What Is the Internet?

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What Is the Internet?

Understanding what the Internet is and how it works can enhance your online experience.

Insights for Understanding the Internet

  • The Internet itself is a worldwide network of interconnected computers that allows users to access and transfer information remotely. The information viewed on the Internet is actually not on the Internet at all, but rather on other computers, and viewed via the Internet. A useful analogy would be to think of the Internet as a phone network: Just as a telephone provides people with the ability to contact distant locations and exchange information verbally, the Internet allows users to contact faraway locations and exchange information electronically.
  • The physical composition of the Internet is the system of wires, fiber-optic cables, routers and circuits that make this connection possible. Many people view the Internet as an abstract body of information floating around in “cyberspace.” This is not the case at all. The Internet is a worldwide network of computer networks, and the information accessed resides on the connected computers themselves.
  • The most popular service accessed through the Internet is the World Wide Web (WWW). The Web and the Internet are often considered to be synonymous but actually represent two different things. Whereas the Internet is the means for accessing information, the Web is composed of the visual display of the information being accessed. Web pages are collections of files and documents stored on computers around the world, formatted in a programming language called HTML (hypertext markup language). This permits users to move between them by clicking on highlighted areas, called hyperlinks, or links for short. The Web is navigated using a technology called hypertext. Hypertext is a name for documents containing embedded pathways that, when clicked, direct users to other documents. These “links” can come in the form of words, phrases, icons or graphics, and create interconnectedness between files and documents, giving character to the image of the World Wide Web as a “web.”
  • A Web browser is a computer program that allows users to access the Internet and view information on the Web. They accomplish this by interpreting HTML files, and displaying them as “pages” on a user’s computer. Browsers are designed to facilitate an ease of navigation through the Web’s pages, by taking advantage of its many benefits afforded by hypertext. Popular browsers include Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Netscape. Browsers with the proper “plug-ins” (software upgrades that permit users to open specific file types) allow users to: view documents, watch videos, listen to audio files, chat with other users, play games and watch animations.

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