Table of Contents
The Internet is a global network of linked computers, servers, phones, and smart appliances that communicate with each other using the transmission control protocol (TCP) standard to enable the fast exchange of information and files, along with other types of services. In this article, we will explore the meaning, inner workings, and the most popular types of Internet services.
What is the Internet?
The Internet is a global network of interconnected computers, servers, phones, and smart appliances that communicate with each other using the transmission control protocol (TCP) standard to enable a fast exchange of information and files, along with other types of services. It serves as a global hub of computer networks, allowing users at any workstation to receive data from every other system and interact with users working on other computers.
The infrastructure of the Internet includes optical fibre data transmission cables or copper wires, along with other networking infrastructures such as local area networks (LAN), wide area networks (WAN), and metropolitan area networks (MAN). Wireless services such as 4G, 5G, and Wi-Fi also require physical cable installations for Internet access.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in the United States controls the Internet and its associated technologies, such as IP addresses.
How was the Internet Developed?
The Internet was first envisioned in the form of ARPANET by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the U.S. government in 1969. The initial goal was to create a network that would enable users of a research computer at one institution to “communicate” with research computers at another institution. ARPANET used packet switching technology to create low-cost, interactive interactions between computers. This technology broke down large transmissions into smaller, more manageable parts called packets, which could travel independently across any accessible circuit to the destination where they were reassembled.
In the 1970s, corporate packet networks were launched to enable efficient access to distant computers through specialised terminals. These networks replaced expensive long-distance modem connections with “virtual” lines via packet networks.
Today, the Internet is a globally accessible, collaborative, and self-sustaining public resource available to tens of millions of individuals. It is used by countless people as their primary source of data consumption, fostering the development and expansion of communities through social networking and content exchange. Private versions of the Internet also exist, primarily used by large organisations for secure and regulated information exchange.
Key Features of the Internet
The Internet is a vast, interconnected network of computers and other network-enabled devices that is globally available, easy to use, compatible with other types of media, affordable, and flexible.
- Globally available: The Internet is an international service with universal access, allowing people living in isolated areas to access it.
- Easy to use: The software used to connect to the Internet, such as web browsers, is user-friendly and easy to understand.
- Compatible with other types of media: The Internet provides a high level of engagement with photos and videos, amongst other media.
- Affordable: Internet service development and maintenance costs are modest, making it accessible to a wide range of users.
- Flexible: Internet-based communication is highly adaptable, supporting text, audio, and video communication at both individual and organisational levels.
How Does the Internet Work?
The Internet delivers different types of information and media across networked devices using an Internet protocol (IP) and a transmission control protocol (TCP) packet routing network. When you visit a website, your computer or mobile device requests the server using these protocols.
The basic foundation of the Internet is an interconnected network of computers. Two computers can be physically connected using an Ethernet connection or wirelessly connected using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. As the network expands, routers are used to connect multiple computers. Routers act as signallers, ensuring that messages transmitted from one computer reach their intended recipients. Multiple routers can be connected to allow for infinite scaling of the network.
To connect networks to the Internet, a modem is used to convert data from a network into data that can be managed by the telephony architecture. The telephone system provides the ideal wiring configuration for the Internet, as it allows networks to be connected to the public infrastructure. The data from a host network is delivered to the target network via a web of interconnected Internet service providers (ISPs).
Each machine connected to a network has a unique identifying address known as an IP address. IP addresses are used to send messages from one network to another. DNS servers are used to assign domain names to IP addresses, making it easier for people to access computers online by typing the domain name instead of the IP address.
The Internet is a network architecture that enables millions of machines to communicate with each other. Web servers store websites, applications, and their associated data, while web browsers allow users to access and view the web pages.
Types of Internet Services
The Internet enables various types of services, not just web access. Some of the key types of Internet services include:
- Communication services: These services facilitate the exchange of data and information amongst individuals or organisations. Examples include voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) for voice calls over the Internet and video conferencing for real-time visual communication.
- File transfer services: These services allow for the exchange, transmission, or sending of documents or logical data items amongst individuals or computers. File transfer protocol (FTP) is a common Internet protocol used for this purpose.
- Directory services: Directory services maintain information about organisations and their customers, mapping network resource names to network addresses. DNS and LDAP are commonly used directory services.
- E-commerce and online transactions: E-commerce services enable customers to purchase products or services directly from vendors over the Internet. Online transactions use the Internet to facilitate financial exchanges.
- Services for network management: Network management services assist in avoiding, monitoring, diagnosing, and resolving network-related issues. Ping and traceroute are commonly used services for network management.
- Time services: Time services synchronise computer clocks to global time standards, such as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) or Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Network time protocol (NTP) is a commonly used Internet time service.
- Search engine services on the web: Search engines allow users to search for web pages by entering search queries. The search engine analyses the query and retrieves web pages that best fit the search terms.
In conclusion, the Internet is a global network of interconnected computers, servers, phones, and smart appliances that enable the fast exchange of information and files, along with other types of services. It plays a crucial role in modern civilisation, enabling globalisation, digital transformation, and universal access to information.