Website – definition and meaning

A website or site is a virtual location on the World Wide Web. It contains several webpages and data files that Internet users can access through a browser. Explorer, for example, is a browser. Firefox, Chrome, and Safari, are also browsers.

Every website has its own unique URL, i.e., website address. If you type that address at the top of your browser, the homepage of your target website will appear.

We can also write the words ‘website’ and ‘webpage’ as two words, i.e.,  ‘web site’ and ‘web page’.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the term ‘Website’ emerged in the English language in 1994. It is a combination of ‘Web,’ i.e., in the Internet sense, plus Site.

Etymology is the study of the origin of words and how their meanings evolved over time.

Every site’s web address starts with ‘http://’. ‘http’ stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol’, which allows for the retrieval of linked resources from across the World Wide Web (WWW).

What is a website?
A website is a collection of web pages. We create them using html code. We use browsers, such as Explorer, Safari or Firefox. The browsers turn the code into something we can understand and use.

The homepage is the default or start-up page on a browser. In other words, is the website’s introductory page, which typically serves as a table of contents for the whole site.

The homepage contains hyperlinks to other pages on the same or other sites.

Website vs. webpage

A webpage is not the same thing as a website. Many people mistakenly use the two terms interchangeably.

A website is a collection of webpages. For example, is the website of the New York Times. It consists of hundreds of thousands of webpages. Giant sites, such as Wikipedia and Amazon, for example, contain millions of webpages.

A book is a collection of printed pages. Similarly, a website is a collection of webpages.

Servers host all the files and data of websitesComputers, which we call ‘servers, store or host files or documents that make up websites. When you instruct your browser to look at a website, it sends a request through the Internet to the server where that site is hosted. The server then responds by sending that page back to your browser.

The browser presents that data on your screen in a way that makes sense to you. In other words, the browser is an ‘interpreter.’

Each webpage generally has hyperlinks, i.e., words or images that take you somewhere. They may take you either to another webpage within the same site or another website. They can also take you to another part of the same page.

Functions of a website

Websites may have many functions and can be used in a wide range of fashions. For example, a site may be:

  • a commercial site
  • a personal site
  • a non-profit organization site
  • a government site
  • an online school or college
  • an online newspaper or journal
  • a social networking site
  • an entertainment site

All the websites that the public has access to collectively make up the World Wide Web. We also refer to it as the Web or WWW. Private sites, such as those for companies and their staff, are generally part of an intranet.

Many sites are subscription websites, i.e., you need to apply to join. They then give you a username and password, which you must use every time you log in.

Newspapers, journals, gambling sites, and message boards, for example, are subscription websites. Email services, social networking sites, stock market data site also require subscription.

The first website ever made
(Image: adapted from

CERN technicians created the first website. CERN stands for Organisation Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire (English: European Organization for Nuclear Research).

Technicians at CERN uploaded a file to what was then an infant Internet.

The organization took down the site 1993, because people considered it to be irrelevant by then. However, in 2013, it restored it because of its historical importance.

Static or interactive websites

There are two main types of sites – interactive and static:

Interactive sites form part of the Web 2.0 community of sites. They allow for interactivity between their owners and visitors or users. Put simply, in this type of website you can interact with it.

Static sites capture or serve information. However, they do not allow interactivity with the users or audience directly.

The Web has many different types of websites, each specializing in a particular type of use or content. We classify them as:

Affiliate – a site with few pages whose purpose is to sell a third party’s good or service. The owner of the website subsequently receives a commission on sales.

Archive sites are used to preserve valuable electronic content. In fact, many face the threat of extinction.

Attack sites have malicious intent. In other words, people specifically design them to attack visitors’ computers, tablets, or smartphones.

Blogs (Web Logs) are typically used to post online diaries which often include discussion forums. Owners of blogs are called ‘bloggers’.

Crowdfunding sites are platforms to raise finance or sponsorship for projects. People can pre-purchase goods. They can also make donations.

Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of different types of websites.

Number of websites globallyOver the past twenty-six years, the number of websites globally has increased from just 1 in 1991, to more than one billion today. In fact, the Web and the Internet have completely changed how humans work, rest and play. (Data Source:

World’s most popular websites

Below is a list of the world’s most popular websites, according to Semrush Open .Trends:

1. – a search engine giant.

2. – where users submit and view videos.

3. – a social networking website.

4. – China’s leading search engine.

5. – an encyclopedia that uses wiki software.

6. – an Internet portal and service provider.

7. – India’s version of Google.

8. – the largest and most used Internet service portal in China.

9. – user-generated news links.

10. – a shopping marketplace.

There is one thing all the most successful websites have in common. They have a very simple look and design. Therefore, when you develop a website, above all, follow the KISS Principle. KISS stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid! Complicated websites fail!