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The World Wide Web is one of several utilities—including e-mail, File Transfer Protocol (FTP), Internet Relay Chat (IRC), Telnet and Usenet — that form the Internet. Based on a 1989 proposal from Tim Berners-Lee, it was developed at the European Center for Nuclear Research as a way to share information about nuclear physics. At the heart of the Web is a system of many Web servers — computers or software programs that make it possible for end-users to view Web pages, or specially formatted documents commonly written in Hypertext Mark-up Language (HTML). The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) describes the Web as “the universe of network-accessible information, the embodiment of human knowledge.”

Locations on the World Wide Web, which commonly reside on individual servers, are known as Web sites. Web sites have individual addresses called uniform resource locators (URLs), which must be used to gain access. Upon visiting a Web site, visitors normally begin on its home page. This document often serves as an index to other content within the site, or contains hypertext links to content residing on a different Web site.

Web pages are viewed through software applications called Web browsers. For example, Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape's Navigator were the two popular Web browsers during the 1990s and early 2000s. Web browsers are the essential link between end-users and a vast sea of static pictures, video, sounds, and text.

Because of its very nature, the Web holds strong potential for international e-commerce. In addition to using the Web for marketing or education, companies also run their business in the online environment. Some companies also began to integrate traditional telephone call centers — the places where customer service calls are handled or orders are taken for products or services — with Web pages and other Internet technologies like e-mail and chat rooms.

 








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