What is a website and how does it work?
Although websites have long become a part of our lives, quite a few people are still confused and don’t know exactly what a website is.
In this page, we will focus on the technical aspect of the concept of a website and how it works as part of the Internet space.
What is a website?
Purely linguistically, the term website means simply “place on the Web” (“web” means a network and is taken as a synonym for the Internet, and “site” simply means place). In other words, a website is just “a place on the Internet”. As simple as that.
However, from a technical point of view,
The website is a set of resources in the form of texts, illustrations, videos, or other content, together with the programs that manage them, thanks to which they can be visualized on the users’ devices (computers, tablets, smartphones).
All these resources and programs exist in the form of the most common computer files that are stored in a certain type of computer called web servers.
Clients and servers
Devices connected to the Internet (computers, tablets, smartphones) are of two types: clients and servers, or to put it a little more jokingly – clients and service staff … 😉
Clients are the typical devices (e.g. computer, tablet, or smartphone) that every user has and on which Internet access software is installed – the so-called web browsers such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Edge.
Servers, on the other hand, are computers that are constantly on and connected to the Internet, and where the websites themselves, which we talked about above, and their related resources – texts, illustrations, video, and other content – are stored.
When the client device (your computer, tablet, or smartphone) wants to access a web page, the server sends the resources associated with the requested page to the client device, where it is processed and you see the requested web page on your screen.
Communications, IP addresses, domains, and DNS
Having explained the two types of computing devices that interact on the Internet (clients and servers), let’s now explain how they connect and exchange information with each other.
Above all, it is important that the customer knows what he wants to get. In other words, he needs to specify the address of the server where his desired website is located.
Every device connected to the Internet has its own unique address called an IP address (pronounced IP address). Naturally, web servers also have such addresses. Thus, it is enough to set the IP address of the server where the desired site is located in the client’s browser, and it will open on his screen.
In reality, things work roughly like this, but with a little refinement. IP addresses are a series of four numbers, similar to a telephone number, such as 188.8.131.52.
However, such a series of numbers is not only difficult to write but also difficult to remember. This is where the domain name system comes to the rescue, associating these “phone numbers” with meaningful and memorable names, such as Google.com or WebsiteTalks.com.
The job of the Domain Name System is, by means of special servers called Domain Name Servers, or DNS for short, to “associate” a memorable name like Google.com with the IP address of the site associated with that domain so that the customer can connect exactly to the server where the requested site is installed.
How does it all work, step by step?
And now that we’ve explained how websites work in general, let’s also describe how it’s done step by step.
- The first step, of course, is the moment when the client types the domain name of the searched site into his browser. For example, Google.com.
- The browser calls the nearest DNS server with the question “What is the current IP address of this domain?”, after which it receives the series of numbers representing the IP address of the server where the requested site is located.
- Once it has that IP address, the client’s browser directly sends a request to the server with that IP address, “asking” it to send the content of the website installed at that address.
- If the server approves the client’s request, it returns an “OK” message (code 200) to the client, meaning “Sure, you can browse this website! Here it is,” and then starts sending the website’s files to the client’s browser.
- The client’s browser (your computer or mobile phone) interprets and “assembles” all the received files into a complete web page, and displays it on the screen.
And if you are now wondering what is the difference between a web page and a website, read our article dedicated to this very topic – What is the difference between a web page and a website?