Saturday, May 19, 2007

What is a web site?

A British judge presiding over a terrorism related criminal trial apparently shocked the public when stating "The trouble is I don't understand the language. I don't really understand what a Web site is." That comment did not make the judge seem particularly competent, especially in the fifth week of the trial.

A judicial communications offer has now clarified that "Mr Justice Openshaw is entirely computer literate and indeed has taken notes on his own computer in court for many years. ... Mr Justice Openshaw was simply clarifying the evidence presented, in an easily understandable form for all those in court."

This raises the question of whether the question was a rhetorical one or, if, instead, the judge raised the more subtle question of categorization. What criteria must an entity meet to be a web site? Not all web sites have the "www" prefix. Some web site use the secure "https" preface. Not all URLs are web sites--they could be single files or addresses for FTP transfer.

There is also the issue of graded structure--which entities are the "better" exemplars of the category? Is a blog hosted on Blogspot a web site, or is the as a whole better seen as the web site, with each independent blog merely being a division of the site? Is my site at a web site in its own right? What about the backup site for my class immediately below the main site at

With the evolving technology and terminology, who really knows what a web site is?

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