Understanding networking for web designers

When learning to become a web designer, it is critical to understand how networking works since so many different parts come together to make a web site work.

When a web site goes down, it can be anyone of the different parts that has failed. Being able to pinpoint that part, and who is responsible for it is key to getting the web site back up and running again quickly.

Internet and WWW aren’t the same thing

First of all, let’s get one thing straight. The internet and the World Wide Web are not the same thing.

The internet is a series of interconnected networks. It is a network of networks built of of private, public, academic, business, and government networks.

A Quick History


U.S. Army Photo from M. Weik, A technician changes a bad tube in the ENIAC computer circa 1940.
“U.S. Army Photo”, from M. Weik, “The ENIAC Story” A technician changes a tube. Caption reads “Replacing a bad tube meant checking among ENIAC’s 19,000 possibilities.” Center: Possibly John Holberton https://flic.kr/p/8QEF6m https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/
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Structuring plain text data

The internet, and the World Wide Web are based on plain text.

Everything on the web is plain text: .html, .css and .js files. (Pictures, audio and video aren’t in plain text of course – but they were added on the web much later.) To be a productive web designer, you need to be able to efficiently edit text files – and even several ones at once.

Screenshot of the very first web page hosted at CERN in Switzerland.
Screenshot of the very first web page hosted at CERN in Switzerland.

In 1989, when Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau invented HTTP and HTML, there was no “visual” world wide web. The world would have to wait until the launch of Mosaic to have a “graphical browser”.

For years, and even decades, computer networks were criss-crossed by typing commands in Terminals and using text-only tools like FTP for transferring files or various text editors (from nano to Vim and Emacs) to create and edit them.

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