What Is a Web Site?

A web site is, traditionally, a collection of pages of information. Creating a web page is, in many ways, very similar to writing a letter with a word processor and saving it on your computer, but there are a couple of important differences. First, you have to save the page in a special format (ie, language) known as HTML, rather than as a normal document. HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language. Why hypertext? That’s the name given to theway that wemove between web pages by clicking on hyperlinks (those bits of text which are normally in blue and underlined). A markup language is just a way of "marking up" text to specify that, for instance, when the visitor to our site clicks on Home he gets taken to the home page. The reason we have to save our pages in HTML format, rather than as Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PDF files, Zip files, etc etc, is that the way we read web sites is with a program called a web browser. For example, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome, or Opera. The only type of information that web browsers are guaranteed to be able to display are HTML files. Sure, if you put aWord document on your web site, or a PDF file, someweb browsers mightmake a good stab at displaying the file. But it’s never guaranteed to work.

The second difference between creatingweb pages andwriting a letter is that, having created your web page, you obviously need to save it. But rather than saving on your own computer, where only you can see it, you need to save it onto a web server. A web server is simply a normal computer, connected to the internet, which runs a web server program. This program means that other people's computers across the internet can connect to it, request a copy of your page, and display it. In theory, any computer that has a permanent connection to the internet can be turned into a web server. Just install the necessary software, which is easily available free of charge, and the job is done. However, hackers love breaking into web servers and crashing them, or trying to change the contents of the pages they store. So unless you really know what you’re doing, it’s much easier and safer to rent some space on someone else’s web server to store your web content, rather than running your own server. It’s very cheap to do, as we’ll discover later.
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