browser can talk to the web server, it needs to know the web server's IP address on the Internet - just as you have to know your friend's phone number before you can call him. So how do web browsers translate a friendly name like www.google.com into an IP address? By talking to a DNS (Domain Name Service) server.

Once the web browser knows the IP address of the server, it can make an HTTP protocol connection and ask for the page you want to see.

Tip: this article is short because it contains lots of links to other articles that contain more information. That's part of how the web works. Consider this your first lesson in hypertext: if you don't understand something, don't get frustrated! Just click on the links!

Most users will see links as blue, underlined words in the text.

Then use the "back" button of your browser (the left-pointing arrow) to come back and continue reading on this page.

Legal Note: yes, you may use sample HTML, Javascript, PHP and other code presented above in your own projects. You may not reproduce large portions of the text of the article without our express permission.

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