What is the Internet?
The question “What is the Internet?” is often asked, but there is really no single answer that neatly defines exactly what the Internet is. The Internet can be thought of in relation to its common protocols (the way in which information is exchanged between computers), as well as a physical collection of routers and circuits, or as a set of shared resources, or even as an attitude about interconnecting and intercommunication. In present day terms, people speak of getting together or “networking”. The Internet is the epitome of networking in the most advanced sense, in that you can network with people globally, not just at a meeting in a room somewhere. Some common definitions dredged from the past include:
- A network of networks based on the TCP/IP communications protocol.
- A community of people who use and develop networks.
- A collection of resources which are accessible from those networks.
The Internet evolved from a 1960s experiment in computer networking called ARPAnet, conducted by the U.S. Defense Department . Its goal was to allow different kinds of computers to interconnect and share data among researchers. While ARPAnet was growing in size, other networks were being developed. Soon the architects of ARPAnet recognized the need to communicate with these other networks. For all of these disparate computers and networks to communicate with one another, there had to be agreement on how that should occur. The agreements were defined as communication protocols. Ultimately, the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) suite of protocols defined how Internet computers were to communicate with each other.
By the close of the 1970s, links developed between ARPAnet and counterparts in other countries. The world was now tied together in a computer “web”. In the 1980s, this network of networks, which became known collectively as the Internet, expanded at a phenomenal rate. By 1985, the number was approximately one hundred. By 1987, the number had grown to two hundred; in 1989, it exceeded five hundred. According to tables kept at the DDN (Defense Data Net) Network Information Center (DDN NIC), there were 2,218 networks connected to the Internet as of January 1990. In the 1990s, the Net grew at exponential rates. With the popularity of the World Wide Web, the number of networks connected to the Internet has jumped to a world wide total of more than 250,000.
For a review of the history of the Internet, see Cisco Press Publication’s “Evolution of the Internet“:
Some of the basic services available to Internet users are:
- E-mail: A fast, easy, and inexpensive way to communicate with other Internet users around the world
- Telnet: Allows a user to log into a remote computer as though it were a local system
- FTP: Allows a user to transfer virtually every kind of file that can be stored on a computer from one Internet-connected computer to another
- Usenet news: A distributed bulletin board which offers a combination news and discussion service on thousands of topics
- World Wide Web (WWW): A hypertext interface to Internet information resources
Accessing the Internet
Large corporations and institutions of higher learning have near-universal access to the Internet. Home computer users may access the Internet though private or local Internet service providers. These include international services such as Prodigy, America Online, or CompuServe (although we do recommend you use a local provider). Smaller regional and local providers are also available. Some cities offer public dialin facilities, often known as freenets; as their name implies, access to Internet services is provided without charge to those users with a computer and dialin capability.
What is HTTP?
HTTP, short for HyperText Transfer Protocol, is the protocol for transferring hypertext documents, which makes the World Wide Web possible. A standard Web address (such as
http://www.dewassoc.com/) is called a URL.
For more information on HTTP, see the Internet Engineering Task Force IETF HTTP Work Group page.