Let’s start at where it all began, with a brief history of how of the Internet came to be, outlined in the video below. After all, the development of the Internet is what makes it possible for us to even be in this class today.
A Timeline of the History of the Internet
Fast forward to the Internet of today and there are now millions of web pages being served up every second. Web pages are served up by servers (surprise!) that host web sites. These servers use Domain Name Services (DNS) to resolve requests for specific websites. Understanding how domain names work and how websites are hosted are both essential for anyone who wants to develop and/or maintain web sites.
What is a Domain Name?
Without domain names we would be forced to access web sites using IP (Internet Protocol) addresses like, http://184.108.40.206 (wordpress.org). Imagine trying to remember the IP addresses for all your favorite web sites, or trying to tell someone about a new site you found – not user-friendly! Instead, domain names like http://flickr.com and http://uaf.edu map IP address to more human-readable names that are easier for end users to work with and remember. A full domain name is comprised of a name plus a Top Level Domain (TLD). In the example flickr.com, “flickr” is the domain name and “.com” is the TLD. There are a number of TLDs such as .com, .net, .org, .info, .ru, and so on. You can see a complete list on IANA’s web site.
Hosting a Website
There are a number of ways to host your own website these days. The easiest is to start with a free point-and-click service that makes building a site very easy even for those with very minimal knowledge of web technologies. These are services provided by companies like Weebly and Wix. If you want a custom domain name, let’s say for your business, then you must reserve a domain name. Most domain names can be reserved for a nominal fee through a domain registrar and even through some of the point-and-click platforms. If you’re interested in building and hosting your own website, then you must also have a web server to make your website’s files available on the Internet. You can find a myriad of web hosts that will host your website. Your needs for your website will determine the cost. Once domain name and hosting services are configured properly, your are ready to start building a website, loading files, and driving traffic to your site.
The best way to wrap your head around how all of this works is to set up YOUR OWN website. For this class we will be doing just that. We will sign up for a free web space at Weebly.com. It will not be required for this class, but if you are interested in reserving your own domain name, you will be able to associate that domain name with the site you build on Weebly.com. Their custom domain service is a paid service. In contrast, the free web spaces on Weebly.com have concatenated URLs that are structured using the pattern “yourname.weebly.com”. You cannot remove the “weebly.com” if you only use the free account.
In this week’s lesson you will:
- familiarize yourself with the concept of hosting a web domain
- access and navigate your hosting account on Weebly
- manage files on a live web server
- build links (URLs) to web pages you create on your web server
- How DNS Works – Read all of the episodes
- A detailed Internet development timeline can be found at http://sixrevisions.com/resources/the-history-of-the-internet-in-a-nutshell
- Supplemental: If you have the HTML and CSS textbook, refer to the following pages
Web servers are simply computers that are connected to the Internet and configured to run web server software. The server software makes it possible for other hosts on the Internet to find and access files and folders on your web server.
Reserving a domain name is just the first step in setting up a web site. After reserving a domain name, one must select a web host. The web host provides server space for the files that will comprise the website. Web hosting companies are as abundant as domain registrars, and many companies provide both services.
When domain name and hosting services have been arranged, name servers are configured so that they point the domain name to the new web host. After configuring name servers it will usually take a little time before a website resolves to the new web host. Usually it will take anywhere from 30 minutes up to 6 hours. Years ago it used to take much longer – sometimes between 2-3 days! When a domain begins resolving, anyone will be able to access the domain on the new web server using a web browser. Launching a new website was often done over the weekend to avoid downtime. Unexpected things can, and often do, happen.
File Uploads and FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
In conjunction to learning how to create graphics and multimedia files, we must understand how to get those files onto the web to share them with others. In this class we will be using the file upload method to move our files from our local computers up to a web server. Chances are you have already used this method to load a file to the web. If you have ever been on a web page that asked you to locate a file you your computer’s hard drive, then click a button to upload that file, you have used the file upload method. Easy right? This method allows you to load files using your web browser.
Another method of loading files to a web server is done using FTP, or File Transfer Protocol. There are numerous FTP clients (software), both free and paid, that you can use to move your files using FTP. Filezilla is one example. It is free to download, and to install it on your own computer. This method of moving files differs from the file upload method mentioned above in that it requires software separate from your web browser. FTP is handy if you have a large number of files to move to a server and want to do it quickly.
If you’re curious what using FTP to transfer files looks like, this screencast walks through the process of connecting and moving files.
We all need to know how to create URLs so that we can send to people resources with whom we wish to share. There is a short video on building URLs below if you are not comfortable with web server file structures.
Set Up Your Browsers with Firefox and Chrome Extensions
If you’re not using Firefox or Google’s Chrome browsers to access web pages, you will be encouraged to do so in this class. There are a number of browser extensions that I will mention throughout the semester that will help you learn more about the pages you are browsing and, consequently, help you with homework. Below are a few to get you started. Once you’ve installed Firefox or Chrome browsers on your computer, you can follow the links in the list below and follow the prompts to install them. (Note that you will need to restart Firefox for new extensions to take effect.)
Many of these extensions are also available for the Chrome browser. If you use Chrome more than Firefox, no problem. Search the Chrome store for equivalent extensions. They are out there.
Assignment and a Look Ahead:
Complete these tasks before continuing to Lesson 02:
- Complete Assignment 01, parts 1 and 2
- Familiarize yourself with the Adobe Photoshop interface (or whichever image editor you have decided you will use in place of Photoshop). Create a new document and experiment with the tools in the toolbar. Remember that the “Help” menu is a valuable resource for learning more about a software application. We’ll begin learning about specific tools to use with raster graphics next week; for now a little experimentation is adequate.