What happened to WWW?

In case you haven’t noticed, or perhaps no one has told you, you no longer have to type in ‘WWW.’ in the address bar to reach a web site.

Nor do you have to type in that pesky ‘http://’.  You can just type in’northcoastnews.com’ and be done with it.  What happened?  Did your computer get smart?  No, but the Internet has.

To understand what happened, we have to go back to when Al Gore invented the Internet (Kidding!)

When things first got started, the Internet was used primarily by Universities, Scientists, the Government, and the Military.  The Internet was thought of as a file-sharing device, period. It is interesting to note that the concept of file-sharing is now a hot topic and the subject of numerous lawsuits.  Napster, anyone?

Anyway, in the early days, you had to send a bunch of commands to the other computers in order to communicate with them.  These are called ‘protocols’ and are still used today.  You had to type in what language you wanted to communicate in (like ftp or http), the address of the file location (which was the actual IP address of the server, back then (97.121.23.456), the port number (an entrance to the hard drive) and the file itself.  So, in the olden days, if you wanted to download a doctorial thesis (yes, the number one type of download in the early days), you would type:

ftp.97.121.23.456:2398.mydoctoriate.doc

Computers were ‘taught’ to read forward, left to right.

Luckily, the Consortium that controls the Internet, knew that consumers would probably not be able to keep up with the numbering system and developed DNS. Domain Name Servers now control the Internet.  All these servers do is translate ‘northcoastnews.com’ into an IP number and Port number. On the Internet are thousands of servers managing millions of names.

What happened next was the development of numerous Protocols to lead people to various types of documents.  We started out with ‘ftp’ – or File Transfer Protocol, and then ‘mail’ came next, to the enjoyment of many.  One of the last protocols developed in the early days was the now common ‘http’ – or HyperText Transfer Protocol.  Web pages, as we know them today, use this protocol almost exclusively. 

So after this protocol was developed and DNS came along, you could type this in to get your thesis:

http://www.thesisareus.com/reports/mydoctoriate.doc

An improvement that lasted for many years.

What has happened recently, is that the clear majority of ‘communications’ on the Internet are using the ‘http’ protocol.  So, it was decided that anything typed into the address bar was ‘http’ unless proven otherwise.  Meaning, that if you need to communicate via ftp, you do have to type that in.  This is something that I do on a regular basis to upload web files to a server.

What just happened a few months ago is that it is now assumed that if you type a phrase in the address bar and it has a .com, or .net, or .extension on it, you want to go to a web site.  If your intention is to look at something other than a website, you have to type that in. What has transpired is actually teaching the computers to read what was typed into the address bar backwards. You can also see the DNS servers in action if you just type in’northcoastnews.com’ (or anything else); after you type that in, your address bar will change back to ‘http://www.northcoastnews.com’ or a close variation thereof.

The driving factor in all of this is really Google Search, and all of the other search engines being used on the Internet.  If you think about it, you rarely type in a web address anymore.