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Section 0.4 Networks, the Internet and the World Wide Web

Most personal computers contain software that enables them to be connected to various-sized networks of computers. Networks allow many individual users to share costly computer resources, such as a high-speed printer or a large disk drive or application server that is used to store and distribute both data and programs to the computers on the network.

Networks can range in size from local area networks (LANs), which connect computers and peripherals over a relatively small area, such as within a lab or a building, through wide area networks (WANs), which can span large geographic areas, such as cities and nations.

Application servers are just one example of client/server computing , a computing approach made possible by networks. According to this approach, certain computers on the network are set up as servers, which provide certain well-defined services to client computers.

For example, one computer in a network may be set up as the email server, with the responsibility of sending, receiving, and storing mail for all users on the network. To access their email on the email server, individual users employ client application software that resides on their desktop computers, such as Hotmail or GMail.

Similarly, another server may be set up as a Web server, with the responsibility of storing and serving up Web pages for all the users on the network. Users can run Web browsers, another type of client software, to access Web pages on the server.

Java is particularly well suited for these types of networked or distributed applications, where part of the application software resides on a server and part resides on the client computer.

The Internet (with a capital I) is a network of networks whose geographical area covers the entire globe. The World Wide Web (WWW ) is another example of distributed, client/server computing.

The WWW is not a separate physical network. Rather it is an application that runs on the Internet using the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP ).

A protocol is a set of rules and conventions that govern how communication takes place between two computers. HTTP is a multimedia protocol, which means that it supports the transmission of text, graphics, sound, and other forms of information.

Certain computers within a network run special software that enables them to play the role of HTTP (or Web) servers. They store Web documents and are capable of handling requests for documents from client browser applications. The servers and clients can be located anywhere on the Internet.

The documents stored on Web servers are encoded in a special text-based language known as HyperText Markup Language, or HTML. Web browsers, such as Google Chrome and Firefox, are designed to interpret documents coded in this language.

The HTML language itself is very simple. Its basic elements are known as tags, which consist of certain keywords or other text contained within angle brackets, \(\lt\) and \(>\text{.}\) For example, if you wanted to italicize text on a Web page, you would enclose it between the \(\lt I>\) and \(\lt /I>\) tags. Thus, the following HTML code

\(\lt I>\)Italic font\(\lt /I>\) can be used for \(\lt I>\)emphasis\(\lt /I>\text{.}\)

would be displayed by the Web browser as

Italic font can be used for emphasis.

When you use a Web browser to surf the Internet, you repeatedly instruct your browser to go to a certain location and retrieve a page that is encoded in HTML. For example, if you typed the following URL (Uniform Resource Locator)

http://wikipedia.org

into your browser, the browser would send a message to Wikipedia's Web server www located in the wikipedia.org domain—the wikipedia portion of this address specifies the Wikipedia organization and the org portion specifies the non-profit domain of the Internet. Wikipedia's Web server will respond bt sending its homepage to your browser (Figure 0.4.1). The beauty of the Web is that it is possible to embed text, sound, video, and graphics within an HTML document, making it possible to download a wide range of multimedia resources through this (relatively) simple mechanism.

Figure 0.4.1. WWW: The client's browser requests a page from a Web server. When the HTML document is returned, it is interpreted and displayed by the browser.

The Web has changed business, entertainment, commerce, and education. The fact that it is possible to download computer games and other application software from the Web is changing the way software and other digital products are purchased and distributed. Similarly, as noted earlier, many businesses have begun to organize their information systems into intranets—private networks that implement the HTTP protocol.

One of the biggest areas of development on the Web is commerce. As consumers have become more comfortable that credit-card information can be securely transmitted over the Web (as it can over a telephone), the Web has exploded as a marketing medium. Because Java has been designed to support secure, distributed, networked applications, it is ideally suited to be used as the language for these types of applications.

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