Webpages and Surfing

A webpage, generally, is a single file, with perhaps other files attached to it (by means of the author linking stuff within the text of the document), such as graphics, sounds, or scripts.When you type in a URL (the wordy version of the address of a file) in the address bar of your browser, or click a link on another page, or click a link in your mail program, you are actually asking for your computer to fetch a file for you, off the server that houses that webpage.

Here’s the URL to the title page of this very set of documents, all stretched out

(edit, Aug 2008: The address has changed a bit these days, but I’m leaving the old example in place so I don’t have to inject needless complications about the backend software I use to keep the site up to date, and the way it handily rewrites URLS for me. See, aint your head spinning just from that?)

http://

techdonkey.com/

internet-explained/

index.php

This part dictates the protocol, or language that you’re speaking, and starts you off at the root of the internet. This part is the domain name, which your browser will find out how to translate into your numerical (IP) address. This part says that in the techdonkey.com website, we go a level down into the “internet-explained” subdirectory. This part has the actual name of the file you’d like to see.

The browser contacts the server which houses the webpage or other file you’d like to see, and it asks for it.

The server, which just lives for this moment of service, hands over the file, which squirts down the wires to your computer.
If it’s a standalone file like a JPEG or GIF image file, the server’s job is done.
If it’s a webpage with embedded graphics or sounds or such, the browser and server conspire to fetch the linked files along with the webpage, so you’ll receive a small collection of files, and see one whole webpage, with background pattern, graphics, pictures, or sound.

When you click on a link to a page, that exact process starts all over again.