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The Jedi Master Speaks

Principle Number 9

The Net is...A NETWORK.

em PortuguÍs nell'Italiano

As was said in the opening article in this series, the World Wide Web is, for all practical purposes, a single massively interconnected site. Although it is possible from the URL...just barely...to tell whether or not a particular Web page is part of a particular domain, what difference does it make? One link is just like any another, whether it transports the surfer to the other side of the world or just a different position in the same HTML page. Similarly, the actual location of any particular image is also irrelevant. The only thing that matters for a link or an image reference is that the server on which the target resides is up and running and that the referred URL still exists on that server.

Most Newbies on the Net are unaware, at first, of this stunning piece of information. They wonder who "owns" the site and just where in the world it is located. After a while this information fades into the background and they begin to treat the Web like the one humongous Web site that it really is.

But the implications to the Web site creator are immense. For example, why copy information from another domain when linking to it is simpler and, as an added bonus, the work of downloading the information is done by the host's server, rather than yours! The answer is that the domain where the information resides may disappear or the creators may decide to remove it from the Web, leaving your links pointing to nowhere.

But there is more. Using server based software, it is possible to download Web pages indirectly and rewrite them on the fly. Thus, if you wish to "frame" a page...i.e. put additional information in the margins of an existing Web page...with your own advertisements or links to your preferred sites, you may wish to remove so-called "stealth code" which prevents the page from being framed. Indeed, it is possible, but of questionable legality, to insert anything you wish directly into the page as it is being downloaded, to delete or modify anything you want from the page. Of course, this is just a variation on the common practice of generating HTML pages in their entirety, in response, say, to a surfer filling out a form on a Web page.

Advertisers are just beginning to wake up to the possibilities such flexibility allows. TechnoSurf AdWave, whose advertisements appear on some of the Dream Machine sites, claim that they not only can vary the ad presented with each load...or reload...of a page, but can also taylor the ads to appeal to surfer by observing...using the Web browser "history"...his or her viewing habits. We use a similar technique...without the tailoring...to present hot-link "ads" for our Web sites on the pages of a series of "service lists" that give the names, addresses, phone numbers, etc. of various types of retail businesses throughout the U.S.A..

As this series of articles progresses, we will give examples of server side programs that do various tasks. Some will, as mentioned above, rewrite pages being downloaded. Others will send out "personalized" form letters. Still others will create custom forms or email you the results of forms filled out by users. Finally, we will show you how to create a simple "spider," a software "bot" which seeks out Web sites and traverses them, reading the text and looking for particular types of text, such as mailto's, those ubiquitous pop-up email forms that make it easy to provide feedback about a Web site.

The network aspect of the Internet has just begun to be exploited. No doubt future developments, as yet undreamed of, will make this aspect of the Internet ever more important, as it becomes apparent to all that the world has been wired and that each and every one of us is in contact with everybody else...all the time. Should be fun.

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