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How The INTERNET Works

Use of the Internet, or World Wide Web, is a complex and confusing concept; how is it that my computer can access files on another computer halfway across the world?

A powerful tool, the Internet has changed the landscape of the world today, providing online shopping, social networks, shared multimedia files and online education.


How The INTERNET Works (via Online Schools)

What is a “protocol”?

The Internet is based on a series of standard technical protocols, or rules, called TCP/IP which stands for “Transmission Control Protocol” and “Internet Protocol”.   These rules allow computers to access specified files on other computers and describe data to one another over a network. Every computer hooked to the Internet understands these two protocols and therefore can communicate with each other.

How does my computer connect with the internet?

To access the network that is the Internet  a computer must connect to an Internet Service Provider, or ISP.  This can be completed through a phone line, cable or wireless device.  Once a computer is connected, it is able to use the TCP/IP protocols to connect with other computers.

When a user types in a website domain, such as Wikipedia, your computer is signalled to find the IP address, or domain, of a specific computer.  When it has found that domain, you are permitted to view files on that computer.

How does email work?

Email works in a similar manner to regular “snail mail”.  The structure of email is similar to that of a letter.  A name and address are supplied for delivery, with a typed message attached.  In the “To” section of an email, a name is supplied with their address after the @ sign.  The mail is sent by the server to the server specified by the address.

The Internet is an international network that uses particular data transfer processes and online protocols to create a standard communication highway.

Who owns the internet?

The Internet is truly a global system.  It involves a common language (TCP/IP), hundreds of miles of cable, satellites and wireless routers.  The Internet is not one single, unified tool.  Nobody owns the entire Internet  although some groups have control over specific aspects to it and some governments control access to it.  Internet Service Providers own and provide the servers, routers and cables that make up the bulk of the Internet programming.  However, if one of these services was to shut down, another would be able to fill the demand.  Internet Exchange Points, or IXPs, are points at which these different ISPs connect.  The IXPs are operated by various non-profit groups.

Who maintains the internet?

The Internet is maintained by several different organizations.  These include the following:

  • The Internet Society:  A non-profit that develops Internet standards
  • The Internet Architecture Board:  A committee who designs protocols and standards
  • The Internet Corporation for Names and Numbers:  A private corporate that manages Internet domains.
The Internet is an international network that uses certain rules and protocols to create a standard communication highway.  As with any tool, understanding how the Internet works is essential in proper usage.

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