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Internet and Web Technology: The Basics

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Learn the basics of the Web, networking, domain name system, and how the Internet might be in the future; also find out the essentials of surfing the Net.

In this chapter

  • From Soap Operas to Tidal Waves
  • Computer Network Basics
  • Packet Switching and TCP/IP
  • The Web
  • Basic Internet Tools
  • The Domain Name System
  • Advanced Searches on the Web
  • Future Trends and Implications

From soap operas t tidal waves

The Internet is the core of Internet business and the Web is the core of the Internet. What exactly is the Internet? What is the Web? How do they differ? First the Internet. The Internet can trace its roots back to the Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite in October, 1957. This Soviet achievement created quite a crisis in the United States. If people were not worried about the Soviets launching missiles from outer space at the United States, they were at least disturbed that the Soviets had leapt ahead in science and technology. At the time, the newly appointed Secretary of Defense was Neil McElroy, the former President and CEO of the Procter & Gamble Company. While he was at the helm of the company, he had a brainchild (in addition to the concept of brand management), which was to sell soap during radio and television dramas; hence, the name "soap opera." It was clear that the United States needed to regain the upper hand in science and technology. As a means to do so, McElroy, a strong believer in research while running Procter & Gamble, proposed creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). Funding was approved by Congress in 1958 and the agency was established.

Fast forward to 1966. Bob Taylor was the Director of the Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) at ARPA. He had three computer terminals in his office (we are at 2 o'clock in Figure 2–1, our cycle of computing). One terminal was connected to a computer in Boston, one to a computer in San Francisco, and one to a computer in Santa Monica. Each computer had its own set of commands and programs and was unable to "talk" to the others. Taylor was frustrated by this, and his frustration led to the creation of what was known as ARPANET.

The ARPA network was based on a technology called packet switching and led to the development of the networking protocol called TCP/IP (transmission control protocol/Internet protocol). For most people, the word protocol is usually associated with diplomatic relations. The use of the word protocol in networking is probably due to Tom Marill and a project he did for ARPA in 1966 [66]. In the world of networking, the word protocol refers to a set of rules for exchanging messages over a network. So think of a protocol as a set of rules computers use on a network in order to talk to each other. A network protocol would include rules for acknowledging message receipt, error checking, and data formatting. In the next section, "Computer Network Basics," we provide a very brief introduction to computer network technology. Most computer networks communicate using packet switching, and this is the focus of the section, "Packet Switching and TCP/IP." The ARPANET evolved into the Internet. In fact, the Internet can be defined as a network of computers using TCP/IP.

In 1995, Bill Gates said, "The Internet is the most important single development to come along since the IBM PC was introduced in 1981. It is even more important than the arrival of graphical user interface (GUI) 3 3 3 The Internet is a tidal wave. It changes the rules." For a number of years the Internet was used mainly by universities. It was a research tool, not a tool for commerce. Email was the most commonly used Internet tool. This changed when Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web. In the section "The Web" we learn what makes the Web unique and how it uses the Internet, but is not the same thing as the Internet. The Web became popular with the common user when Marc Andreesen, then a student at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, developed a graphic user interface (GUI) for the Web called Mosaic. Microsoft's realization of the importance of the browser and the Web led to the famous and well-documented "browser war" between Microsoft and Netscape. The competitive (or anticompetitive) strategies used by Microsoft in this war led to its Department of Justice lawsuit. The browser has become a universal interface, and more than any other software tool, led to the Internet business revolution. The browser is most certainly the killer app of the World Wide Web.

In the section "The Web" we introduce the three key components of the Web3the URL, HTML, and HTTP. These three things define the Web. Of course, the Web is just one Internet technology or tool. In the section "Basic Internet Tools" we learn about other tools such as FTP and Telnet that are also important for Internet business. Part of the URL is based on a naming (and underlying numbering) scheme for computers. The naming and numbering scheme has important implications for Internet business. The process of resolving the name of a computer into its address is covered in the section "The Domain Name System." Also important for Internet business is to know where to go to get what you need on the Web, whether you're looking for information, products, or services. How to conduct more directed and time-saving searches is covered in "Advanced Searches on the Web." The chapter concludes with the section, "Future Trends and Implications."

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