Websites 101:

What is a website?
You might think you know... but do you really know?

Modern websites live on what is known as the Open Web.

The first version of the Open Web was created in the early 1970s as a DARPA project.

DARPA is part of the US Defense Department and stands for:


Vint Cerf was in charge of figuring out how to create a network of computers that could talk to one another in the event of a nuclear war.

Vint Cerf

Inventor of TCP/IP - the way computers talk to each other. That means he is kind of like “The Architect” character in The Matrix.

Later in the 1980’s, an English computer scientist and physicist named Tim Berners-Lee invented HTTP and HTML, the protocol and language we still use today to view websites.

Tim Berners-Lee

Inventor of HTTP, HTML and the Open Web as we know it today.

You might recognize HTTP or Hyper Text Transport Protocol. It's the same “http://“ you put in front of web addresses on your browser to get to websites today.

If you are in a web browser right now, your browser just used HTTP to fetch the HTML from the web address of this page.

The web address you type into your browser tells the internet's network which page you are looking for. The web page's "domain name" is the first part of the web address -- the name of the computer that has the page you want, wherever it is in the world.


The global system in charge of mapping computer addresses to user-friendly domain names is called DNS and is managed by a non-profit organization called ICANN. Vint Cerf was instrumental in the formation of ICANN from the start.

* It is interesting to note that DNS and user-friendly names are not necessary for finding a computer connected to the internet. Computers can also be found using their IP address, a series of numbers, similar to how phone numbers work. In the future, there may be other systems besides DNS that crop up for resolving domain names.

The computer in charge of sending HTML for a website is called the website's "host".

HTML is the language that the browser uses to show you the page's contents. It is the primary building block of a web page.

Hyperlinks, now more commonly known as just "links", are the fabric of the internet and are what allow us to jump freely between pages on the web.

This was the first page on World Wide Web, now also known as the Open Web:

By inventing HTTP and HTML, Tim Berners-Lee invented the Open Web as we know it today so scientists could share the large amounts of data created at CERN, a facility dedicated to nuclear research in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Open Web was intended to be free and open to all so that we may share knowledge with one another.

The apps on your phone may not look like the Open Web, but underneath their shiny exteriors they still use the same basic building blocks and infrastructure as the Open Web that you navigate from your web browser.

Modern websites now have many more features than the original ones.

Cascading Style Sheets, or CSS, are rules about how the HTML on a web page should look in the browser. The process of displaying a web page's HTML and decorating it with CSS is called "rendering".

Your web browser even has its own built-in programming language called Javascript. When you fetch a web page by typing its address into your browser, often the HTML that comes back contains Javascript in it.

Javascript can contain instructions that change or update the HTML, the CSS, or even the web browser itself!

Because Javascript is almost everywhere on the web, it has becomes a very popular, easy-to-learn programming language. You can learn more about it here.

A great way to learn how to build websites is by looking at the code that created it. You can look at the HTML, CSS, and Javascript by telling your browser to "view source" (meaning: look at the code).

Different browsers have different ways of viewing source, so if you just use a search engine to ask "how do I view source on Firefox?", you'll get your answer. I personally like to ask questions like this on DuckDuckGo.

If you've never made a web page before, this is a great place to start.

Have fun!