The project represents any information accessible over the network as part of a seamless hypertext information space.
W3 was originally developed to allow information sharing within internationally dispersed teams, and the dissemination of information by support groups. Originally aimed at the High Energy Physics community, it has spread to other areas and attracted much interest in user support, resource discovery and collaborative work areas. It is currently the most advanced information system deployed on the Internet, and embraces within its data model most information in previous networked information systems.
In fact, the web is an architecure which will also embrace any future advances in technology, including new networks, protocols, object types and data formats.
Clients and server for many platforms exist and are under continual development. Much more information about all aspects of the web is available online -- so skip to "Getting started" if you have an internet connection.
The web contains documents in many formats. Those documents which are hypertext, (real or virtual) contain links to other documents, or places within documents. All documents, whether real, virtual or indexes, look similar to the reader and are contained within the same addressing scheme.
To follow a link, a reader clicks with a mouse (or types in a number if he or she has no mouse). To search and index, a reader gives keywords (or other search criteria). These are the only operations necessary to access the entire world of data.
Providing information is as simple as running the W3 server and pointing it at an existing directory structure. The server automatically generates the a hypertext view of your files to guide the user around.
To personalize it, you can write a few SGML hypertext files to give an even more friendly view. Also, any file available by anonymous FTP, or any internet newsgroup can be immediately linked into the web. The very small start-up effort is designed to allow small contributions. At the other end of the scale, large information providers may provide an HTTP server with full text or keyword indexing. This may allow access to a large existing database without changing the way that database is managed. Such gateways have already been made into Oracle(tm), WAIS, and Digital's VMS/Help systems, to name but a few.
The WWW model gets over the frustrating incompatibilities of data format between suppliers and reader by allowing negotiation of format between a smart browser and a smart server. This should provide a basis for extension into multimedia, and allow those who share application standards to make full use of them across the web.
This summary does not describe the many exciting possibilities opened up by the WWW project, such as efficient document caching. the reduction of redundant out-of-date copies, and the use of knowledge daemons. There is more information in the online project documentation, including some background on hypertext and many technical notes.
If you have nothing else but an Internet connection, then telnet to info.cern.ch (no user or password). This very simple interface works with any terminal but in fact gives you access to anything on the web. It starts you at a special beginner's entry point. Use it to find up-to-date information on the WWW client program you need to run on your computer, with details of how to get it. This is the crudest interface to the web -- do not judge the web by this. Just use it to find the best client for your machine.
You can also find pointers to all documentation, including manuals, tutorials and papers.Tim BL1992