Yorkville High School Computer Science Department
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Yorkville High School Computer Science

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Web Design II for Developers :: Lessons :: The History of the Internet

The Browser Wars

The browser wars refer to the competition between Microsoft and Netscape Communications and their web browsers, Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. These browser wars led to disjoint web standards in the early days of the internet, but also helped establish access to the web as something that should be free an open to all. The video below gives a fairly detailed history of the browser wars, even if the narrator is pretty ridiculous.

Web Standards

During the browser wars, Microsoft and Netscape added unique features to their browsers that forced web developers to create multiple versions of every web page. Nowadays, major browsers support the majority of web standards that were developed by groups such as the Web Standards Project and the W3C. You can check HTML5 Test to see how well your browser or other browsers supports HTML standards or the Can I use... website to check CSS support. You can also use the Web Developer Toolbar in Firefox or Chrome to test your individual web pages for standards compliance. You can go to Tools>Validate CSS or Tools>Validate HTML.

In 2000, Microsoft released Internet Explorer 5 for the Macintosh, which supported many of the W3C recommendations. Netscape ended up postponing the release of Netscape Navigator 5.0 until it was more standards-complient. This work was eventually rolled into the first release of Firefox. Some popular websites also began to follow web standards such as Wired Magazine in 2002 and ESPN in 2003. In the video below, Jeffrey Zeldman, one of the founders of the Web Standards Project, talks about why standards are important for the web.

Content vs. Presentation

The content of the page is the most important part. Content is the meat of the page that people want to see. Mainly this is text, but it can also include images that are used to convey important information such as the images included in the lessons on this site. To see a website stripped down to just its content, use the Web Developer Toolbar in Firefox or Chrome and go to CSS>Disable Styles>All Styles. Using this tool will show you a bare bones site, but if it is a well-made website it should still be usable and you should still be able to access everything you need. Try it on this site to see how it works.

Presentation is what is used to make a web page look nicer. This includes elements such as color, font, and position. Images are also part of presentation if they are not essential to the page such as background images and images that are mainly used for decoration. CSS deals with the presentation of the page, which allows you to separate it from the content that is dealt with by HTML.

One of the best uses of CSS on the web can be found at the CSS Zen Garden. That site challenges web developers to come up with themes to change the presentation of the page, but the content must remain the same. They do this using different cascading style sheets. Check out a few of the different themes and note how the page text does not change.

Client-Side and Server-Side Languages

Client-side languages are programming languages that are run by the web browser. Javascript is the most prevealent client-side language and the one we will use in this course. Javascript also has a wealth of helpful libraries such as jQuery and AngularJS that make coding using Javascript easier or more efficient.

Web Page Requests

Server-side languages are programming languages that run on the web server. There are numerous server-side languages such as PHP, Node.js (the server-side version of Javascript), Python, and Ruby. The video below explains the difference between client-side and server-side languages as well as the request/response method of communication. To view requests and responses for a web page you can right-click in Chrome or Firefox and choose "Inspect." The Network tab will show you information about all the requests the page made as well as their responses.

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