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This article reviews how websites have changed over time and the importance of the Joomla interface and its hidden database in building a modern interactive website. This topic is important because most web building tools will lead to a dead end because they fail to give you control over the hidden database that is the key to a successful interactive website.

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For your website to succeed, you need five things:
  • First, you need to secure a unique domain name for your website.
    Second, you need a web hosting company to place your site on their server. 
  • Third, you then need to install a web building program such as Joomla in the main folder on your web server.
  • Fourth, you should build your website in an interactive manner so that customers actually want to click on the button to buy your products and/or services. The images, text and prices which illustrate your products are typically organized by and stored in a series of hidden expandable tables known as a Data Base. 
  • Fifth, you need to motivate customers to link to your website and then interact with your website. We cover all five of these topics in this book and course. 


A Brief History of the Internet
The Internet began in 1969 as a way for two universities to exchange research data more rapidly. The first Internet link was established between UCLA and Stanford computers at 10:30 pm on October 29, 1969. The goal was to type in the word LOGIN. About 20 seconds after the link was established, the entire system crashed. They were however able to establish a connection and transfer data over a phone line using computer coding.


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Computer Guru Kleinrock


Below is an excerpt from an interview with Kleinrock describing what took place:

"We set up a telephone connection between us and the guys at SRI...”
"We typed the L and we asked on the phone, "Do you see the L?"
"Yes, we see the L," came the response.
We typed the O, and we asked, "Do you see the O... "Yes, we see the O."
Then we typed the G, and the system crashed...”
This brief experiment launched a revolution which is now called the Internet.


IP addresses to DNS and URL addresses
Several more universities joined in the effort. They used a string of numbers called Internet Protocol (or IP) addresses to call each other on the phone and used modems to transfer information through those phone lines. A typical IP address might be 216.27.22.162 - Instead of a domain name, they used a long string of numbers! By 1981, there were 213 Universities with servers connected to this system. It was hard to remember everyone’s IP address. So in 1983, programmers at the University of Wisconsin created the Domain Name System (DNS), which maps text based domain names to number based IP addresses automatically. This way you only need to remember a domain name like mywebsite.com rather than a long IP address.


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Example of a Domain Name in a Web Browser
A URL or Uniform Resource Locater is simply a longer more complete version of your domain name. For example, http://www.mywebsite.com. The letters HTTP stand for hypertext transfer protocol. The letters www stand for the worldwide web. In other words, the DNS converts your number based IP address into your text based URL – which is what we use today to go to a website on the Internet.


1990 The Website Concept is Born
Up until 1990, there was an internet, but there were no websites. Transferring data was more like sending a fax over a phone line. Then Tim Berners-Lee had a great idea. Instead of merely transferring data back and forth one message at a time on a phone line, why not have a place where the data is is centrally stored on a special computer, called a server and then displayed on a screen and can be accessed by anyone who makes a request to the server? In late 1990, Tim Berners-Lee and others at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, more popularly known as CERN, proposed a new protocol for information distribution. This protocol, which became the World Wide Web in 1991, was based on hypertext--a system of embedding links in text to links in other text. Hyperlinks are essentially connectors between groups of text. By Christmas 1990, Berners-Lee had built all the tools necessary for a working Web including:

#1...The first HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP),
#2...The first HyperText Markup Language (HTML),
#3...The first Web browser (WorldWideWeb, which was also a Web editor),
#4...The first HTTP server software (later known as CERN httpd),
#5...The first web server (http://info.cern.ch), and
#6...The first Web pages that described the project itself.

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Tim Berners-Lee at his computer

On August 6, 1991, Tim put all of these tools together to create the first Web page. The domain name was info.cern.ch. Below is an image of this page:

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The inventor of HTML Tim Berners-Lee also posted the first image on the web a year later in July 1992. It was a band made up of CERN staff members:

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A year later, in 1993, the first graphical web browser for the public was released. It was called Mosaic. A web browser is a program placed on your home computer so that you can more easily view content transmitted over the Internet.

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In 1994, Netscape came out with an even easier web browser called Navigator

08Today, the four most common web browsers are Internet Explorer, Apple Safari, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. We recommend that you use Firefox to build your website because it comes with a special tool called Firebug to analyze website problems.

1994: Websites expand from Educational Organizations to Online Stores
In 1994, HotWired placed the first commercial banner on the Internet.


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Up until 1994, because the Internet was developed using public funds, commercial businesses had been prohibited from using the Internet. Once this prohibition was lifted, many commercial businesses flooded the Internet. Amazon and Ebay were both started in 1995 – along with many other online stores. Remember the Dot Com bubble? Opening the Internet to commercial businesses was the spark that led to this rapid expansion of economic activity.

1995: JavaScript and PHP start the Interactive Revolution
Until 1995, all websites consisted of static pages. These were simply web pages with words, images and links to other pages with words and images. Simple forms could be filled out but beyond that there was very little interaction between the viewer and the browser or between the viewer and the server. In 1995, two new interactive computer programming languages, JavaScript and PHP were introduced. Suddenly, for the first time, people could click on and interact with a website in real time.


Both JavaScript and PHP are based on a technique called scripting. Scripting means inserting a simple code into the HTML which stands for something much more complex which is placed into a library of scripts. Scripting languages like JavaScript and PHP are what makes interactive websites like Facebook, Google and Amazon possible.

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Scripts are a library of premade computer codes which can be inserted into other computer codes to trigger more complex actions.

An Example of Scripting
Imagine that you want to display something very complex on several web pages. For example, you want to include the entire text of the book Moby Dick on every web page. You could type out the entire book every time – which would take quite a while. However, with scripting, you just place the Moby Dick book in a library of other books you want to refer to. Then when you get to the part on your web page where you want to insert Moby Dick, you simply tell the web browser to go to the library and get the Moby Dick book and put it on the web page.


A Crucial Difference between JavaScript and PHP
The difference between PHP and JavaScript is that PHP interacts with the Server (or the place where your website lives) while JavaScript interacts with your home computer’s web browser (such as Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox).


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The Problem with JavaScript: People refused to update their web browsers
The browser in your computer is what connects you to websites. The JavaScript system works only as long as the viewer has an up to date web browser. Because JavaScript and PHP scripting libraries keep getting new bigger and more powerful books every year, computer screens will not display correctly unless users update their web browsers to the current version. The problem with JavaScript was that people refused to update their web browsers. If you have an old browser, you will have trouble connecting to newer websites. This is why folks would often receive a warning like the following when they went online:


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Most folks ignored these warnings and kept using the web browser that came installed on their computer. This led to even sterner warnings like the following:

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Wiser website builders now realize that their customers are not going to update their web browsers. We have therefore moved away from Javascript to interact with customers and instead use PHP which is updated on the server and therefore does not rely on the customer to update their computer. No customer has ever gotten the following warning. But it summarizes how websites have changed over the past few years.

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Why you should use a PHP based program to build your business website
PHP has two huge advantages over Javascript. First, PHP is more reliable than JavaScript. The benefit of a server side script like PHP over a user side script is that it is not dependent on the upkeep of the browser or the customer’s computer. Java Script will not work on old computers or old browsers. But PHP will – as long as the web host has the most current version of PHP installed.


Why an HTML program is not adequate for a modern business website
The second advantage of PHP is that it is used to control a database called My SQL which is inside of the server. Databases are simply tables of data. PHP is dynamic in that the viewer can click on different buttons to see different answers in the data table. This is why all three major Content Management Systems (Wordpress, Joomla and Drupal) are based on PHP. PHP control over its database is the life blood of a modern interactive website. However, an HTML program like Dreamweaver does not easily interact with a database. This is why Dreamweaver is not an adequate tool for a building business website.


Comparison of Web Building Languages

Important Features

PHP

Javascript

HTML

Interactive

Yes

Yes

No

Does not require viewers to update their browsers

Yes

No Yes


How do I get a PHP based website?
Now that you understand why you need a PHP based website for your online business, the next question is how to get one. You have essentially two choices. You can either read a big thick book on how to program with PHP – or hire a computer programmer who has read books on PHP programming (warning: it is much harder than learning to program with HTML!). Or you can build your website with Joomla – which hides the PHP program behind a series of simple screens.


This leads to the next question. How do I learn Joomla?
This is where our book and course come in. Our goal is to make it easier for business owners to learn Joomla so they can control their own PHP based website.


Which book would you rather read?

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This is a very important reason why millions of PHP based websites are now built using a Content Management System (CMS) like Joomla which offers simple Graphic User Interfaces to build our websites rather than complex PHP computer coding.

1996 to Present: Evolution of Web Building Tools
In 1996, Microsoft came out with an HTML website building tool called Front Page. It was primitive and required knowledge of HTML – a computer language for building primitive static websites. In 1997, a competing tool called Dreamweaver was released. It also required knowledge of HTML but was slightly better organized than Front Page. In 2006, Dreamweaver was purchased by a software company called Adobe which combined Dreamweaver with other tools such as Photoshop to sell as a complete website building package.


Dreamweaver Web Building Tool is very complex
Dreamweaver was and still is very expensive (about $400 per person or per computer). But it offers a dual screen interface to help build a website. As you can see in the following image, the HTML computer programming is in the top screen followed by a graphic display of what the computer programming will look like in a web browser. To the right of these screens are lists of CSS sheets and a list of the computer files. Above is a controlling menu with dozens of tabs.


16There are however many problems with Dreamweaver. The biggest challenge is the need to learn HTML and CSS computer programming. This is on top of learning how to use the various sections of the complex Dreamweaver Graphic User Interface shown above. The look on these student’s faces pretty much says it all. Learning to use Dreamweaver, HTML and CSS computer programming is like learning how to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Even worse, Dreamweaver was and still is an HTML based web building tool. This means that most Dreamweaver built websites do not have access to an interactive database. Without a database, your website cannot interact with your customers. A better way was needed to build modern interactive websites.

Drawbacks of other Web Building Tools... Drupal and Wordpress
A third website building tool called Drupal was released in 2000 to compete with Frontpage and Dreamweaver. This was the first tool based more on PHP than on HTML. Unfortunately, Drupal is very complex and – like Front Page and Dreamweaver - requires a lot of computer programming knowledge.


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In 2003, Wordpress introduced a tool for building a simple blogging website. One can create a Wordpress blogging website with just the click of a couple of buttons. You do not even need a domain name or a web host. Wordpress will give you a subdomain. For example, myblog.wordpress.com, and then host that domain name on their server – all for free! However, as we explained in the last section, there are several drawbacks to Wordpress blogs:


First, Wordpress organizes content by date rather than by subject. This poor category method will eventually turn your Wordpress website into a mess.

Second, it is much more difficult to control the appearance of a Wordpress Blog than a Joomla site. Wordpress templates, called themes have few options for changing the appearance of the header, menu tabs and mobile boxes compared to the Joomla Design Control template.

Third, Wordpress offers a very limited number of extensions (which Wordpress calls Plugins). Extensions and plugins are additional functions which can be added to a website to expand what your website can do. The WordPress extensions directory is poorly organized in comparison to the Joomla Extension Directory. This makes it more difficult to choose between WordPress Plugins and much more difficult to modify a Wordpress website to match the specific needs of a growing business. This is important because these add-on extensions are more important to the success of a small business than the core web building tools!

Fourth, Wordpress lacks a way to easily organize images and articles. Joomla has an easier ability to organize web pages, articles and images by folders using categories. In addition, Joomla tables are much better organized than WordPress tables. This can make a huge difference over time as even posting only one article a day with only a single image per article can result in one thousand articles and images in just 3 years. The more content you have on your site, the more obvious it becomes that WordPress is not very good at organizing website content. Wordpress simply lacks the ability to organize a large amount of content. If a person only wants a simple blog, Wordpress does an excellent job. If one wants more, such as commercial applications, then Joomla with its thousands of extensions offers a better alternative.

Content Management Systems (CMS) and the Database Revolution
As the content of web pages got more and more complex, it became apparent that static HTML pages (which are not connected to a database) are not adequate to handle the massive amount of data being stored and transferred on a modern website. Modern websites often have hundreds of images and articles and dozens of pages and menu links. Since a small business wants to sell products and since those products will likely be organized on a database, it is important for small businesses to use a database driven web building program. A way was needed to organize complex website content. This led to using MySQL databases controlled by PHP computer programming.


However, PHP is a very difficult computer program to learn. It is much harder than HTML. Instead of giving simple commands like HTML, PHP asks questions seeking to find answers in a database. HTML is like a dictatorship. The decisions are simple to make and the dictator can make decisions quickly. PHP is more like a democracy in that it can take a complex process to decide what will be displayed on the viewer’s computer screen. The key to learning PHP is knowing which questions to ask and how to ask them. It takes a long time to learn PHP computer programming.

2008 Joomla emerges as a solution to the PHP Complexity Problem
Gradually a solution to this PHP complexity problem emerged. Instead of using PHP programming, questions are asked by clicking on a series of buttons. These buttons are connected to the hidden PHP program. At the same time, databases were hidden behind a series of more user friendly tables. So when you build a website, instead of seeing a complex PHP program connected to a complex database, you see a series of simple buttons connected to a series of simple tables. This system of buttons and tables is called a Content Management System or CMS. A Content Management System is a website building program that organizes all of the text and images on your website into a series of simple tables which are displayed on your computer screen using a series of simple User Interfaces. Joomla calls its tables “managers”… such as article manager, category manager, etc. Joomla uses a series of “Click Here” buttons to help you build your website. Each time you click on a button, you are actually doing PHP programming and entering data into your database. You just don’t realize it because the PHP program and the database are both hidden. All you see when you are building a Joomla website are tables and buttons. This book and our course will teach you which buttons to click on and in which order.


What exactly is Joomla and Who Runs It?
The word Joomla is Swahili for “All Together”. Joomla is an open source project – meaning it is not controlled by any private company. Joomla is developed entirely by volunteers - an active international community of thousands of computer programmers who give freely of their time to create and continuously improve Joomla making it the world’s best open source web building platform.


Joomla is the first tool to give regular people simple control over all of the functions of a PHP based website without any knowledge of PHP programming. Joomla is an international program meaning that one can easily build a Joomla website in more than 60 languages. There are literally millions of Joomla websites worldwide with thousands of new Joomla websites being built every month.

2008.. Joomla introduced Joomla version 1.5 – the world first true Content Management System

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In January 2008, Joomla released Joomla version 1.5. It was truly a revolution in combining simplicity with a well-defined content management structure. Amazingly, Joomla was offered to the public for FREE. Thousands of free extensions or add-ons were developed for Joomla 1.5. All of these add-ons could be installed automatically with the click of a button. Joomla was such an improvement over previous web building tools that in less than one year Joomla became one of the world’s most popular web building platforms.

In 2012, Joomla introduced Joomla version 2.5

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The next long term version of Joomla, 2.5, was introduced in January 2012. It will be supported through 2015. So if you want to build a new business website now, your best option is to follow our instructions for building a Joomla 3x website.

Joomla 3.5 arrived in March 2016

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The chief benefit of Joomla 3.5 over Joomla 2.5 is that it offers more support for mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets – which as many as one in three customers use to surf the Internet.  

Currently, we are at Joomla version 3.7 with the goal of releasing Joomla 4 in the near future. Regardless of the version, Joomla continues to be the best choice for building a truly interactive business website.  

The Joomla Development Cycle... Future Versions of Joomla
Joomla is currently experiencing a rapid state of development and improvement. Joomla is introducing major improvements in the structure of Joomla about every two years. This series of rapid innovations does make it difficult for an online business to keep up. However, it also means that Joomla websites are getting better all of the time. 

Joomla Drawbacks
Joomla does suffer from a couple of shortcomings. One is that some of the extensions are loaded with bugs and have poor instructions. Research extensions carefully and use only ones with a good track record and clear documentation. We will review how to add the best extensions in this course.


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Another drawback of Joomla is that there are very few Joomla courses available at high schools and colleges. Instructions on how to build a Joomla website have not been very clear. Prior to this course, folks have learned mainly by trial and error. One of the goals of this course is to offer you the best step by step instructions for building a dynamic and interactive Joomla website. Our aim is to give you the ability to create a modern dynamic and interactive website.


Why Joomla is still your best choice for a business website
Given all of the benefits of Joomla, why are the majority of the websites today still built using Wordpress? And why are the majority of the website development courses still teaching Dreamweaver? There are a few legitimate reasons to build a Wordpress site. If you are on a limited budget and cannot afford a web host, then a free Wordpress blog might be the way to go. This is especially true if all you will be using the website for is a personal blog with only a few pages. As for Dreamweaver, I cannot envision any circumstances that would warrant suffering through such a primitive interface with almost no ability to work with an integrated data base, a web cart or social networking capability.


If Joomla is so much better than Dreamweaver or Wordpress, why do folks still use Dreamweaver and Wordpress to build websites?
There are many books, blogs, courses and instructors who still teach and recommend either Wordpress or Dreamweaver. I think there are three reasons it has taken Joomla so long to become the world’s primary web building tool. First, Joomla courses are partially to blame for making Joomla seem much harder than it actually is. The Joomla DEMO site is far more confusing than it needs to be. Joomla extensions are also to blame. Some of them barely work. Thankfully, there are also many terrific Joomla extensions that work very well. We cover these in this course. Second, my experience is that computer programmers tend to seek programming fixes too soon and overlook the fact that many users know nothing about HTML or CSS. This is especially true of instructors who are still teaching Dreamweaver. I sometimes wonder if these experts are deliberately making things hard in order to force more users to hire programmers to build the websites for them. Third, and most important, there is a natural tendency to favor the web building platform one is most familiar with. I call this the First Cheese Theory as most adults still favor the cheese they grew up with as a child. This kind of narrow minded refusal to try new things is okay if your website is just your personal hobby. But it is not okay if you are trying to build an online business in a highly competitive world.


The Bottom Line is…
To succeed at business, you need the best tools possible. If you fail to seek out these tools, your competitors surely will. And it won’t be long until they are taking market share away from you. The Internet world of today is dramatically different from the Internet of just 6 years ago. It is certain that the Internet 6 years from now will be radically different from what it is today.


Thankfully, there are more than 10,000 Joomla developers working around the world to keep the Joomla platform ahead of the rest – both now and in the future. I used to get mad every time Joomla came out with another update. Today, I am grateful they are open to change and improvement. In the long run, as you want to expand your website far beyond your initial dreams, you will be glad you chose Joomla as the foundation upon which you built your virtual small business.

The Next Revolution: Improving Online Web Building Education
One remaining barrier to expanding access to better business websites is that Joomla instructional books, videos and courses are dominated by computer programmers. Unfortunately, it is difficult to be both a good teacher and a good programmer. The Joomla books currently available on the Internet reflect this problem. Nearly all of them still advocate installing Joomla manually. This is crazy. Just as bad, nearly all of them are still teaching HTML and CSS computer programming as the way to modify Joomla templates. This is also crazy.


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This book is the first step in the next revolution. Our intention is to change the way Joomla is taught and the way Joomla websites are built. In the following pages, we provide you with a much easier way to build and run your business website. The tools for doing this have existed since 2011. Now we have a book and a course to teach you how to use these revolutionary new tools.

Suggested Activity: You will need a secure computer and a good web browser to build your website.

Having a secure computer with which to set up your web hosting and build your website is the first and most important step in protecting your website from hackers. The most secure computer systems use the Linux operating system. We have therefore written a free website/book about this topic which you can read at the following link.

https://www.learnlinuxandlibreoffice.org/

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We will build our example websites using the Firefox web browser. If you follow those instructions, you will have a Linux computer with the Firefox browser already installed. Alternately, you can download the Firefox web browser at the following link:

https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/new/


What's Next?
There have been major changes in domain name support in the past year. We will therefore review how to obtain and protect your domain name.