What is the Internet

Sometimes the most basic questions are the hardest to answer.

For example: What is the Internet?

Um … it’s that thing we can’t imagine living without. It’s how we work, buy stuff, watch videos, communicate, share memories, conduct research, tell jokes, catch up with friends, etc.

In 1995, 15 percent of adults were online. Now, it’s above 75 percent, and for certain demographics (young people, educated adults, rich folk), the percentage is over 95 percent, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project.  

We’re all on Internet. But what IS it exactly?

Lucky for us, learning about the Internet is just a quick Internet search away. But before you go down the Wikipedia wormhole, we suggest starting with Business Insider’s handy guide: ‘What The Heck Is The Internet?’

Or, since remixing information is a hallmark of the Internet age, you can just stay here and read our synopsis of Business Insider’s (BI) primer on the Internet. Ready? Okay!

The Internet to put it briefly, according to Business Insider (BI):

  • The Internet is an interconnected network, or network of networks.
  • The Internet is the aggregate of the computers (servers, desktops, laptops, etc.) that share information via telephone wires and satellite links; these computers are all connected by a common software standard called Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP).
  • Most us connect to the Internet via an Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) network. The three largest ISPs in the U.S. are AT&T, Comcast, and Road Runner. BI: “When you connect to an ISP, your computer becomes a part of its network. That network is already connected to another larger network, and that network is connected to yet another network, and so on and so forth across the globe.”
  • The two basic elements of the Internet are servers and clients. Servers are machines that provide services (get it?) to other machines. Clients (desktops, laptops, smartphones, etc.) use these services. BI: “So when you sign online at work, your computer becomes a client that’s accessing a Web server.”
  • Every device that connects to the Internet has a unique numerical IP address
  • The World Wide Web, or web, is just one ‘layer’ of the Internet. There are other layers. For example, POP and IMAP are distinct layers that govern the transmission of email across the Internet. The web layer (officially known as HTTP) of the Internet was invented in the late 1980s by American Tim Berners-Lee. BI: “The internet is all the pages that can be accessed using Web browsers [e.g. Explorer, Firefox].” Often used interchangeably, the Internet and the Web aren’t the same thing. The web is a small slice of the larger Internet pie.
  • All domain names have a corresponding numerical IP address. Example (courtesy of Wikipedia): the domain name www.example.com translates to the IP address The Domain Name System was created to make the Internet more user-friendly (domain names are easier to remember than long strings of numbers).