The Language Teacher Online Vol. 21. No. 1. (Page 20). Jan. 1997.

An Introduction to the World Wide Web

Tim Newfields & Steve McGuire
Tokai University & Chubu University

This article introduces the World Wide Web (WWW) along with a brief look at resources on the Web for foreign language educators in Japan.

Why should language teachers be interested in the World Wide Web? For two reasons: networking and research. First, the Web may be the best way to overcome geographic boundaries and meet other teachers around the world. Both teachers and students can gain opportunities to express themselves to a wider audience, and to interact with peers across the globe. To illustrate this sort of networking, visit the students of Seiryo High School at [Expired Link]

A second reason many language teachers are interested in the Web is for research. Not only is it possible to read many ESL articles on the Web, it is also easy to get up-to-date information about research projects and conferences. Moreover, telephone numbers, software updates, or to contact other scholars can be obtained.

Web Basics

The World Wide Web is a part of the Internet where text, graphics, video, and audio (when used in combination, these are often referred to as "multimedia") are combined in a way that allows users to move from one location to another by clicking on a word or graphic image. More technically, the WWW can be described as any Internet resource written in a language known as HTML (HyperText Mark-up Language). Web technology is rapidly changing and the latest version of HTML supports video frames, sound files, and new ways of displaying text.

There are basically two ways to reach the Web. If you are using a commercial service such as CompuServe or America Online, you should access the Web directly through the special software provided by those services. If, however, you have a direct Internet connection, you can use any Web browser listed in the following section. Article 1 in this series already mentioned suggestions on how to prepare your computer for installation of a Web browser.

Web Browsers

Web browsers are navigational aides to help you move around the World Wide Web. Though it is possible to access information on the WWW without Web browser software, it is getting more and more difficult to do so, since graphics are now an integral part of many Web pages. Your experience of the Web will depend to a large degree on the type of browser you use. Although over a hundred different types of Web browsers have been developed according to ThreeToad Multimedia (1996), the four mentioned in Table 1 account for over 95% of the Web browsers currently used to access the Internet.

Table 1. Some Popular World Wide Web Browsers
Source: [Aug. 9, 1996.]
Netscape Navigator NCSA Mosaic Microsoft Explorer Lynx

Once you have obtained and installed a browser, using it to navigate the Internet is easy. You can either click on the buttons on your browser (such as "What's New?," "What's Cool?," "Destinations," or "Net Search" on Navigator) - or type in the address of a destination you would like to go to (in Navigator you type this address in the box called "Netsite" or "Location"). Net addresses are usually given between "less than" and "greater than" signs, as in

Places to Go

With over 55 million Web sites in existence as of July 1996, and hundreds more appearing and disappearing each day according to a North Carolina State University survey, the Web offers a bewildering range of places to visit. Although the Web claims to be "world wide," it is worth noting that 77% of all Web pages originate in the USA, Canada, the UK, and Australia. As a result, English is currently the predominant language of the Web. Table 2 lists some places which might be of particular interest to foreign language teachers in Japan.

Table 2. Some Web resources for language teachers in Japan
Foreign Language Teaching Organizations ESL/EFL Job Information Homepages ESL/EFL Teaching Tips and Theories Pen-pal Connections Info on Japan

Creating Your Own Web Page

One of the best ways to learn about the World Wide Web is to create your own Web page. Many commercial Internet providers allow their members to create personal Web pages, provided the pages don't require too much disk space. If your Internet provider doesn't offer free Web space, you can make use of a public Web server which provides free Web pages for noncommercial purposes such as the ones at or These sites are free but since they are supported by commercial advertisers, small ads appear at the bottom of each page.

How does one create a Web page? There are many ways to do this. Most people prefer to purchase a special HTML editor. For the Macintosh platform, PageSpinner and Arachnid are popular shareware products. Commercial packages such as Adobe PageMill and Claris Home Page are also available. Two popular Windows shareware HTML editors are Alchemy and Webber. A popular commercial Windows program is SoftQuad HoTMetaL. Most commercial HTML editors run in the $75 to $100 range.

Other Web designers prefer to "capture" the HTML code of a page they like with their Web browser, then insert new text data while keeping all of the original HTML commands in their "new" Web page. Since personal home pages usually have a similar design, this is often a good option for beginners. You can also buy book/CD-ROM packages with samples of home pages, such as The Web Page Design Cookbook (1996) from John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Still other Web designers prefer to start from scratch when creating a new Web page and type in the HTML commands directly with a standard text editor. Although this requires learning HTML, it also provides the greatest amount of freedom. Web pages do not have to be fancy multimedia productions — many effective pages use simple HTML code with little use of graphics. These also load onto your computer screen faster. Table 3 lists some Web page information resources.

Table 3. Resources for Information about Creating Web Pages
HTML Primer by Nathan Torkington NSCA Beginner's Guide to HTML Pete Page's How to Announce Your New Web Site Webmasters: A Guide to Web Page Design


The World Wide Web is the fastest growing part of the Internet and a valuable resource for both language teachers and students. This article has introduced the Web and indicated some of its potential as an educational tool. The next article in this series looks in more detail at how teachers can use the Web as a resource for the classroom, and as a powerful research tool.

Chronological Index Subject Index Title Index
Copyright (c) 1997 by Tim Newfields & Steve McGuire