Web Acronyms

As a web user, you should know a little about how browsers work. Often, they are evaluated and described by way of acronyms. The purpose of this article is to list the most important ones, expand them and put them into a context. It was written for Opera employees and board members but I hope it can be useful for others as well.

Web browsers started out as quite simple programs in the early 1990’s. Now, 15 years later, they have become much more advanced with many interesting features. The basic functionality, however, is the same: a browser fetches web pages from web servers on the internet and displays the information to the user.

To accomplish this task, many acronyms are hard at work:

When TimBL had created all this, people on a mailing-list called www-talk got very excited. Many of them started making web browsers. The most famous among the early ones was Mosaic, developed at NCSA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications). Mosaic was the first browser that could display images. This was accomplished by adding the <img> element to HTML, thereby starting a long line of extensions to the original HTML language.

Today, three different image formats are widely used on the web:

Early web authors loved images. Images gave authors a control they always yearned, which the text-based HTML didn’t give them. So, they started making images of text to style the text in the right colors and fonts. This was not such a good idea as images are hard to read for machines (like Google) and the visually impaired. To give authors a better alternative, style sheets for the web were introduced:

Also, all modern browsers support these features:

The acronyms mentioned up to now are required components of a modern browser. If we left one of them out, pages would stop working. One acronym which, in an informal way, encompasses all of the above acronyms is AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML). Personally, I prefer to call it AJACS (Application in JavaScript, HTML and CSS) Before AJAX, there was DHTML (Dynamic HTML) which meant roughly the same thing.

The future will bring us more acronyms and technologies. Like always, most of them will fail, but some might stick. Here are two contenders that Opera support:

Opera is more than a web browser, it’s also an email and chat program. And you can use it to read RSS feeds and to fetch bittorrents. These technologies are supported:

One final acronym: W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) is an organization that generates acronyms for a living. Also, sometimes, it maintains existing acronyms. Opera is a W3C member and we participate in several of its working groups. Charles McCathieNevile, Opera’s CSO (Chief Standards Officer) and myself used to be W3C staff members. TimBL is W3C’s director.

howcome, May 2006