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Spiders, Webs And Why You Don’t Understand Internet Addresses

March 8, 2018

…so logon today for great car deals at

It hardly registered, the website address. No one has “operators standing by to take your call” anymore. We don’t think twice about buying things over the web. I remember when web commerce first started. I found myself very hesitant to share my credit card number with any website. Eventually, I started buying baseball tickets from And I remember buying music from early versions of I think it was amazon. It was a long time ago. Way back in the last century.

It took a while for consumers and advertisers alike to become comfortable with the web as a way of exchanging money. More interesting to watch was how much challenge the advertisers had with the prefix “www.” It’s just three little letters, but they represent a problem for audio and video ads. “W” is the longest letter in the alphabet. It was the worst possible letter to force advertisers to say. Let along repeat it three times. If you think about that ABC song, every letter of the alphabet except W has something in common. They are all one syllable. “W” is three times as long. WWW, when spoken is longer than many sentences. “Operators are standing by” is only eight syllables, for example.

In a 30 second radio spot, advertisers cram a lot of words. Correction, a lot of syllables. That nine syllable double-U double-U double-U was murder on their word rate. Eventually, of course, it went away. You might think that it was never even needed. Isn’t the same as

Today it is, but that wasn’t always the case. Most people know the www stands for World Wide Web. This name was coined by the brilliant British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee. He’s the real father of the World Wide Web and what we today think of as the interent. (Sorry, Al Gore.)

In 1991, Berners-Lee had pretty much built most of the pieces needed for the modern World Wide Web. He’d built

  • HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol)
  • HTML (Hypertext Markup Language)
  • Access to Usenet (The early file sharing service)
  • Access to FTP (File Transfer Protocol, A file download/upload service)

These names were geeky names. They made sense to computer science guys the same way the crazy latin names of a newly discovered breed of lizard makes sense to herpetologists. (People who study lizards.)

But, Berners-Lee was missing one more piece before he had his early prototype of the interent. He needed a browser. The software that you are using to read this right now. He needed to come up with a name. He consdiered Mine of Information (MOI), The Information Mine (TIM), Information Mesh. And given the cryptic names for the rest of the pieces, it wouldn’t have been surprising if he’d picked something, well, geeky. He picked WorldWideWeb. That was actually the name of the first browser.

But, that still doesn’t explain why web addresses have the www on the front. It’s because the browser was only one protocol of many that was supported by this new system. For example, you could use a www addresss to get to a web pages of a site. But, you would use ftp to get to the file portion. Even today, for example, you can type into a browser and get to the file sharing portion of Microsoft’s site.

Berners-Lee had a vision of what his creation could become. I’m not saying he imagined the way the internet of things has taken over, but he understood that the system was expandable. It’s why he described it as a web. Today “the web” has become synonomous with “the internet.”

One final thought on names and the web. The web today is full of various types of traffic, ftp file transfers, http web pages, smtp emails, sFTP b2b and c2b traffic. But, the most common programs traversing the web, by far are programs used by search engines like Google. The reason you can go to and ask it for the location of stuff on the web is that google programs spend a lot of time traversing the web. They catalog every site and document every thread. They are constantly crawling over every web page and internet site 24 hours per day.

There’s a name for these types of programs. They are called spiders.

You’re welcome.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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