World Wide Web : wonderous

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Indy Lifestyle Online
If you're sick and tired of hearing about the Internet, you should blame the World Wide Web. Almost entirely responsible for the huge growth of interest in the Net, the Web attracts thousands of new users every day.

Pre-Web Internet services were limited to presenting information only in text form. It was difficult to find information on the Net if you didn't already have some idea of where to look. But the Web protocol changed all that. Rather than solid lumps of text, it is made up of "pages" that can contain text and graphics just like a magazine or newspaper. With the right software you can add sound, animation and even small video clips to Web pages.

This means that film companies such as Walt Disney can create sites containing clips from their new films, while record companies can put illustrated biographies of their artists on line, along with sound clips from new releases. Thousands of companies advertise their products and services this way, but the Web doesn't just cater for commercial interests.

It is also the world's largest information resource. All the world's major universities have Web sites, along with hundreds of newspaper and magazine publishers and other organisations. Nasa, the Louvre, Channel 4, the Lib Dems - just name the subject and you'll find it on the Web.

Navigating through all of these resources is made easy by a hypercard system, which links keywords to branches of information. When you look at a Web page, clicking on certain textual or graphical "buttons" will automatically transfer you to related information. Pages can be linked together using this system, even if they are stored on multiple computers in different countries. This is what is meant by "surfing the Net" - starting from one root page and just letting the links carry you around the world.

But perhaps the best feature of the Web is that anyone who has access to the Net can create their own Web pages. There are thousands - perhaps even millions - of people who have put their own home pages on to the Web, where they talk about themselves, their lives and their interests. Surfing these pages can be a truly bizarre experience - it's amazing what some people get up to in their spare time.