Not long ago, I was explaining to a translator the difference between the Internet and the Web. Understandably they thought they were the same thing, as most people do.
Jump forward a few weeks and I’m packing boxes ready to move house, wondering what I can throw out. A dusty edition of Running Linux from 1996 — surely that can go, being so out-of-date? But flicking through it I noticed a chapter devoted to “The World Wide Web and Mail” and this little gem:
The WWW provides a single abstraction for the many kinds of information available from the Internet.
And there you have it. Much more succinct than my long-winded attempt at explaining the difference. But the part that made me smile was this:
The World Wide Web (WWW) is a relative newcomer to the Internet information hierarchy. The WWW project’s goal is to unite the many disparate services available on the Internet into a single, worldwide, multimedia, hypertext space. Although this may seem very abstract to you now, the WWW is best understood by using it.
Reading this 17 years after it was written, it almost seems quaint — it’s hard to imagine now that readers of a technical manual would not know what the Web is. And yet because the book assumes no previous knowledge it manages to teach a concept in a way that’s clear and stands the test of time.
Who says technical books lose their value as they get older?