World Wide Web :WWW

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A part of the Internet that contains linked text, image, sound, and video documents. Before the World Wide Web (WWW), information retrieval on the Internet was text-based and required that users know basic UNIX commands. The World Wide Web has gained popularity largely because of its ease of use (point-and-click graphical interface) and multimedia capabilities, as well as its convenient access to other types of Internet services (such as e-mail, Telnet, and Usenet). See also Internet.

Improvements in networking technology, the falling cost of computer hardware and networking equipment, and increased bandwidth have helped the Web to contain richer content. The Web is the fastest medium for transferring information and has universal reach (crossing geographical and time boundaries). It is also easy to access information from millions of Web sites using search engines (systems that collect and index Web pages, and store searchable lists of these pages). The Web's unified networking protocols make its use seamless, transparent, and portable. As the Web has evolved, it has incorporated complementary new technologies for developing online commerce and video on demand, to name a few.

Individual documents are called Web pages, and a collection of related documents is called a Web site. All Web documents are assigned a unique Internet address called a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) by which they can be accessed by all Web browsers. A URL (such as http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/procurement/index.html) identifies the communication protocol used by the site (http), its location [domain name or server (www.hq.nasa.gov)], the path to the server (office/procurement), and the type of document (html).

The language used to create and link documents is called Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). Markup is the process of adding information to a document that is not part of the content but identifies the structure or elements. Markup languages are not new. HTML is based on the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML).

Though the initial format for creating a Web site was pure HTML, new and extended HTML has the ability to include programming language scripts such as common gateway interface (CGI), active server page (ASP), and Java server page (JSP), which can be used to create dynamic and interactive Web pages as opposed to just static HTML text. Dynamic Web pages allow users to create forms for transactions and data collection; perform searches on a database or on a particular Web site; create counters and track the domain names of visitors; customize Web pages to meet individual user preferences; create Web pages on the fly; and create interactive Web sites.

XML, developed by the World Wide Web Consortium, is another derivative of SGML and is rapidly becoming the standard information protocol for all commercial software such as office tools, messaging, and distributed databases. XML is a flexible way to create common information formats and share both the format and the data on the World Wide Web, intranets, and other Web-based services.

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