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What is the Web?
A Layman's Guide

What is this "World Wide Web" that everyone is talking about? Well, it's easier to explain the meaning of life! But that's not why you're here.

The Web, the common nickname for the World Wide Web, often called the Internet, or the 'Net (and the source of great confusion in the minds of many), is pretty simple, despite all the hype.

While it may seem like a new fad, the Internet, in its raw form, has been around for a little over 20 years. It was nothing more than a few military computers across the country wired together into a network. Government agencies wired their computers into this network, followed by universities and, finally, businesses. Access was limited to people who were lucky enough to belong to one of the organizations that was already wired to this huge network.

That is, until businesses known as Internet Service Providers (or ISPs) came along, such as Prodigy, Compuserve and America On Line, and gave everybody with a computer and a modem the opportunity to connect. Millions upon millions of people around the world are wired into this network and, every time somebody dials into their ISP to connect, the Internet grows. With electronic mail (or "e-mail"), live group chats, thousands of discussion groups (so called "newsgroups") on every subject ranging from anarchist politics to bass fishing to fast food, plus access to thousands of databases for information, products and software, the Internet not only is a source for information, but a source of interactive entertainment.

In the beginning, the Internet had its limitations. Plain text, as you are reading now, was the standard. No pictures (moving or stills), no sounds, no personality and very little simplicity. Just a computer screen full of text. Then the World Wide Web was created. Software known as "browsers" (such as Netscape, Mosaic and Microsoft's Internet Explorer) made it capable for users to incorporate multimedia applications such as images and sound into their on-line time. This made the Internet more appealing to the common person, and the number of people who are in the network continues to grow, practically doubling on a monthly basis.

It didn't take long for big businesses, often computer-related, to realize that there were enough people (a gross understatement!) on-line to justify advertising to them. When it was finally realized that not everybody who was on-line was the typical "computer nerd," but actually millions of regular people, the computer-related advertising made way for advertising from any business looking to expand their profit potential by reaching millions of customers quicker than any radio, television or print ad ever could.

Still, the World Wide Web is merely a network of documents, all written in a (mostly) universal code, that are stored on computers, sometimes thousands of miles away from the owner/maintainer of the documents and available for retrieval upon a Web user typing in the correct information to locate the material (its URL, or universal resource locator).

Unfortunately, the simplicity ends there. The mechanics are complex. You need a computer with a moderately fast modem (a device that formats computer data into signals sent over a line either directly to another computer or to another computer over a phone line), a working phone line, a "host" computer to keep your documents and their related files. You also need a way to design the pages, interact with the host to ensure all specifications are met, and all of the software to process everything.

And the documents themselves are anything but simple. However, generally, the majority presents a lot of straight text that provides information. Any information. Your business hours, products, services and specials, for instance. And the documents can inform their visitors about your industry and your role in it.

While thousands of businesses profited from this revolution, many have failed. They made the mistake of adopting a "If I build it, they will come" philosophy when they created their Web sites.

If you just presented straight type and the same information over and over again, you won't get many visitors to your Web site in the first place, and you certainly won't get many coming back for a second, third and fourth visit. To enhance your site, you need something to accompany your information to make your site a memorable visit for the "Websurfers" with a short-attention span.

That's why there are graphics. Lots of graphics, both plain (like logos) and photographs. An you can animate them, making your photos or logo jiggle and dance. And you can add sound and video. All to entertain, delight and sell visitors so they keep coming back for more and tell their friends to visit. And you will be supplied information from your visitors, including purchase information.

Now there are a lot of people who think they can do it themselves or have that nerdy nephew do it for them, but the problem lies in never having enough resources to figure out all the intricacies of the Web and how best to promote it. (Yes, unlike other forms of advertising, you must promote your Web page, otherwise, it's like putting a note in a bottle, throwing it in the ocean, and hoping it washes up into someone's hands).

To put it simply, everyone with a home computer can be their own Webmaster, but not everyone with a home computer can do it right. That's why marketsolve was created, to help businesses tame the wild beast called The Web in steps and increments that are dependent on both their budgets and results from their Web experience.

Check back here often. We are developing a frequently-asked-questions document and if you'd like to have a question answered, feel free to send it to us in care of There is no such thing as a stupid question, so feel free to ask!

In the meantime, now that you have the briefest of understanding about the Web, find out the specific ways it can help you.

How can the Web help you?