How the web works

The most well known and most popular internet service is the web (Laudon and Laudon 2017: p. 271).  The web is a system and not just the sum total of all the web pages that make up websites.  Most people in 2023 know in general what is meant by the term “the web”, but it is specifically defined as “a system with universally accepted standards for storing, retrieving, formatting, and displaying information by using a client/server architecture (p. 271).  I am going to go over how the web works, what it’s key components and applications are, and summarize a set of upcoming web trends that have become more noteworthy in the past few years.

Hypertext Markup Language or HTML pages are accessible via our modern personal browser programs because the programs make requests using Hypertext Transfer Protocol or HTTP which is a standard for transferring pages on the web (pp. 271-272).  Web browser software makes an HTTP request of the server on which a website’s pages and data etc. are stored (p. 272).  Most people know that HTTP are the first letters at the beginning of a web address, but not everybody knows that most commonly next comes the domain name which points to the server where the website is stored (p. 272) and that there is also potentially a subdomain before a domain name and that www is the most common subdomain and actually is a 3rd level domain, the basic name of the website is the 2nd level domain and the top level domain or TLD is the .com or .org etc.  Within the web address are the directory path and the web page and they help the browser pull together the content stored on a web server that makes up a web page as viewed through a web browser (p. 272).  All combined together the address of a web page is called a Uniform Resource Locator or URL (p. 272).

There are so many web pages on the planet that come and go and are not always indexed and are sometimes private and/or public in differing respects that nobody truly knows how to calculate the exact number of web pages (p. 272).  Search Engines like Google have indexed trillions of pages on the surface web (p. 273), but there is a deeper level of the web called the Deep Web that requires subscription and/or other categories of authorization to access (p. 273).  This deep web is made up of protected corporate databases that make up a closed web which is only partly searchable by search engines like Google (p. 273).  An even deeper level of the web is the Dark Web is intentionally hidden from search engines with masked internet protocol addresses which makes it only accessible using a special  TOR browser (p. 273).  Web search engines started in the early 1990’s as software to search accessible web pages and have developed into a complex way of finding content on the web with first search engines like YAHOO and now Google dominates (pp. 273-274).  Algorithms have changed over the years and a very large part of browsing has shifted to mobile search passing into the high 50% range with estimates into the 60% range (p. 274).

Semantic Search, Predictive Search and Social Search as well as Visual Search have all become more complex parts of the algorithms of search engines (pp. 274-275) and have begun to be part of the large data lakes of unstructured data connected to data warehouses of more structured data all of which can be searched and interacted with by cognitive computing technologies of large language models, machine learning, neural networks both convoluted and adversarial whereby computers “learn” the concepts of texts and can themselves be interacted with on a more human speech pattern semantical type of way.  Websites like Pinterest and Instagram use largely images and programs like PimEyes allows people to search based on facial features and eye features to find people (p. 275).  Largely websites like Pinterest and Instagram have given businesses the ability to target demographics of people who like their content and share a similar set of user characteristics as determined across platform data collection (p. 275).

Searching the web has become more complex because of the shear volume of information online, the nuance difference in the quality and the intricacy of the web of connectedness of products, information and services.  Because of this more complex search tools for professionals and consumers have developed.  We now see the advent of things like Intelligent Agent Shopping Bots (p. 275) that help consumers find the best deals on all types of things.  This connects also to intelligent ways for businesses to target their perfect demographic of consumers by analyzing the information that people put into their social media profiles (p. 276).  There have been many different legal battles with different business solutions because of the advent of Intelligent Agent Shopping Bots for consumers, the ability of businesses to target and elicit responses out of people via social media strategies and then also businesses and professionals have become very proficient at creating business websites that rank high on search engines via Search Engine Marketing and also Search Engine Optimization (p. 276).  The Blogsphere has become a game changer for small and large businesses alike as a consequence of the complexities and intricacies of how search engines work (p. 277).  People like to keep abreast of their favorite blog’s newest posts via RSS (p. 277) and also like engaging with their favorite professional bloggers and businesses via social media and social networking (p. 277) and the world of interactive Wikis (p. 277) is another way people have grouped together online around different subjects.

The Internet of Things IoT (p. 278), AI, Blockchain and Quantum Computing have become the newest wave of technology that has interwoven into everything that the web has developed from.  Cognitive Computing and Big Data/Unstructured Data go hand in hand (pp. 227-236).  Neural Networks of different types such as Convoluted Neural Networks and Adversarial Neural Networks create a much better human intuitive result when they are applied to the unstructured narrative data of big data types such as social media.  The Intentional Component and the Sentiment of a set of articles and/or posts on social media can be analyzed using Large Language Models (LLM) and other methodologies that are still being developed (pp. 419, 427).  Quantum Computing gives us a realm of ultra-fast computing and blockchain has taken the world by storm with programmers now making so many different every day use cases a reality which is digestible bit by bit by the general public and people are beginning to realize that crypto, though it has had it’s share of scoundrels, is a type of underlying technology that carries with it value for users (p. 225).  It will be interesting to see where the Internet of Things takes us all with the ever growing interconnectedness of so many billions of internet-connected sensors throughout the physical world (p. 278) along with all the developments so far topped with AI, Quantum Computing and Blockchain.


Laudon and Laudon (2022). Management Information Systems: Managing the Digital Firm (16th ed., pp. 227-236, 271-275, 276-279, 419, 427). Pearson.

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