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June-March 2001

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How the Internet Works

Chances are, you're sitting in front of your computer, reading this article on your browser using echonews website, well, haven’t you wondered how this page was delivered to you, knowing that the server of echo resides at Massachusetts across the Pacific thousands of miles away?

If you do, then read on.

Aficionados of the famous Counter Strike would probably have a firsthand experience in dealing with servers, which is a very important component of the internet. Servers are those dedicated computers that serves information to clients such as your PC or Macintosh upon the request of your browser. Now let's take a look at what really happens behind the scene when you surf the net.

When you type a web address in the address bar of your browser like http://www.echonews.cjb.net, this is what happens to deliver you the page:

  • First your browser breaks the URL (Uniform Resource Locator) into 3 parts:

    1. The protocol ("http").

    2. The server name ("www.echonews.cjb.net").

    3. The filename ("index.htm").

  • The browser communicates with a Name Server to translate the server name into an IP (Internet Protocol) address, like 204.29.171.40, which it uses to connect to the Web Server that contains the webpage.

  • The browser then connects to the Web Server using that IP address on port 80.

  • Following the HTTP protocol, the browser then sends a GET request to the server, asking for the file http://www.echonews.cjb.net/index.htm, the server then sends the HTML text for the webpage to the browser (See Getting to Know Your Source Codes for more info on HTML).

  • The browser reads the HTML tags and formats the page onto your screen.

The first thing that your browser does is to break the URL you typed in the address bar into its protocol, the server name and the filename. By the way, protocol is an agreement between your browser and the web server on how they will communicate with each other, in our case we used the protocol HTTP that stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol.

Second, a Name Server is contacted to translate the server name (www.echonews.cjb.net) into an IP (Internet Protocol) address. As you can see, this translation stuff is for the sake of our dumb computers. They do not understand what we mean by www.echonews.cjb.net. What it can understand is the IP address associated with that domain name.

Third, the browser uses the IP address to connect to the web server containing the page.

For the exciting part, the fourth step involves the use of HTTP protocol to send a GET request to the web server, it’s like asking for a big cake on your birthday. Then comes the exhilarating part, receiving your cake, from the web server with love.

Lastly, you take a finger full of icing…well, sort of. Your browser finally interprets the HTML tags, whether a word should be in bold, italics, and so on.

These steps seem to be too tiresome, but thanks to our browsers, all are automated and done unnoticeably.

For a complete information about the topic please send a request to webmaster@echonews.cjb.net (You can also send your questions or share your own article). By Michael S. Poblete


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