The Information Highway is becoming a reality. The increase in access to the Internet by the public at large, combined with the development of easy to use graphical browsing interfaces such as Mosaic and Netscape, have lead to an explosion in the amount information being added. In particular, the World Wide Web (WWW) is being used to present an exponentially growing amount and range of information through which people can browse. Unfortunately, too much information can be the same thing as not enough information. If the information you seek is buried under an avalanche, is it really there? The WWW is growing at such a rate that it is hard to locate information of interest. To give a feel for the magnitude of the problem, the Lycos system indexes over 860,000 Web documents from 34,000 sites and is able to add 5,000 documents a day [10]. The WWW is growing quickly because it provides an easy to use interface (pointing and clicking at items on the screen) for users, uses simple standards (HTML, MIME) which allow multimedia documents to be exchanged, and provides a simple unified interface to a range of useful tools (ftp, gopher, news. etc.).

The UNITE project chose the collection, management, and exchange of educational resources as its driving application. Questions facing educators trying to use a database of educational resources are: Where is the information? In what form or forms is it presented? Is there any guarantee of its quality? How can I get the information I want? The goal of UNITE is to create a database of educational resources, particularly those in Mathematics and Natural Science, and to create an electronic framework for its distribution to K-12 teachers and students. The target community is a particularly good test of using the Internet for data distribution to the general public for three major reasons: the data spans a wide range of types, the users are widely distributed geographically and are as widely distributed in their knowledge of computer technology.

UNITE provides a central repository for educational resource materials, allowing the information to be easily located. By creating a customized graphical user interface, we have created a system which is accessible to casual computer users. Finally, we involve the users themselves in the evolution of the database by encouraging them to contribute resources that they create. To provide quality control, we have a series of editors which approve and improve the contributed materials.

This thesis first gives an overview of the WWW and how servers and clients work. Then it presents our approach to these problems, focusing on our search capability, the simple interface, and how UNITE supports the sharing of resources.