A document which can be displayed in a web browser such as Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, Microsoft Internet Explorer or Edge, or Apple’s Safari. These are also often called just “pages.”
A collection of web pages which are grouped together and usually connected together in various ways. Often called a “web site” or a “site.”
A computer that hosts a website on the Internet.
A web service that helps you find other web pages, such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, or DuckDuckGo. Search engines are normally accessed through a web browser (e.g. you can perform search engine searches directly in the address bar of Firefox, Chrome, etc.) or through a web page (e.g. bing.com or duckduckgo.com).
Let’s look at a simple analogy — a public library. This is what you would generally do when visiting a library:
Let’s compare the library with a web server:
So, let’s dig deeper into how those four terms are related and why they are sometimes confused with each other.
Note: Browsers can also display other documents such as PDF files or images, but the term web page specifically refers to HTML documents. Otherwise, we only use the term document.
All web pages available on the web are reachable through a unique address. To access a page, just type its address in your browser address bar:
A website is a collection of linked web pages (plus their associated resources) that share a unique domain name. Each web page of a given website provides explicit links—most of the time in the form of clickable portion of text—that allow the user to move from one page of the website to another.
To access a website, type its domain name in your browser address bar, and the browser will display the website’s main web page, or homepage (casually referred as “the home”):
The ideas of a web page and a website are especially easy to confuse for a website that contains only one web page. Such a website is sometimes called a single-page website.
A web server is a computer hosting one or more websites. “Hosting” means that all the web pages and their supporting files are available on that computer. The web server will send any web page from the website it is hosting to any user’s browser, per user request.
Don’t confuse websites and web servers. For example, if you hear someone say, “My website is not responding”, it actually means that the web server is not responding and therefore the website is not available. More importantly, since a web server can host multiple websites, the term web server is never used to designate a website, as it could cause great confusion. In our previous example, if we said, “My web server is not responding”, it means that multiple websites on that web server are not available.
Search engines are a common source of confusion on the web. A search engine is a special kind of website that helps users find web pages from other websites.
Many beginners on the web confuse search engines and browsers. Let’s make it clear: A browser is a piece of software that retrieves and displays web pages; a search engine is a website that helps people find web pages from other websites. The confusion arises because, the first time someone launches a browser, the browser displays a search engine’s homepage. This makes sense, because, obviously, the first thing you want to do with a browser is to find a web page to display. Don’t confuse the infrastructure (e.g., the browser) with the service (e.g., the search engine). The distinction will help you quite a bit, but even some professionals speak loosely, so don’t feel anxious about it.
Here is an instance of Firefox showing a Google search box as its default startup page: