When you turn on your computer, something happens. Of course there is the obvious electrical current running through it, but without the initialisation of a program, the computer does not know what to do; it is after all a bunch of switches that need to be turned off and on at the precise moments. The first thing is the BIOS of the computer. This little program is hard coded onto a chip on the motherboard and tells the computer how to connect with the drives. Once the connection to the drives is made then your operating system starts to boot. This operating system has its own unique lines of code which tell the computer what to do.
You see, without programs and protocols which have to be universal, the computer would not know what to do. Just as when you first start up the computer, every time you click on your browser’s icon and open the portal to the world, commands have to be given. You tell the browser where to go but in order to get there it needs protocols. It makes contact with a DNS (Domain Name Server) which tells it how to find the address. From there, there could be hundreds of addresses on the same server so the name is then passed through a DHCP which tells your browser where on that server to find the website.
All of this happens even before the page loads in milliseconds. But this is not all that happens. A website can be programmed in any number of formats; it can be dynamic which means it is developed in a programming language, or it can be static which means it is developed in HTML. Every webpage is divided into three sections; the metadata, the head and the body. I know, you are a bit confused because metadata goes into the head right? Well yes and no, the browser needs certain metadata in order to understand the page. This section tells the browser what language the page is written in, whether to enforce the language strictly or not as well as any other metadata concerning the page itself.
The actual website that you see is in the body of the page. This can be statically written information such as tables and even divisions. These can include classes, lists, IDs and a lot more which can be understood by the browser based on the style sheet. Furthermore, this information can be dynamic and is loaded based on who accesses the website. Dynamic web pages use what is known as SSI (Server Side Includes) which is development languages like PHP, C++, Perl and about a hundred other possibilities. When you access a page, these are loaded first and the browser never sees them, only the static results which are written temporarily for your browser to see.
There are practically thousands of operations that occur in such a short period of time that you would never even notice are happening every time you visit a website. Just as there are so many operations that are performed, there are just as many protocols used as well as files, folders and a whole lot more. Of course anyone can build a small website for their own use, but in order to make a large website for millions of visitors, you have to know all about these parts of the server and the protocols used. People go to college for years as a computer science major to learn them. If you have the willingness to do so, you too can learn how to develop like a professional by knowing and understanding the information they have been taught.
Original Authors: Nick
Edit Update Authors: M.A.Harris
Updated On: 22/12/2008