Ninth Edition CoverGraziano & Raulin
Research Methods (9th edition)

Web History

You really do not need to know much about the web and how it works to use it effectively. Nevertheless, a short introduction to some basic concepts can be very helpful. Furthermore, such information can give you insights into the reason the web developed as it did.

What is the Web?

The "web" is short for World Wide Web. It is a part of the Internet. The Internet is a connection between tens of thousands of computers world wide, each providing information which can be accessed by anyone who has a computer, a modem, and a means of connecting to it. 

The best way to visualize the Internet is to envision a massive electronic highway system (hence, the term, electronic superhighway). This concept of computer interconnections was developed by the military during the cold war to provide near-failsafe connections between the military's many computers. The idea was that having the computers connected to this vast web of interconnections would make it impossible for the enemy to cut off critical communication because there would always be another way to connect critical computers to one another.

This simple concept was expanded dramatically in the 1980s to form what we now know as the World Wide Web (WWW or web for short). Computers at universities, commercial companies, Internet service providers, and even individual users are connected to this vast network. Each computer attached to the network is referred to as a node. Your university probably has one or more nodes, which provide both access to the Internet for students, faculty, and staff, and also a place to store information that these same people want to make available to the entire world. 

The web has been growing at a phenomenal rate, increasing by ten-fold almost every year since the late 1980s. It is now one of the most useful sources of information available.

What Makes the Web Work?

The Internet has provided intercommunication between computers for many years, but it did not really take off until the concept of the web was developed. Before the web, e-mail (short for electronic mail) was the dominant use of the Internet. E-mail is still a major component of Internet traffic, but increasingly, web activity accounts for most of the Internet traffic.

What makes the web work is that files on the web are formatted with a special language called hypertext markup language or HTML. By formatting the material with this simplified language, the material could be viewed by anyone, on any computer, anywhere in the world. All the person needed was a program to read the formatted file and convert the information and HTML code to a visual image for viewing. That program is called a Browser. A browser can take a combination of textual material and pictures and put it together into coherent pages of information.

How Do You Access the Web?

To access the web, you need a computer, a software program called a web browser, and a connection to the Internet. Universities normally provide access to the Internet for faculty, staff, and students through the university computers. Check with the computer specialists at your university for details. Many universities will even provide all the software needed to make the connection from a dorm room or apartment. In fact, many universities have wired their dorm rooms with high-speed network connections such as Ethernet connections.

We recommend that students first check with their university about getting access to the Internet, because that is often the lowest cost option for students. If such access in not available or is not convenient, there are other options. 

Most communities have one or more Internet Service Providers, who for a fee will provide access to the Internet. Some services, such as America Online (AOL), provide their own content as well as Internet access. Other providers, such as telephone or cable companies, provide access to e-mail and the web, but provide no content of their own. 

Prices vary from one provider to another, so it is best to check around. It is also a good idea to talk with people who use the Internet extensively to find out what providers they use. Some Internet service providers have a history of providing dependable and convenient service, whereas others are plagued by breakdowns and difficulty in providing access during peak periods because of limited capacity.

What is a Web Browser?

A web browser is a computer program that provides a graphical interface to the web. Web browsers reside on your home computer.  A graphical interface means that all you need to do in most cases to navigate the web is to point and click on words or pictures on the screen. You do not need to memorize complex commands that have to be typed in. In fact, you do not need to know much of anything about the underlying manner in which these browsers work to make them work for you. That is the beauty of the web and the web browser. It is now as easy to navigate an entire world of content on the web as it is to find specific information in your local library.

What is the Difference Between Web Browsers?

Although the marketing units of Netscape, Microsoft, and Mozilla would argue otherwise, there are few significant differences in the manner in which the three most widely used web browsers--Netscape Navigator , Mozilla Firefox, and Internet Explorer--access web material. If you are familiar with the operation of one web browser, you should have little difficulty in accessing the web using the other major browser. 

Each new version of these browsers introduce new improvements, but useful improvements are quickly adopted by the rival even while additional improvements are added. Which browser you use is more a matter of personal taste. All of the material on this website is accessible using any of these browsers. There are also new browsers coming onto the market all the time. The most recent is Apple's Opera.

Browsers are free software. Like television, they make their money with commercials. That is why most  browsers are initially set to open their own homepage. There is one exception to this, which is the browser Firefox. Firefox is an open source program. It is written, refined, and updated by programmers who do it just to provide a useful program for people to use. Since there is no profit motive, Firefox is set to open Google by default.

Some of the homepages for the companies that produce the browsers are useful, and you may want to continue to allow the browser to always open that page when you start it up. However, it is easy to change the site you want opened up when the browser first starts. My own preference is to start with a blank page. 

We will cover how to set these features in each of the individual tutorials. If you would like to explore web browsers other than the one you are currently using, you can download those browsers free of charge. Just click on one of the links below and follow the directions. You can also use these links to upgrade your current browser if a newer version is available. These links take you to the main page for these companies. You may need to do some navigating to find the free browser download. Look for browser or download links. We would give you the direct connection to the download page, but the companies change the address of the page with each new edition. The tutorials for these browsers used the most up-to-date versions of the browsers that were available when this textbook went into production.


Mozilla Firefox
Netscape Navigator
Internet Explorer
Apple's Opera