Writing for the Web: A Primer for Librarians

by Eric H. Schnell


The power of the Web lies in the ability to associate a section of text or an image of an electronic document to another resource. This connectivity between electronic documents, or "hypertext", is achieved by the Web through the use of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). The linking of text to associated resources forms an electronic web of interconnecting computers existing throughout the world, hence the "World Wide" Web.

Even though the concept of hypertext has been around since Vannevar Bush wrote As We May Think for the Atlantic Monthly in 1945, it wasn't until 45 years later that HTML was conceived in a paper written by Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau of CERN called World Wide Web: Proposal for a HyperText Project . In was in this paper that the concept which created as a project to access data already available at CERN: reports, experiment data, personnel data, electronic mail address lists, computer documentation, and experiment documentation. It was also at CERN where the software to "browse" hypertext data was originally developed for the UNIX operating system.

The Web arrived at the desktop of librarians and remote library users with the release of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications' (NCSA) Mosaic. Since Mosaic's release in 1993, a multitude of other browsers, most notably Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer, have also been developed.

There are several advantages to using Web technology within libraries. The ability to update information instantaneously allows librarians to keep informational resources as current as possible. Another advantage is that library patrons can access Web-based resources from where ever they can gain access to the Internet and a Web browser.

Since the Web is "hardware independent", a single resource created by the library can be accessed and used by patrons with Macintosh, WinTel (Windows/Intel), or UNIX computers. This is also attractive to librarians since it saves time converting documents into other electronic formats.



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Page Updated: Monday, 04-Jan-99