INTRODUCTION: The World Wide Web (WWW), also known as the Web, is the most popular way to trawl through the information content of the Internet, the network of networks which has become part of everyday life for millions of people in all sectors of the community. The concept of the WWW began in March 1989 and was developed by Tim Berners-Lee of the European Particle Physics Laboratory (CERN). He proposed the project as an effective means of transporting research and ideas throughout the organisation.
The initial project proposal outlined a simple system of using a concept called “networked hypertext” to transmit documents and to communicate among staff in the high-energy physics community. Hypertext is the organisation of information into connected associations that a user can choose to make. An instance of such an association is called a link or hypertext link. The Web is just a vast amount of information content connected by similar and large number of hypertext links.
This allows movement between documents or information on the same Web site or between Web sites, providing a dynamic way of accessing information.
Through the early 1990s the concept was taken on board by computer developers and hundreds of people across the world contributed by writing Web software and documents, or educating others about the Web.
- By 1994 the Web was becoming recognized across the globe and the first International World Wide Web conference was held at CERN; Throughout 1994, Web success stories were published by the media;
- By the end of 1994, the Web had 10,000 servers, of which 2,000 were commercial, and 10 million users;
- By February 1997 the number of users had reached 57 million world-wide;
- By November 2000 there was a staggering 407 million users world-wide.
The Web today is a vast resource of information of all types, accessed and used by all sections of society, from research institutions and public and private sector organizations, to all sectors of the business community, as well as private individuals.
Very little of today’s world is not represented on the World Wide Web.
The use of the Web seems almost limitless. Every day people discover exciting new ways to use the development. Some use it to publish information about their company or hobbies whilst, increasingly, it is used to conduct business. Companies are being set up which rely totally on the Web as a delivery mechanism and are frequently referred to as Dot.Coms. The WWW is the interactive, graphical portion of the Internet, reflecting the fact that the millions of documents or pages of information stored on many computers found throughout the world, may contain text, images, sound and movie clips.
The computers that store Web documents are called Web servers. They run special software that lets you connect to the Web server and view the stored documents.
The considerable hype surrounding eCommerce could lead many Small Enterprises (SMEs) to believe that they are lagging behind if they are not part of the new trading revolution. Much of the hype relates to success stories about Internet selling, but SMEs should know that other types of e-Business relationships exist which can bring their own benefits.
Where much of the initial success was generated as companies sold selected consumer products to an Internet-literate audience, willing to buy on-line. SMEs can still succeed in this area without an on-line selling capacity simply by improving the marketing of their products to potential customers.
Interaction between businesses, either in an established supply chain or with new trading partners. An area which didn’t get as much publicity as the Business to Consumer activities but one which is now gaining more recognition because it is far more important to most small businesses, especially in the manufacturing sector.
A third category of eCommerce, still in the early stages of development, is in which the business community interacts electronically with public sector organizations. Submission of planning applications, VAT returns, income tax, or patent registration, all come within this category and B2A applications have the potential to bring even more companies into the world of electronic trading.