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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: June 2012



The technology supporting the World Wide Web enables computations and data to be distributed over networks of computers, and this lets you use programs that you don't have to install or maintain and gain access to information that you don't have store or worry about backing up. The World Wide Web is essentially a global computer with a world-wide file system.

Many of the documents in this huge file system are accessible to anyone with a browser and a network connection. Indeed, their authors really want you to take a look at what they have to offer in the terms of advice, information, merchandise and services. Some of these documents, we tell ourselves, contain exactly what we're looking for, but it isn't always easy to find them.

It's difficult enough to search through files full of your own personal stuff – now there are billions of files generated by millions of authors. Some of those authors are likely to be somewhat misleading in promoting whatever they're offering, others may be downright devious, and some will just be clueless, ignorant about whatever they're talking about. How can we sift through this morass of data and find what we're looking for?


Billions of files are stored on web servers all over the world and you don't need a browser to access them.