According to the definition in Associated Press, a website (or web site) is a collection of web pages, typically common to a particular domain name or subdomain on the World Wide Web on the Internet.
A web page is a document, typically written in HTML, that is almost always accessible via HTTP, a protocol that transfers information from the website's server to display in the user's web browser.
All publicly accessible websites are seen as constituting a mammoth "World Wide Web" of information.
The pages of a website will be accessed from a common root URL called the homepage, and usually reside on the same physical server. The URLs of the pages organize them into a hierarchy, although the hyperlinks between them control how the reader perceives the overall structure and how the traffic flows between the different parts of the sites.
Some websites require a subscription to access some or all of their content. Examples of subscription sites include many Internet pornography sites, parts of many news sites, gaming sites, message boards, Web-based e-mail services, and sites providing real-time stock market data.
The first on-line website appeared in 1991. On 30 April 1993, CERN announced that the World Wide Web would be free to anyone. A copy of the original first Web page, created by Tim Berners-Lee, is kept here.
A website may be the work of an individual, a business or other organization and is typically dedicated to some particular topic or purpose. Any website can contain a hyperlink to any other website, so the distinction between individual sites, as perceived by the user, may sometimes be blurred.
Websites are written in, or dynamically converted to, HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) and are accessed using a software program called a Web browser, also known as an HTTP client. Web pages can be viewed or otherwise accessed from a range of computer based and Internet enabled devices of various sizes, including desktop computers, laptop computers, PDAs and cell phones.
A website is hosted on a computer system known as a web server, also called an HTTP server, and these terms can also refer to the software that runs on these system and that retrieves and delivers the Web pages in response to requests from the website users. Apache is the most commonly used Web server software (according to Netcraft statistics) and Microsoft's Internet Information Server (IIS) is also commonly used.
A static website, is one that has content that is not expected to change frequently and is manually maintained by some person or persons using some type of editor software. There are three broad categories of editor software used for this purpose which are
- Text editors. such as Notepad or TextEdit, where the HTML is manipulated directly within the editor program
- WYSIWYG editors. such as Microsoft FrontPage and Macromedia Dreamweaver, where the site is edited using a GUI interface and the underlying HTML is generated automatically by the editor software
- Template-based editors, such as Rapidweaver and iWeb, which allow users to quickly create and upload websites to a web server without having to know anything about HTML, as they just pick a suitable template from a palette and add pictures and text to it in a DTP-like fashion without ever having to see any HTML code.
A dynamic website is one that has frequently changing information or interacts with the user from various methods (HTTP cookies or database variables e.g., previous history, session variables, server side variables, e.g., environmental data, etc.) or direct interaction (form elements, mouseovers, etc. When the Web server receives a request for a given page, the page is automatically retrieved from storage by the software in response to the page request, thus opening up many possibilities, including for example: a site can display the current state of a dialogue between users, monitor a changing situation, or provide information in some way personalized to the requirements of the individual user.
There is a wide range of software systems, such as ColdFusion (CFM), Active Server Pages (ASP), Java Server Pages (JSP) and the PHP programming language that are available to generate dynamic Web systems and dynamic sites. Sites may also include content that is retrieved from one or more databases or by using XML-based technologies such as RSS.
Static content may also be dynamically generated either periodically, or if certain conditions for regeneration occur (cached) in order to avoid the performance loss of initiating the dynamic engine on a per-user or per-connection basis.
As noted above, there are several different spellings for this term. Although "website" is commonly used, the Associated Press Stylebook, Reuters, Microsoft, academia, and dictionaries such as Oxford and Merriam-Webster use the two-word, capitalised spelling "Web site". This is because "Web" is not a general term but a shortened form of "World Wide Web". An alternative version of the two-word spelling is not capitalised. As with many newly created terms, it may take some time before a common spelling is finalised. (This controversy also applies to derivative terms such as "Web master"/"webmaster".)
The Canadian Oxford Dictionary and the Canadian Press Stylebook list "website" and "web page" as the preferred spellings.
Types of websites
There are many varieties of Web sites, each specialising in a particular type of content or use, and they may be arbitrarily classified in any number of ways. A few such classifications might include:
- Affiliate: enabled portal that renders not only its custom CMS but also syndicated content from other content providers for an agreed fee. There are usually three relationship tiers. Affiliate Agencies (e.g Commission Junction), Advertisers (e.g Ebay) and consumer (e.g Yahoo). Combinations exist (e.g Adbrite).
- Archive site: used to preserve valuable electronic content threatened with extinction. Two examples are: Internet Archive, which since 1996 has preserved billions of old (and new) Web pages; and Google Groups, which in early 2005 was archiving over 845,000,000 messages posted to Usenet news/discussion groups.
- Blog (or Web log) site: site used to log online readings or to post online diaries; may include discussion forums. Examples: blogger, Xanga.
- Business site: used for promoting a business or service.
- Commerce site or eCommerce site: for purchasing goods, such as Amazon.com.
- Community site: a site where persons with similar interests communicate with each other, usually by chat or message boards, such as MySpace.
- Database site: a site whose main use is the search and display of a specific database's content such as the Internet Movie Database or the Political Graveyard.
- Development site: a site whose purpose is to provide information and resources related to software development, Web design and the like.
- Directory site: a site that contains varied contents which are divided into categories and subcategories, such as Yahoo! directory, Google directory and Open Directory Project.
- Download site: strictly used for downloading electronic content, such as software, game demos or computer wallpaper.
- Employment website: allows employers to post job requirements for a position or positions to be filled using the internet to advertise world wide. A prospective employee can locate and fill out a job application or submit a resume for the advertised position.
- Game site: a site that is itself a game or "playground" where many people come to play, such as MSN Games and Pogo.com.
- Geodomain refers to domain names that are the same as those of geographic entities, such as cities and countries. For example, Richmond.com is the geodomain for Richmond, Virginia.
- Humor site: satirizes, parodies or otherwise exists solely to amuse.
- Information site: contains content that is intended to inform visitors, but not necessarily for commercial purposes; such as: RateMyProfessors.com, Free Internet Lexicon and Encyclopedia. Most government, educational and non-profit institutions have an informational site.
- Java applet site: contains software to run over the Web as a Web application.
- Mirror (computing) site: A complete reproduction of a website.
- News site: similar to an information site, but dedicated to dispensing news and commentary.
- Personal homepage: run by an individual or a small group (such as a family) that contains information or any content that the individual wishes to include.
- Phish site: a website created to fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy person or business (such as Social Security Administration, PayPal) in an electronic communication.
- Political site: A Web sites on which people may voice political views.
- Pornography (porn) site: a site that shows pornographic images and videos.
- Rating site: A site on which people can praise or disparage what is featured. Examples: ratemycar.com, ratemygun.com, ratemypet.com, hotornot.com.
- Review site: A site on which people can post reviews for products or services.
- Search engine site: a site that provides general information and is intended as a gateway or lookup for other sites. A pure example is Google, and the most widely known extended type is Yahoo!.
- Shock site: includes images or other material that is intended to be offensive to most viewers. Examples: rotten.com, ratemypoo.com.
- Sucks.com AKA "gripe" site, is, in popular Web jargon, a Web site devoted to the critique of a person, place, corporation, government, or institution.
- Web portal site: a website that provides a starting point, a gateway, or portal, to other resources on the Internet or an intranet.
- Wedsite: a website that details a couple's wedding event, often sharing stories, photos, and event information.
- Wiki site: a site which users collaboratively edit (such as Wikipedia).
Some sites may be included in one or more of these categories. For example, a business website may promote the business's products, but may also host informative documents, such as white papers. There are also numerous sub-categories to the ones listed above. For example, a porn site is a specific type of eCommerce site or business site (that is, it is trying to sell memberships for access to its site). A fan site may be a vanity site on which the administrator is paying homage to a celebrity.
Many business websites have the appearance of brochures—that is, an advertisement that can be browsed around. Some websites act as vehicles for users to communicate with other people via Web chat.
Websites are constrained by architectural limits (e.g. the computing power dedicated to the website). Very large websites, such as Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Google, employ many servers and load balancing equipment, such as Cisco Content Services Switches.