First, what is the web?
What is the web? It is a publicly accessible network of digital information that is beamed out to anyone who has a receiver to receive it.
You can’t see radio waves but you can pick them up and hear them with a radio, In the same way, you can hear and see the digital information that is all around us if you have a computer with a portal.
There are several portals, otherwise known as web browsers – Safari, Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Opera, Brave, Thunderbird, and others.
I sometimes think of a web browser like looking out of a window in a plane or a porthole on a ship at the world as we pass by. (portal …. porthole…. get the idea?)
Web browsers are like radio that can pick up signals. But unlike radios, browsers can not only ‘listen’, they can also send information back to the web host – information such as adding an item I want to purchase to my basket.
What is a server?
Servers are a collection of computers that are programmed to beam out digital information.
OK, now we know what the web is, what a browser is, and what a server is, we an answer the question – what is a web host?
What is a web host?
A web host is a company run by people and they have a collection of servers – computers that they have programmed to beam out digital information that can be picked up and read by web browsers.
Web hosts are businesses. They take up a tiny bit of space on their servers to put their own digital information to tell people they are in business. In other words, they have a website and they advertise that they are in business. And their business is to rent out space on their servers to customers who put their own programs on them so they can beam out the information they want to beam out to people worldwide.
So a web host is a business run by people. And they rent out space on their servers and allow customers to put their own digital information on the servers.
To put it another way, the customers who want to beam out digital information from the web host’s servers are website owners who have rented space on those servers.
Automattic is a web host
Let’s stop for a moment and think about WordPress.com. It is owned by a company by the name of Automattic (notice the two ‘tt’s in the name). It is unusual in that it lets people rent a bit of space for free. It also charges rent if people want certain things over and above the basic package, but essentially it is free to its users. It is also slightly unusual in that it only allows one kind of platform, namely WordPress.
What is a platform?
A platform is a system of code that can be put on a server and beamed out and read by people with web browsers. WordPress is an example of a platform but there are many others, such as Drupal, Joomla, Django, Ruby on Rails, ASP.net, Laravel, Symfony, Angular, and more.
What is a database?
Some code systems split the code into the design part and the part that has the data that changes from time to time. The design is the arrangement of the parts on the web page and the data is the information (such as these words) that are displayed within the design.
When you opened this page to look at it, the code displayed the design and it also went off and requested the data from the database and displayed it all together is the blink of an eye. If I publish this and then change the text at a later date, the changes will be made in the database. So anyone visiting the page after I make the change to the data will see the updated version.
When you go to a web page that has advertisements on it, they will probably be being fetched from a database on a completely different server – perhaps on Google’s servers – and all of it assembled in front of you in an instant. it’s the same with typefaces. Google, for example, has a free collection of fonts, and if a website owner codes his or her website to use Google fonts then when someone goes to look at the page, the page scoots off and fetches the font from Google’s servers.
It’s like a magic trick where the rabbit is pulled out the hat, but the ears come in from one place and the tail from another, and the flashing neon sign on the rabbit advertising rabbit food comes from somewhere else again, instantly.
What is a theme?
A theme is a particular design layout of the colours, the typography, sizing and positioning of the entire web site. If a person starts from scratch and builds the design of a website, they might not think of the design as a theme. But when someone writes code and builds and assembles the parts of the design and makes it available for other people with websites to use, what they are releasing for others to use is a theme.
And just to round off this set of definitions, the design of a particular page is called a template.