What is a Website?

A picture of a web pageThis is the first in a series of posts to explain what is going on behind the scenes when you browse the internet and manage your WordPress website. Today, I will explain what a website actually is, and you will learn the meaning of the terms “server” and “web host.”

A website is a collection of files, typically a file for each page of the website, plus other associated files such as stylesheets and images (we’ll talk more about those in another post). All of these files are stored on a special computer called a “server” that is connected to the internet.

A graphic of three small computers each connected to one large computerComputers that do nothing but provide files to other computers via a network are called “servers.” The internet is not the only kind of network that a server can be connected to. Businesses and other organizations may have private “internal” networks, where “local” servers store files and share them with the organization’s computers.

In the case of websites, the network the server uses is the internet, so it is called an “internet server.” Your web browser (such as FireFox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, or Opera) is a special program on your computer or other device that does two things. First, it downloads files from internet servers. Second, it opens those files to display web pages.

When someone wants to set up a website, they need space for their website files on an internet server, so internet surfers can download them. Companies that rent out internet server space for websites are called “web hosts.”

Picture of a computer with "for rent" on the monitorRenting server space from a web host is similar to renting an unfurnished physical space, such as an apartment or an office. The basic infrastructure is there, but it’s up to you to decide how to use the space.

There are also companies that offer internet server space with website-building tools already installed. WordPress.com, Weebly, Wix and SquareSpace are examples of this kind of combined service. These services are more like renting a home or office that is already furnished.

In the next post, we’ll answer the question “What is WordPress?

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