Just what is the internet anyway?

The pace of change based on telecommunications is accelerating. The phrases “the Internet”, “the web”, “the net” are shorthand for these developments. The Internet has changed beyond all expectations our ability to communicate instantly across the country or across the globe. To share knowledge enables us to do things much moe quickly and in some case in completely different ways.

The ability to communicate very rapidly and to transfer documents quickly changes the nature of our everyday work lives. The opportunity to keep up to date on a day by day basis changes the way in which we make decisions, but this can lead to something called “Information Overload”which may even hamper the decision making process. The Internet extends your ability to sell your product or service to a larger client base, although this may be dependent upon what you are selling or offering.

The Internet was originally developed from ARPANET, the US Military’s communication system. (ARPAnet stands for Advanced Research Projects Agents). During 70’s and 80’s it came to be used by the academic world as well. During the 1980’s a guy called Tim Berners-Lee used a method of linking two files together called hypertext and so the web was born.

Although it would seem that the Internet has developed hugely since those early days, the method of linking files and computers hasn’t changed much. The method by which they communicate is via “protocols”, so that they can understand what they are saying to each other.

For instance HTTP which is used to transfer web pages between computers stands for “hypertext transfer protocol”, because it uses a piece of software called hypertext to create intelligent links to other pages on the web.

Some nations are worried about the Internet because it cannot be controlled and this leads to attempts to restrict access (in China) or information. What has been worrying recently is that some of the biggest names on the Internet have been complying with Chinese demands to restrict the information that is given to users – Google was the most recent to do this. What this may mean for the Internet in the future is anyone’s guess, but lets hope it isn’t the start of wholesale censorship.
How does the Internet Work?

In order to be able to use the Internet or Web you have to have the correct software on computers connected to the Internet.

It uses a method of data transfer called “packet switching” explained below:

The browser breaks the web address into 3 parts:

1. The protocol (”http”),
2. the server name (”www.100000pounds.com”), and
3. the file name (”index.htm”).

  • The browser then communicates with the named server to translate the server name “www.100000pounds.com” into an IP Address that it can use to connect to the server machine.
  • The browser then forms a connection to the server at that IP address
  • The browser sends a GET request to the server asking for the file· “http://www.100000pounds.com/index.htm”.
  • The server then sends the HTML text for the web page to the users computer.
  • The computer software then reads the HTML file and displays the page on the screen.

To keep all web addresses straight, each website and computer on the Internet is assigned a unique address called an IP Address. A typical IP address looks like this: These may not be “static”, ie always given to a particular computer for instance, so when you connect from home you probably use a modem that dials into the Internet Service Provider, they will provide you with an IP address (although you won’t need to know what it is) every time you connect and it won’t necessarily be the same on every time. It is worth bearing in mind that because the IP addresses are logged it is possible for your Internet Service Provider to know when you are connected to the Internet and, to some extent, what you are doing when you are on it.

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