It’s something that we see everyday and something that we use so often that it’s practically invisible. Just how many people actually stop and think what the letters http actually stand for? Do they think that they just sit in a browser purely for decorative purposes?

This is actually one definition of an acronym that I knew before starting a column. It actually stands for hypertext transfer protocol. What this is, in effect, is a system of rules (or in this case a protocol) for transferring files (images, text, sound etc) over the World Wide Web. HTTP is an application protocol that that runs on top of the TCP/IP suite of protocols (the foundation rules for the Internet). For a fuller description check out this definition.

Now we know what it is, perhaps it’s more fun to speculate on what it isn’t. Hypertext is such a cool name for anything. It sounds like regular text, only better. The sort of text that perhaps does 40 push ups before breakfast; operates in four dimensions and plays bass with the world’s biggest band.

Hypertext sounds like the sort of guy you’d like to hang around with, who’d be sure always to buy his round, and perhaps a couple more besides.

Either that, or hypertext simply sounds like something that is beyond text; text the next stage. This is exactly what it is, as a matter of fact.

The term was coined back in 1965 by an American, Ted Nelson, to denote text that could actually stand for much more. This is, of course, way before the Internet was even a concept, and computers were huge big white things that looked more like fridges.

Hypertext is another example, therefore, of a concept that predated the web, but that has been taken up and adapted for Web use, much like the word. Whatever the origins, hypertext is a fundamental element of what makes the World Wide Web work, and perhaps something that is so important it actually manages to get overlooked.