The evolution of web protocols

Publication Date01 March 1999
Date01 March 1999
AuthorBrian Kelly
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Library & information science
Journal of Documentation, Vol. 55, No. 1, January 1999
© Aslib, The Association for Information Management.
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This paper outlines the evolution of World Wide Web protocols.
The paper reviews the original protocols developed for the web, in
addressing, transport and data formats. A review of developments
of the protocols is given, including developments of web data
formats (HTML 4.0, cascading stylesheets and XML), transport
(HTTP/1.1 and HTTP/NG) and addressing (URLs). The paper
describes how the web initially lacked a metadata architecture and
outlines the emergence of a metadata architecture for the web.
The paper includes a review of web technologies which have a
social impact on our society, including the Web Accessibility
Initiative, the Digital Signature Initiative and the Platform for
Privacy Preferences Project.
The World Wide Web (often referred to as WWW or the web) has been defined as
‘the universe of network-accessible information, the embodiment of human
knowledge’ [1]. The web is based on a set of protocols and conventions which
initially covered the data format of resources, the addressing of resources and the
transport of resources across the Internet:
Formats: The native format for resources on the web is HTML, the
Hypertext Markup Language.
Transport: The HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) provides the mecha-
nism by which web browsers and other user agents access resources.
Addressing: Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) provide an address for
resources on the web.
The development of these protocols is given below.
Early Days
HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is an application of SGML (Standard
Generalised Markup Language). The first release, HTML 1.0 [2] provided the
hypertext linking which web users today will be familiar with. HTML 1.0, in
keeping with the spirit of SGML of defining the structural elements in documents,
included the basic structural elements this used today, such as paragraphs (the
Journal of Documentation, vol. 55, no. 1, January 1999, pp. 71–81

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