The World Wide Web, the first global networked information service that is truly friendly, is probably the fastest growing technological phenomenon in the history of the human race (except maybe gambling).
Recent statistics on the number of active Web sites available on the Internet show in table 0.1.
Table 0.1: Web Server Growth
More impressive has been the range of uses people have put the Web to: There are simple online versions of information that we are used to getting through paper, such as university prospectuses, and train and TV program timetables. But there are also Cardiff's Movie Data base, an online catalog of excerpts of CDs from a record company, a national newspaper (quite a few now), a huge database of images of a dissected human body. There are guides, tutorials, libraries, businesses and so on.
If you could buy shares in this phenomenon, no-one would invest in anything else! This outpaces the growth of the Internet (the underlying transmission networks), which is merely growing at about 7 billion dollars worth of business a year.
This book is is about how the World Wide Web works. It is not another guide to what there is out there, as that would be a waste of paper, being obsolete before it was printed. It is not about where to ``surf'', but about what happens ``Beneath the surf''.
This book is aimed at information users and providers who wish to have a better idea about what is going on under the bonnet, e.g. publishers, librarians, students, IT managers at businesses, and just about anyone who could read a manual and set up a PC or MAC to run a client, or could use an editor to create and store pages. Typically, readers will either not yet have Internet access, or may just be starting up. Otherwise, a great deal of this material is available on the net in any case, and at no cost except the time to find it! Soon, people will learn to use all of this at school, and will have WWW/Internet access from their TV-Top terminal, but not soon enough - hence this book. In fact you do not need any network access at all to use WWW to organize your information, nor do you have to be connected to the Internet to use WWW to provide remote information access within your organization if you have a privcate network. However, the additional value of access to and from other organizations via the Internet is widely acknowledged.
By the time you have finished reading this book you should be able to start up a server on a Unix or DOS platform. You will have pointers, which this technology then makes it easy to follow, to where to find more information, We reference many other information services, and mention other client and server implementations. However, space and time preclude these mentions being more than cursory, or the list being more than partial. We also believe in saving trees.