An Introduction to the World Wide Web

Tim Newfields & Steve McGuire


The previous articles in this series noted how to find the hardware and software necessary to get online, provided suggestions on how to do so in Japan, provided a few "rules of the road" for easing onto the information highway, and introduced several professional discussion lists. This article introduces the World Wide Web (WWW) and looks briefly at resources on the Web for foreign language educators in Japan.

Why should language teachers be interested in the World Wide Web? There are basically two reasons: networking and research.

First, the Web may be the best way to overcome geographic boundaries and meet other teachers around the world. Both teachers and students can gain opportunities to express themselves to a wider audience, and to interact with peers across the globe. To illustrate this sort of networking, visit the students of Seiryo High School or others in the ESL/EFL profession at

A second reason many language teachers are interested in the Web is for research. Not only is it possible to read many ESL articles on the Web, it is also easy to get up-to-date information about research projects and conferences. Many teachers also use the Web to obtain telephone numbers, software updates, or to contact other scholars.

Web Basics

The World Wide Web is a part of the Internet where text, graphics, video, and audio (when used in combination, these are often referred to as "multimedia") are combined in a way that allows users to move from one location to another by clicking on a word or graphic image. More technically, the WWW can be described as any Internet resource written in a language known as HTML (HyperText Mark-up Language). Web technology is rapidly changing and the latest version of HTML supports video frames, sound files, and new ways of displaying text. To take advantage of these new features, make sure the software you use to view the Web supports the latest version of HTML, which is Ver. 3.2.
There are basically two ways to reach the Web. If you are using a commercial service such as CompuServe or America Online, you should access the Web directly through the special software provided by those services. If, however, you have a direct Internet connection, you can use any Web browser listed in the next section, Web Browsers. Article 1 in this series offered suggestions on how to prepare your computer for installation of a Web browser.

Web Browsers

Web browsers are navigational aides to help you move around the World Wide Web. Though it is possible to access information on the WWW without Web browser software, it is getting more and more difficult to do so, since graphics are now an integral part of many Web pages. Your experience of the Web will depend to a large degree on the type of browser you use. Although over a hundred different types of Web browsers have been developed, the four mentioned in Fig. 1 account for over 95% of the Web browsers currently used to access the Internet.

  • Netscape Navigator - Navigator is still widely regarded as the premiere Web browser. Available in commercial "gold" versions for Windows, Macintosh, and UNIX users for ¥7,000 from computer shops, and in full-featured versions which are free to educators, Navigator has a high degree of versatility and makes Web navigation easy by "remembering" previous links and indexing the addresses of specific Web pages (known as "bookmarks"). Version 2.0 of this software enables users to send and receive e-mail and play videos and sounds using third-party add-on software programs. Version 3.0 has improved security protocols, making it safer to send credit card or any personal information over the Internet, and handles videos and sounds more effortlessly by integrating some third-party software programs directly into Navigator. Navigator has Java support, enabling designers to add moving graphic images to their home pages.
  • A free evaluation copy of Navigator can be downloaded at Those with ftp access can download the program from using a browser. MS Windows users can also use an ftp program such as CuteFTP to download Navigator and Mac users can use Fetch at (CuteFTP and Fetch are both inexpensive shareware programs available on floppy disk with many Internet books.)
  • NCSA Mosaic - Mosaic supports some HTML Ver. 3 extensions, but its graphic engine is regarded as a bit slow by many Web users; images take longer to load on screen. Version 2 for Macintosh and Windows is available in The Mosaic Handbook (1993) published by O'Reilly & Associates. Version 3 can be downloaded from Different versions of Mosaic are also marketed by Spyglass and CompuServe.
  • Microsoft Explorer - MS Explorer has nearly all the same features as Navigator 3.0, plus a few unique extensions such as the ability to play certain background soundtracks on a Web page. Like Navigator , version 3.0 of Explorer also has Java support. Available for both Windows and Macintosh platforms, MS Explorer is currently free and can be downloaded at
  • Lynx - Some universities and Internet providers which still do not provide access to the WWW with a graphics browser like Navigator may provide a program called Lynx, which converts graphical Web pages into text through which you move using your tab or cursor keys. Lynx must be installed by the operators of the system and not the average user. To see if your Unix or VAX system has Lynx, just type lynx at the command prompt of your terminal. Version 2.5 of this software can be downloaded at The University of Kansas also provides telnet access to Lynx at


Fig. 1. Some Popular World Wide Web Browsers (Source: Aug. 9, 1996.)

Once you have obtained and installed a browser, using it to navigate the Internet is easy. You can either click on the buttons on your browser (such as "What's New?," "What's Cool?," "Destinations," or "Net Search" on Navigator) or type in the address of the destination you would like to visit (in Navigator you type this address in the box called "Netsite"). Net addresses are usually given between "less than" and "greater than" signs, as in <> When you type in an address on your Net browser, you do not need to use the " < > " signs; you use them to distinguish the address from the rest of the text only when you are listing an address, or when sending e-mail.

Places to Go

With over 55 million Web sites in existence as of July 1996, and hundreds more appearing and disappearing each day according to a North Carolina State University survey, the Web offers a bewildering range of useful places to visit. Although the Web claims to be "world wide," it is worth noting that 77% of all Web pages originate in the USA, Canada, the UK, and Australia (source: http://www.nw. com/zone/WWW/top.html ). As a result, English is currently the predominant language of the Web.

Fig. 2 lists some places which might be of particular interest to foreign language teachers in Japan.

  • (1) Foreign Language Teaching Organizations - A good list of links to other foreign language teaching organizations is available at the Agora Language Marketplace This has succinct descriptions of a dozen language teaching organizations with links to their home pages and e-mail addresses of their main offices.
  • (2) ESL/EFL Job Information Home Pages - Probably the most comprehensive list of links to ESL/EFL/ESOL job sites online is at This site has links to over twenty Web pages containing job search information. Several of these are specific to Japan.
  • (3) ESL/EFL Teaching Tips and Theories - Looking for practical ideas for your classroom? You might try the ESL Idea Page at More academic in nature, the Centre for the Study of Classroom Processes contains some interesting theoretical information.
  • (4) Pen-Pal Connections - There are a number of electronic pen-pal pages on the Web. Our favorite is the ESL E-Mail Connection at This site has 10 to 20 messages a day from students of all ages around the world seeking pen pals. ESL Teachers interested in corresponding with other teachers across the globe can contact
  • (5) Information on Japan - One excellent source of English information about Japan on the Web is the Japan Window A cooperative effort between NTT and Stanford University, this page features information about technology, business, job opportunities, and employment, along with stuff for kids, and an event calendar of upcoming conferences in Japan. It also has links to the top ten "cool" Japanese Web sites of the week.

Fig. 2. Some Web resources for language teachers in Japan

Creating Your Own Web Page

One of the best ways to learn about the World Wide Web is to create your own Web page. Many commercial Internet providers allow their members to create personal Web pages, provided the pages don't require too much disk space. If your Internet provider doesn't offer free Web space, you can make use of a public Web server which provides free Web pages for non-commercial purposes such as the ones at or These sites are free but since they are supported by commercial advertisers, small ads appear at the bottom of each "free" Web page.

How does one create a Web page? There are many ways to do this. Most people prefer to purchase a special HTML editor. For the Macintosh platform, PageSpinner and Arachnid are particularly popular shareware products. Commercial packages such as Adobe PageMill and Claris Home Page are also available. Two popular Windows shareware HTML editors are Alchemy and Webber webber. A popular commercial Windows program is SoftQuad HoTMetaL. Most commercial entry-level HTML editors run in the $75 to $100 range.

Other Web designers prefer to "capture" the HTML code of a page they like with their Web browser, then insert new text data while keeping all of the original HTML commands in their "new" Web page. Since personal home pages usually have a similar design, this is often a good option for beginners. You can also buy book/CD-ROM packages with samples of home pages, such as The Web Page Design Cookbook (1996) from John Wiley and Sons, Inc. [ISBN 0-471-1303907].

Still other Web designers prefer to start from scratch when creating a new Web page and type in the HTML commands directly with a standard text editor. Although this requires learning HTML, it also provides the greatest amount of freedom. Web pages do not have to be fancy multimedia productions -- many effective pages use simple HTML code with little use of graphics. These also load onto your computer screen faster.

Fig. 3 lists some resources providing information about how to create a home page.

Fig. 3. Resources for information about creating Web pages


The World Wide Web is the fastest growing part of the Internet and a valuable resource for both language teachers and students. This article has introduced the Web and indicated some of its potential as an educational tool. The next article in this series looks in more detail at how teachers can use the Web as a resource for the classroom, and as a powerful research tool.