A website, also written as web site, or simply site, is a set of related web pages typically served from a single web domain. A website is hosted on at least one web server, accessible via a network such as the Internet or a private local area network through an Internet address known as a uniform resource locator (URL). All publicly accessible websites collectively constitute the World Wide Web.
Web pages, which are the building blocks of websites, are documents, typically written in plain text interspersed with formatting instructions of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML, XHTML). They may incorporate elements from other websites with suitable markup anchors. Webpages 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 of the webpage content. The user's application, often a web browser, renders the page content according to its HTML markup instructions onto a display terminal.
The pages of a website can usually be accessed from a simple Uniform Resource Locator (URL) called the web address. The URLs of the pages organize them into a hierarchy, although hyperlinking between them conveys the reader's perceived site structure and guides the reader's navigation of the site which generally includes a home page with most of the links to the site's web content, and a supplementary about, contact and link page.
Some websites require a subscription to access some or all of their 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, and websites providing various other services (e.g., websites offering storing and/or sharing of images, files and so forth).
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 web sites 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 PHP, Perl, Python, and Ruby, to make it faster and easier to create complex dynamic web sites.
A site can display the current state of a dialogue between users, monitor a changing situation, or provide information in some way personalized to the requirements of the individual user. For example, when the front page of a news site is requested, the code running on the web server might combine stored HTML fragments with news stores retrieved from a database or another web site via RSS to produce a page that includes the latest information. Dynamic sites can be interactive by using HTML forms, storing and reading back browser cookies, or by creating a series of pages that reflect the previous history of clicks. Another example of dynamic content is when a retail website with a database of media products allows a user to input a search request, e.g. for the keyword Beatles. In response, the content of the web page will spontaneously change the way it looked before, and will then display a list of Beatles products like CDs, DVDs and books.
One way to simulate a certain type of dynamic web site while avoiding the performance loss of initiating the dynamic engine on a per-user or per-connection basis, is to periodically automatically regenerate a large series of static pages.
Multimedia and interactive content
A more recent trend in websites called "responsive design" has given the best of viewing experience as it provides with a device based layout for users. These websites change their layout according to the device or mobile platform thus giving a rich user experience.
The form "website" has become the most common spelling, but "Web site" (capitalised) and "web site" are also widely used, though declining. Some in academia, some large book publishers, and some dictionaries still use "Web site", reflecting the origin of the term in the proper name World Wide Web. There has also been similar debate regarding related terms such as web page, web server, and webcam.
Among leading dictionaries and encyclopedias, the Canadian Oxford Dictionary prefers "website", and the Oxford English Dictionary changed to "website" in 2004. Wikipedia also uses "website", but Encyclopædia Britannica uses both "Web site" and "Website". Britannica's Merriam-Webster subsidiary uses "Web site", recognising "website" as a variant.
Among leading language-usage commentators, Garner's Modern American Usage says that "website" is the standard form, but Bill Walsh, of The Washington Post, argues for using "Web site" in his books and on his website (however, The Washington Post itself uses "website").
Types of website
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. Static sites serve or capture information but do not allow engagement with the audience directly.
Some web sites are informational or produced by enthusiasts or for personal use or entertainment. Many web sites 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 web site
- Advertising products or services available at a brick and mortar business
- Freemium - basic content is available for free but premium content is paid
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:
|Click "show" or "hide" to toggle this table|
|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. 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.|
|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, Ripple (charitable organisation)|
|Community site||A site where persons with similar interests communicate with each other, usually by chat or message boards.||Myspace, Facebook, orkut|
|Content site||A site the business of which is the creation and distribution of original content||Slate, 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 range relationships, dating, or just friends. Many of them are pay per services, but there are many free or partially free dating sites. Most dating sites today 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|
|Forum website||A site where people discuss various topics.|
|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. Some enable people to gamble online.|
|Humor site||Satirizes, parodies or otherwise exists solely to amuse.|
|Information site||Most websites fit in this category to some extent. They do not necessarily have commercial purposes.||RateMyProfessors.com, Free Internet Lexicon and Encyclopedia. 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||Flickr, YouTube, Google Videos|
|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) in an electronic communication (see Phishing).|
|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, show political humor, campaigning for elections, or show information about a certain 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.|
|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 without permission the content of another site, 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|
|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, Total Knowledge|
|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, Orkut, Google+|
|Warez||A site designed to host or link to materials such as music, movies and software for the user to download.|
|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 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. We do expect, however, to exceed 1 billion websites again sometime in 2015 and to stabilize the count above this historic milestone in 2016.
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