Syncopated Systems
Seriously Sound Science

Publishing on the World-Wide Web

This article is part of a series about developing for and publishing via the World-Wide Web. The series begins with An Introduction to the World-Wide Web.

There are two common methods available for publishing information via the World-Wide Web: posting information on existing sites or creating a site of one's own. This section briefly describes the benefits, risks and procedures related to both methods.

Publishing via Another's Site

By far, the easiest way to publish information via the Web is to use one or more of the many sites that allow their users to publish. These sites typically allow their users to publish at no cost, using a "fill-in-the-blanks" approach that often does not require their users to be skilled in the use (and often not even aware of the existence) of markup languages. In exchange for the convenience they offer, however, many of these sites may censor and/or assume copyright ownership of works submitted. Popular examples include, and (News Corp./Fox).

Intra-Site Messaging

Though charging users fees to send messages may help reduce (but not eliminate) the number of unwanted messages received, sites that require users to pay fees to send and to read messages (including a few named above) generally provide very poor value to their users. This is because the number of messages delivered diminishes as a square of the proportion of users who do not pay the fee, as illustrated via the table below.

How Fees Limit Message Delivery
doesn't pay
Sender doesn't paymessage
not delivered
not delivered
Sender paysmessage
not delivered

For example, if half of a site's users pay its requisite fee to send and to read messages, the site will deliver only one quarter of all potential messages. Similarly, if only 10% (1/10th) of a site's users pay the fee, the site will deliver only 1% (1/100th) of all potential messages.

Publishing via Your Own Site

When a user seeks to retrieve a Web page by entering its identifier into the user's browser program, only one or two things happen. First, if a domain name is included in the identifier, the host computer's Internet protocol address number (similar to a telephone number) is looked up, or resolved. Then, the Web page is requested from the host computer. If the host computer is running a Web page server program, such as Apache, the host computer will usually attempt to fill the request.

The computers that serve these requests (at least the ones that do it reliably) all run Unix or Unix-derived operating systems and have persistent Internet connections with static (non-changing) addresses. Unless they already have such an Internet connection, most Web publishers will find a favorable economy of scale in outsourcing their Web site hosting to an Internet service provider (i.s.p.).

To publish Web pages on one of these servers, publishers will need to create and to transfer files to servers. Most publishers should ideally develop and test their content using a private server and local-area network (lan) before deploying it publicly via an Internet Web server.

To create and transfer files for Web publication, one should ideally be familiar and comfortable with operating a computer via a Unix shell (a text-based program that accepts typed commands and prints results) such as bash, csh, sh and/or tcsh, though current versions of Microsoft Windows now include the requisite ftp and telnet programs. Other programs may be used to create and transfer Web content, but most are notoriously unreliable and thus time spent using and learning to use them is often wasted.

For information about Unix, see An Introduction to the Unix Operating System.

For information about designing documents for Web publication, see Designing Documents for the World-Wide Web. For more general information about communication and publishing, see On Effective Modern Communication.

For other related information, On the Formatting of Dates and "Syncopated Software" Domain Name Dispute.