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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. It enables the fast exchange of information and files, as well as other types of services.
How Does the Internet Work?
The internet is a network of computer networks, allowing users to receive data from every other system and interact with users working on other computers. It is made up of various networking infrastructures, including local area networks (LAN), wide area networks (WAN), and metropolitan area networks (MAN). The internet infrastructure comprises optical fibre data transmission cables or copper wires, as well as wireless services like 4G and 5G or Wi-Fi.
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 as ARPANET by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the U.S. government in 1969. Its 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 that 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. 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 has several key features that make it a vital resource:
- Globally available: The internet is an international service with universal access. People living in isolated areas or the depths of Africa can access the internet.
- Easy to use: The software used to connect to the internet, such as web browsers, is user-friendly and easy to understand. It is also relatively easy to create.
- Compatible with other types of media: The internet provides a high level of engagement with photos, videos, and other media.
- Affordable: Internet service development and maintenance costs are modest.
- Flexible: Internet-based communication supports 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 the internet protocol (IP) and transmission control protocol (TCP) packet routeing network. When a user visits a website, their computer or mobile device requests the server using these protocols.
A server is where web pages are stored, similar to the hard drive of a computer but with greater processing power. The server accesses the web page and delivers the information to the user’s computer. This process involves the user’s computer sending an HTTP or HTTPS request message to the server, asking for a copy of the web page. If the server authorises the request, it returns a “200 OK” status code and starts transmitting the site’s contents to the user’s computer. The web page is then displayed in the user’s web browser.
Types of Internet Services
In addition to web access, the internet enables various other services:
- Communication services: The internet allows for voice over internet protocol (VoIP) calls and video conferencing, enabling real-time communication between individuals or organisations.
- File transfer services: The internet facilitates the exchange, transmission, and sharing of files amongst individuals or computers, using protocols like file transfer protocol (FTP).
- Directory services: Directory services maintain information about organisations and their customers, mapping network resource names to network addresses. DNS and LDAP are common directory services.
- E-commerce and online transactions: The internet enables online purchases and financial exchanges, allowing customers to buy products or services directly from vendors.
- Services for network management: Network management services help IT administrators monitor and resolve network-related issues. Ping and traceroute are commonly used network management services.
- Time services: Time services synchronise computer clocks to standard time, ensuring accurate timekeeping across the internet. NTP is a commonly used time service.
- Search engine services on the web: Search engines analyse web pages to provide relevant search results to users. They help users find information on the web based on search queries.
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. It operates using the TCP standard and offers various services such as communication, file transfer, directory services, e-commerce, network management, time synchronisation, and search engine functionality.