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1.
What is a web browser? - from Boutell.com
2.
Searching the Web
Browser Basics: General Information
by Peter Doshi and Raj Mehta

I'm sure everybody has heard of the `World Wide Web' by now. You might also know that it's abbreviated by WWW. From now on, we'll refer to it by the World Wide Web, WWW, and the Web. They all mean the same thing. `Web Pages' may seem familiar, too. A web page is a document of the WWW. The medium of the WWW is the webpage.

What is a browser and what is it for?

But that still doesn't say anything about what a browser is. A browser is a fancy program which renders web pages. Historically, browsers were just on UNIX, and all you could see was text. Today the history remains -- all shell accounts at VSNL force users to stay text based. The only browser for shell users is named Lynx. But if you're reading this document, you're probably not using Lynx, but using a graphical and very full-featured browser that can display colors, graphics and much more. The focus here will be solely on graphical browsers. In a short while, you'll have learned all you need to know and will be able to master it and use it to the best of its capabilities.

What are web pages?

A web page is an ordinary text document, written in a special format called HTML, or HyperText Markup Language. The details on how HTML is written is out of the scope of this document, but not out of the scope of your web browser. The web browser reads a web page and understands how to change that code into something pretty and readable to us. The HTML can also contain a `call' for a graphic, which tells your browser to put a graphic in the web page. The combination of codes for doing everything from bolding text, to making fancy tables is what web pages are all about. The end result is something clear (hopefully) and well laid out that any one of us can understand.

How does my browser get these web pages?

To view any web page, you must tell your browser the location of the web page you want to see. To do that, you must tell it the Uniform Resource Locator, or URL, which will let your browser know where on the internet this web page you want to see can be found. More details on URLs will be discussed later.

In practical terms, you give your web browser an URL. The browser then attempts to retrieve your web page by talking to a remote server. This server could be in USA, Brazil, South Africa, you name it. When that happens, the remote server will send your computer the requested HTML document (web page) and your browser will get it automatically and render it on your screen.

Why do I even want to see "web" pages?

Well, the answer you didn't want to hear is: so you can browse the web. There's no way around it. If you want to ``browse the web'' you're going to have to use a browser and access web pages. Why? Well, that's basically what the definition of browsing the web is.

The web is a specific aspect of the internet, and it is growing by leaps and bounds. Almost everybody can find a use for the web, from children to scientists and everybody in between. Almost anything you can think of (cars, cooking, computers, news, windsurfing, banking, museums, etc) is available on the world wide web. It's only a matter of finding it. Due to the enormous amount of information on the web, it's now become quite hard to find exactly what you want on the web. For help and tips, see the section ``Bookmarks''.



Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998 Dr. Raj Mehta. All rights reserved.