A website is a collection of related web pages, including multimedia content, typically identified with a common domain name, and published on at least one web server. A website may be accessible via a public Internet Protocol (IP) network, such as the Internet, or a private local area network (LAN), by referencing a uniform resource locator (URL) that identifies the site.
Websites have many functions and can be used in various fashions; a website can be a personal website, a commercial website for a company, a government website or a non-profit organization website. Websites can be the work of an individual, a business or other organization, and are typically dedicated to a particular topic or purpose, ranging from entertainment and social networking to providing news and education. All publicly accessible websites collectively constitute the World Wide Web, while private websites, such as a company's website for its employees, are typically a part of an intranet.
Web pages, which are the building blocks of websites, are documents, typically composed in plain text interspersed with formatting instructions of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML, XHTML). They may incorporate elements from other websites with suitable markup anchors. Web pages are accessed and transported with the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), which may optionally employ encryption (HTTP Secure, HTTPS) to provide security and privacy for the user. The user's application, often a web browser, renders the page content according to its HTML markup instructions onto a display terminal.
Hyperlinking between web pages conveys to the reader the site structure and guides the navigation of the site, which often starts with a home page containing a directory of the site web content. Some websites require user registration or subscription to access content. Examples of subscription websites include many business sites, parts of news websites, academic journal websites, gaming websites, file-sharing websites, message boards, web-based email, social networking websites, websites providing real-time stock market data, as well as sites providing various other services. As of 2016 end users can access websites on a range of devices, including desktop and laptop computers, tablet computers, smartphones and smart TVs.
The World Wide Web (WWW) was created in 1990 by the British CERN physicist Tim Berners-Lee. On 30 April 1993, CERN announced that the World Wide Web would be free to use for anyone. Before the introduction of HTML and HTTP, other protocols such as File Transfer Protocol and the gopher protocol were used to retrieve individual files from a server. These protocols offer a simple directory structure which the user navigates and chooses files to download. Documents were most often presented as plain text files without formatting, or were encoded in word processor formats.
Websites have many functions and can be used in various fashions; a website can be a personal website, a commercial website, a government website or a non-profit organization website. Websites can be the work of an individual, a business or other organization, and are typically dedicated to a 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, can be blurred. Websites are written in, or converted to, HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) and are accessed using a software interface classified as a user agent. Web pages can be viewed or otherwise accessed from a range of computer-based and Internet-enabled devices of various sizes, including desktop computers, laptops, PDAs and cell phones. A website is hosted on a computer system known as a web server, also called an HTTP server. These terms can also refer to the software that runs on these systems which retrieves and delivers the web pages in response to requests from the website's users. Apache is the most commonly used web server software (according to Netcraft statistics) and Microsoft's IIS is also commonly used. Some alternatives, such as Nginx, Lighttpd, Hiawatha or Cherokee, are fully functional and lightweight.
A static website is one that has web pages stored on the server in the format that is sent to a client web browser. It is primarily coded in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML); Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) are used to control appearance beyond basic HTML. Images are commonly used to effect the desired appearance and as part of the main content. Audio or video might also be considered "static" content if it plays automatically or is generally non-interactive. This type of website usually displays the same information to all visitors. Similar to handing out a printed brochure to customers or clients, a static website will generally provide consistent, standard information for an extended period of time. Although the website owner may make updates periodically, it is a manual process to edit the text, photos and other content and may require basic website design skills and software. Simple forms or marketing examples of websites, such as classic website, a five-page website or a brochure website are often static websites, because they present pre-defined, static information to the user. This may include information about a company and its products and services through text, photos, animations, audio/video, and navigation menus.
Static websites can be edited using four broad categories of software:
- Text editors, such as Notepad or TextEdit, where content and HTML markup are manipulated directly within the editor program
- WYSIWYG offline editors, such as Microsoft FrontPage and Adobe Dreamweaver (previously Macromedia Dreamweaver), with which the site is edited using a GUI and the final HTML markup is generated automatically by the editor software
- WYSIWYG online editors which create media rich online presentation like web pages, widgets, intro, blogs, and other documents.
- Template-based editors such as iWeb allow users to create and upload web pages to a web server without detailed HTML knowledge, as they pick a suitable template from a palette and add pictures and text to it in a desktop publishing fashion without direct manipulation of HTML code.
Static websites may still use server side includes (SSI) as an editing convenience, such as sharing a common menu bar across many pages. As the site's behaviour to the reader is still static, this is not considered a dynamic site.
A dynamic website is one that changes or customizes itself frequently and automatically. Server-side dynamic pages are generated "on the fly" by computer code that produces the HTML (CSS are responsible for appearance and thus, are static files). There are a wide range of software systems, such as CGI, Java Servlets and Java Server Pages (JSP), Active Server Pages and ColdFusion (CFML) that are available to generate dynamic web systems and dynamic sites. Various web application frameworks and web template systems are available for general-use programming languages like Perl, PHP, Python and Ruby to make it faster and easier to create complex dynamic websites.
Multimedia and interactive content
While "web site" was the original spelling, this variant has become rarely used, and "website" has become the standard spelling. All major style guides, such as The Chicago Manual of Style, and the AP Stylebook have reflected this change.
Websites can be divided into two broad categories—static and interactive. Interactive sites are part of the Web 2.0 community of sites, and allow for interactivity between the site owner and site visitors or users. Static sites serve or capture information but do not allow engagement with the audience or users directly. Some websites are informational or produced by enthusiasts or for personal use or entertainment. Many websites do aim to make money, using one or more business models, including:
- Posting interesting content and selling contextual advertising either through direct sales or through an advertising network.
- E-commerce: products or services are purchased directly through the website
- Advertising products or services available at a brick and mortar business
- Freemium: basic content is available for free but premium content requires a payment (e.g., WordPress website)
There are many varieties of websites, each specializing 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:
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|Type of Website||Description||Examples|
|Affiliate||A site, typically few in pages, whose purpose is to sell a third party's product. The seller receives a commission for facilitating the sale.|
|Affiliate agency||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 (see Affiliate Agencies).||Commission Junction, advertisers like eBay, or a consumer like Yahoo!.|
|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.||Internet Archive, Google Groups|
|Attack site||A site created specifically to attack visitors' computers on their first visit to a website by downloading a file (usually a trojan horse). These websites rely on unsuspecting users with poor anti-virus protection in their computers.|
|Blog (web log)||Sites generally used to post online diaries which may include discussion forums (e.g., Blogger, Xanga). Many bloggers use blogs like an editorial section of a newspaper to express their ideas on anything ranging from politics to religion to video games to parenting, along with anything in between. Some bloggers are professional bloggers and they are paid to blog about a certain subject, and they are usually found on news sites.||WordPress|
|Brand-building site||A site with the purpose of creating an experience of a brand online. These sites usually do not sell anything, but focus on building the brand. Brand building sites are most common for low-value, high-volume fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG).|
|Celebrity website||A website the information in which revolves around a celebrity or public figure. These sites can be official (endorsed by the celebrity) or fan-made (run by a fan or fans of the celebrity without implicit endorsement).||jimcarrey.com|
|Crowdfunding website||Platform to fund projects by the pre-purchase of products or by asking audience members to make a donation.||Kickstarter|
|Click-to-donate site||A website that allows the visitor to donate to charity simply by clicking on a button or answering a question correctly. An advertiser usually donates to the charity for each correct answer generated.||The Hunger Site, Freerice|
|Community site||A site where persons with similar interests communicate with each other, usually by chat or message boards.||Myspace, Facebook, orkut, VK|
|Content site||A site the business of which is the creation and distribution of original content||wikiHow.com, About.com|
|Classified ads site||A site publishing classified advertisements||gumtree.com, Craigslist|
|Corporate website||Used to provide background information about a business, organization, or service.|
|Dating website||A site where users can find other single people looking for long-term relationships, dating, short encounters or friendship. Many of them are pay per services, but there are many free or partially free dating sites. Most dating sites in the 2010s have the functionality of social networking websites.||eHarmony, Match.com|
|Electronic commerce (e-commerce) site||A site offering goods and services for online sale and enabling online transactions for such sales.||Amazon.com|
|Fake news website||A site publishing fake news stories, intending to deceive visitors and profit from advertising.|
|Forum website||A site where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages.||SkyscraperCity, 4chan|
|Gallery website||A website designed specifically for use as a gallery; these may be an art gallery or photo gallery and of commercial or non-commercial nature.|
|Government site||A website made by the local, state, department or national government of a country. Usually these sites also operate websites that are intended to inform tourists or support tourism.||For example, Richmond.com is the geodomain for Richmond, Virginia.|
|Gripe site||A site devoted to the criticism of a person, place, corporation, government, or institution.|
||A site that lets users play online games such as gambling.|
|Humor site||Satirizes, parodies or amuses the audience.||The Onion|
|Information site||Most websites fit in this category to some extent. They do not necessarily have commercial purposes.||Most government, educational and nonprofit institutions have an informational site.|
|Media-sharing site||A site that enables users to upload and view media such as pictures, music, and videos||YouTube, DeviantArt|
|Mirror site||A website that is the replication of another website. This type of website is used as a response to spikes in user visitors. Mirror sites are most commonly used to provide multiple sources of the same information, and are of particular value as a way of providing reliable access to large downloads.|
|Microblog site||A short and simple form of blogging. Microblogs are limited to certain amounts of characters and works similar to a status update on Facebook.|
|News site||Similar to an information site, but dedicated to dispensing news, politics, and commentary.||cnn.com|
|Personal website||Websites about an individual or a small group (such as a family) that contains information or any content that the individual wishes to include. Such a personal website is different from a celebrity website, which can be very expensive and run by a publicist or agency.|
|Phishing 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, a bank) in an electronic communication (see Phishing).|
|Photo sharing site||A website created to share digital photos with the online community. (see Photo sharing).||Flickr, Instagram, Imgur|
|p2p/Torrents website||Websites that index torrent files. This type of website is different from a Bit torrent client which is usually a stand-alone software.||Mininova, The Pirate Bay, IsoHunt|
|Political site||A site on which people may voice political views, provide political humor, campaign for elections, or provide information about a certain candidate, political party or ideology.|
|Porn site||A site that shows sexually explicit content for enjoyment and relaxation. They can be similar to a personal website when it's a website of a porn actor/actress or a media sharing website where user can upload from their own sexually explicit material to movies made by adult studios.||Pornhub|
|Question and Answer (Q&A) site||Answer site is a site where people can ask questions & get answers.||Quora, Yahoo! Answers, Stack Exchange Network (including Stack Overflow)|
|Religious site||A site in which people may advertise a place of worship, or provide inspiration or seek to encourage the faith of a follower of that religion.|
|Review site||A site on which people can post reviews for products or services.||Yelp, Rotten Tomatoes|
|School site||a site on which teachers, students, or administrators can post information about current events at or involving their school. U.S. elementary-high school websites generally use k12 in the URL|
|Scraper site||a site which largely duplicates the content of another site without permission, without actually pretending to be that site, in order to capture some of that site's traffic (especially from search engines) and profit from advertising revenue or in other ways.|
|Search engine site||A website that indexes material on the Internet or an intranet (and lately on traditional media such as books and newspapers) and provides links to information as a response to a query.||Google Search, Bing, GoodSearch, DuckDuckGo, Ecosia|
|Shock site||Includes images or other material that is intended to be offensive to most viewers||Goatse.cx, rotten.com|
|Showcase site||Web portals used by individuals and organisations to showcase things of interest or value|
|Social bookmarking site||A site where users share other content from the Internet and rate and comment on the content.||StumbleUpon, Digg|
|Social networking site||A site where users could communicate with one another and share media, such as pictures, videos, music, blogs, etc. with other users. These may include games and web applications.||Facebook, Google+|
|Social news||A social news website features user-posted stories that are ranked based on popularity. Users can comment on these posts, and these comments may also be ranked. Since their emergence with the birth of web 2.0, these sites are used to link many types of information including news, humor, support, and discussion. Social news sites allegedly facilitate democratic participation on the web.||Reddit, Digg, SlashDot|
|Warez||A site designed to host or link to materials such as music, movies and software for the user to download.|
|Webcomic||An online comic, ranging in various styles and genres unique to the World Wide Web.||Penny Arcade, xkcd, Gunnerkrigg Court|
|Webmail||A site that provides a webmail service.||Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo!|
|Web portal||A site that provides a starting point or a gateway to other resources on the Internet or an intranet.||msn.com, msnbc.com, Yahoo!|
|Wiki site||A site in which users collaboratively edit its content.||Wikipedia, wikiHow, Wikia|
Some websites 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 e-commerce site or business site (that is, it is trying to sell memberships for access to its site) or have social networking capabilities. A fansite may be a dedication from the owner to a particular celebrity. Websites are constrained by architectural limits (e.g., the computing power dedicated to the website). Very large websites, such as Facebook, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Google employ many servers and load balancing equipment such as Cisco Content Services Switches to distribute visitor loads over multiple computers at multiple locations. As of early 2011, Facebook utilized 9 data centers with approximately 63,000 servers.
In February 2009, Netcraft, an Internet monitoring[disambiguation needed] company that has tracked Web growth since 1995, reported that there were 215,675,903 websites with domain names and content on them in 2009, compared to just 19,732 websites in August 1995. After reaching 1 billion websites in September 2014, a milestone confirmed by NetCraft in its October 2014 Web Server Survey and that Internet Live Stats was the first to announce—as attested by this tweet from the inventor of the World Wide Web himself, Tim Berners-Lee—the number of websites in the world has subsequently declined, reverting to a level below 1 billion. This is due to the monthly fluctuations in the count of inactive websites. The number of websites again grew to over 1 billion in March 2016, and has continued growing since.
- "website – definition of website by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia". Thefreedictionary.com. Retrieved 2011-07-02.
- "The website of the world's first-ever web server". Retrieved 2008-08-30.
- Cailliau, Robert. "A Little History of the World Wide Web". Retrieved 2007-02-16.
- "Internet, Web, and Other Post-Watergate Concerns". University of Chicago. Retrieved 2010-09-18.
- "AP tweets that it will change from Web site to website". Retrieved 2010-04-16.
- Web Server Survey | Netcraft. News.netcraft.com. Retrieved on 2013-06-15.
- Total number of Websites | Internet live stats. internetlivestats.com. Retrieved on 2015-04-14.
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