What is a Website? Basic Answer: A Website is simply a main/root folder, with website pages inside it, that is stored on a Master Internet Computer known as a Server. The Internet itself, or World Wide Web as it is known, is simply a collection of Master Internet Computers (Servers) from all around the world that are able to connect to each other in order to share/display website content with you. Content such as Text Information, Audio/Video files, Downloadable Software files and other Website Page files. The main/root folder of a website is usually named after its www domain name, such as maccomputerlessons.com or bbc.co.uk.
You view the contents of a main/root folder (website folder) by using an application called a web browser or internet browser. Safari, Firefox and Google Chrome are all website browsers / internet browsers. It is a website (internet) browser's job to connect you to a specific Master Internet Computer (Server) in order to view the website pages stored inside a specific main/root folder (website folder). Being able to view the contents of a specific main/root folder (website folder), from anywhere around the world via the Safari website browser application for example, gives you the ability to read/view the contents of its website pages as well as download its media files and fill in its application forms for example; if the website folder contains application forms and/or downloadable media files of course.
What the above means is: If you type www.bbc.co.uk into safari's Address Bar edit box for example and press the ENTER keyboard key, safari should then connect to the Master Internet Computer (Server) that is storing the main/root folder (website folder) called bbc.co.uk. Furthermore it should then display the contents that makes up the main website page you see when first visiting bbc.co.uk. That main website page, stored inside the main/root (bbc.co.uk) folder, is known as the Index Page (see below).
Fig 1.0 A website is just a folder containing website pages made up of Text, Images and Audio/Video files.
The following example shows what a website's Main Folder looks like behind the scenes. Here I am showing you what the main folder of this website (maccomputerlessons.com) looks like. On the left-side are the website sub-folders and files as I create them on my computer and on the right-side are exactly the same website sub-folders and files when they have been uploaded to (stored inside) the main/root folder called maccomputerlessons.com that resides on my web hosting company's Master Internet Computer (Server).
Fig 1.1 Inside the main/root folder of this website (right-side) on my web hosting company's computer (server)
The codes/instructions tell Safari what content to use (i.e. Text, Image, Audio/Video and/or Animation files), which folder or sub-folder within the Master internet Computer (Server) to fetch that content from and how to display the content; how to display the Text Information itself, the Media (Audio/Video/Photo file) and the HyperLinks (Text Links, Picture Links, etc). An example of a website page is Fig 1.0 (above) and Fig 1.2 (below) - Their website page content (i.e. text and images) has been downloaded (fetched) from their respective Master Internet Computers (Servers) onto my computer ready for display by the Safari web browser application. So my computer now has an exact copy of that downloaded (fetched) website page content on it.
Inside each main/root folder, or sub-folder, of a website there is normally a text file (website page) called index.htm, index.php or index.html. It is called the Index website page because it is supposed to index all the other website pages and/or multimedia files within its folder, and because it is normally the first website page (text file) that a website browser application (such as Safari) will open/read/display when no reference to an index website page has been specified in the URL (explained later).
Fig 1.2 The BBC's WEATHER Index Page - Its URL is not displaying index.html in the safari Address Bar edit box
In the above example if you type www.bbc.co.uk/weather/ inside safari's Address Bar edit box, instead of www.bbc.co.uk/weather/index.html for example, and then press the ENTER keyboard key safari will still display the Index website page (i.e. the website page content making up the index.html text file) by default. Why? Because behind the scenes the computer that is hosting the website (the web hosting computer - server) tells safari (or whatever web browser you are currently using) to display the content of the index.html text file (website page) whenever no specific website page has been typed into the Address Bar edit box.
A website address (web address) is normally a full www domain name. For example. This website's full www domain name is www.maccomputerlessons.com. So when someone asks me "What is your Website Address" I reply with "www.maccomputerlessons.com". Strictly speaking though, a website address (www domain name) does not have to end with .com. It can end with .net, .co.uk, .biz and so on. The full www domain name for the BBC website is: www.bbc.co.uk. So when someone says "Visit the BBC website" that is their short way of saying "Visit w w w dot b b c dot co dot uk".
Fig 1.3 The BBC's website address (www.bbc.co.uk) is being displayed inside the safari Address Bar edit box
A website address, just like a house address, tells you where to find something. For example. My house address tells everyone where I live and www.maccomputerlessons.com tells everyone where my Free Apple Mac Computer Lessons are.
An URL (Earl or U, R, L) is just another way of saying Path Name or website address that also states/includes the direct path to a specific website page or downloadable file for example. So if you wanted to view the website page on this website called How To Create An E-Mail Account for example you could type the website address www.maccomputerlessons.com into safari's Address Bar edit box, click on the INDEX link and then click on the link called HOW TO CREATE AN E-MAIL ACCOUNT USING MAIL. Or you could just type its URL directly into safari's Address Bar edit box: www.maccomputerlessons.com/how-to-create-an-e-mail-account.html. Either way will display the website page called How To Create An E-Mail Account Using Mail. With website addresses and URLs the forward slash / is used instead of a Path Name back slash \.
URLs come in all shapes and sizes. Take a look at the URLs in these next two examples. This first is a URL that displays a BBC iPlayer web page. Its main/root folder is bbc.co.uk. It then has four sub-folders - iplayer, episode, b01p8sr5 and EastEnders_07_12_2012. No index page was stated in the URL though, such as episode1.html.
Fig 1.4 This is an URL that displays the BBC iPlayer website page for an episode of tv programme Eastenders
With the second URL it displays a YouTube Video website page. Its main/root folder is youtube.com and its index page, which derives from the code: watch?v=4qV143L-G3U, tells the YouTube Video website what video to play. In other words, these kind of URLs pass a code to the index page which in turn may pass that code onto the actual video player on the website. This is what all URLs are ultimately doing anyway. Passing information through the Address Bar edit box (URL edit box).
Fig 1.5 This is an URL that displays the BBC iPlayer website page for an episode of tv programme Eastenders
So with the above knowledge: If someone said "Please e-mail me the link to that YouTube Video" they would be asking you to write down http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qV143L-G3U (or even www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qV143L-G3U) in an e-mail and send it to them so that they can then watch the same YouTube Video.
To view the content of a website page (text file) from a particular website (main/root folder or sub-folder) you use an application called a Website Browser (also known as an Internet Browser). The three common website browsers used by Apple Mac users are Safari, Firefox and Google Chrome; With others being Opera and Maxthon for example. You type a website address (i.e. www.bbc.co.uk) or URL (i.e. www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qV143L-G3U) into the website browser's Address Bar edit box (address box) and then click on its GO button.
In the case of a website address: The website browser then asks your ISP's (Internet Service Provider's / Broadband Company's) computer to make an Extended Internet Connection to the Master Internet Computer (Server) that is storing the main/root folder of the website you have just requested (the website address you have just typed). Once that Extended Internet Connection has been made the website browser then displays the requested website's main (default) website page (i.e. index.html). In the case of an url; The website browser goes one step further and displays the specific website page you typed at the end of the URL, instead of displaying the website's main (default) website page of index.html for example.
Because each website address is unique, just as a house address is unique, the website browser knows how to find the Master Internet Computer (Server) that is storing (hosting) your requested website's main/root folder and its contents. The website browser, together with other behind-the-scenes technologies, knows how to turn a website address (and an url) into a unique number (known as an IP Address) that identifies the server; just like a house has a unique postcode/zip code that the postman and post office know how to interpret.
The reason why I have briefly explained the Master Internet Computer, Main/Root Folder and Extended Internet Connection is because many people do not fully understand how the internet works as a whole. For example: They do not understand when you say "The Server Is Down".
A Server, when talking about the Internet (World Wide Web), is just one of many Master Internet Computers connected/joined together via a specific network (group of internet computers). Its like a group of friends from all over the world - Unless you are a member of that group (network of people) you are not allowed to communicate with any members of it in relation to their group meetings for example. And it's the same with a Server - Unless your computer is a member of the same network as the server it must get permission from elsewhere to become a member. Hence the need for a broadband internet connection, a website browser application and a ISP (Internet Service Provider / Broadband Company).
The website browser uses your broadband internet connection to connect to your ISP's computer. It tells your ISP's computer you want to visit the BBC website for example. Your ISP's computer then finds out which Master Internet Computer (Server) is hosting (storing) the BBC website before contacting that server. It makes friends with that server and therefore becomes a member of its network. Your ISP's computer then kindly asks the server "Can a friend of mine (your computer) look at that BBC website you are hosting?". At this point the server might say to your ISP's computer "Sorry, I'm not feeling too well", which basically means "The Server is Down - The Server is unable to display the BBC website".
On the other hand the server might say "Be my guest. Tell your friend they can view the BBC website anytime". In this case your ISP's computer downloads a copy of the BBC website onto its hard drive and then allows the website browser (i.e. Safari) to view (download/stream) the same downloaded website contents. So in this scenario your computer did not have to be a direct member of the server's network. It used the website browser application to influence your ISP's computer to become a member, thereby making your computer an indirectly member or guest at least in order to view the BBC website.
The above scenario is exactly the same for e-mails. It is your ISP's computer that goes and fetches (downloads) your e-mail from the Outlook server, GMail server, Yahoo server and so on. Once it has fetched (download) a copy of your e-mails from one or all of those servers it makes those e-mails available to the Safari website browser and Mail e-mail application for example. Either way, your computer did not have to become a direct member.
In the case of your ISP's (Internet Service Provider's / Broadband Company's) computer: It is also a Server (master computer) because it serves the needs of your computer and is the bridge between your computer and the internet. It stores sent and received data on its hard drive so it can check that data for viruses before putting it onto your computer (clean) or on to another computer (clean). With the same token: If someone sends you an e-mail using their GMail account, the GMail computer sending out the e-mail is a server for the person who sent you that e-mail. Computers that deal with e-mail are known as E-Mail Servers. For example: The application called MAIL sends your e-mail to your ISP's computer (e-mail server) before it then forwards your e-mail onto your recipient's computer (e-mail server).
Your computer is known as a Client computer because it is the client (customer). When your ISP's computer (server / e-mail server / master computer) cannot make an Extended Internet Connection to another computer (client or server), such as the GMail server (to check your GMail e-mail), you say "The GMail Server Is Down" because no extended internet connection could be made to it. In the case of GMail, who have millions of client computers (extended internet connections) to serve, sometimes their server (master computer / e-mail server) will shutdown. Wouldn't you fall down with tired legs if you had to serve a few million customers in 1 day.
Your computer can also change from a client computer to a server computer. For example: If you set up a wireless or cable network you can set it up so that your computer is the master computer - the server. So at the end of the day a server is just a computer that takes control of everything, which means it has to be clever and powerful.
A home page is the website page that you first see when your website browser starts. For example: If the home page is set to www.google.com, every time you open Safari the first website page it will display is the Index website page (i.e. index.html) from the Google website (main/root folder called Google.com). That home page will be downloaded (fetched) when an extended internet connection is made from your ISP's computer (server) to the Google computer - The computer (server / master computer) that is storing the main/root folder called google.com.
The home page doesn't have to be a website address. It could be an URL. For example: The home page could be set to www.bbc.co.uk/bbctwo/ if you wanted the BBC2 website page as the first website page to display when safari opens (launches). In this case the extended internet connection would be to the sub-folder called bbctwo of the main/root folder (website) called bbc.
The website page that would be displayed (not specified in the URL) is the index website page inside the bbctwo sub-folder. This is because the bbctwo sub-folder was the last folder to be named in the URL; hence why it is set to the current folder. And because no website page was given in the URL (i.e. television.htm) the default (standard/normal) website page is used instead, which is always the index website page. Hence why every folder (main/root folder and sub-folder) must have an index website page inside them. If the index website page does not exist you normally get an error website page displayed instead (i.e. Page Not Found) or you are able to see the contents (sub-folders and files) of that, unindexed, folder.