Most people think of the Internet as being where you go to access websites and send and receive electronic mail. That’s a fairly anthropocentric take, but if we want to get down to the nitty-gritty of the Internet, we need to be more precise:
Since it is the greatest worldwide computer network, people tend to connect to the Internet automatically. It functions thanks to established norms, much like a computer network.
Simply defined, it’s a massive online computer network. In addition to discussing what the Internet is, this article will also explain what the “World Wide Web” is. In reality, the distinction between the Internet and the Web is pretty straightforward: the former is a computer network, while the latter is a system of publication (of websites) for it.
As for a computer network, please explain. Simply, a computer network consists of two or more computers linked together in order to facilitate communication. Every computer in a big network can connect to any other computer in the network via paths that go through some of the intermediary computers because some of those intermediary computers have multiple connections to other computers.
Not only do computers use networks, but so do roads and trains, with the main difference being that they convey people as opposed to data.
A rail network requires a specific type of track in order to function properly, and trains can only run on that track. Roads are similarly planned to accommodate a certain type of vehicle, typically one that is both sturdy and of a respectable size and speed. When talking about the conventions followed by computers in a network, the term “protocol” is commonly used.
Popular computer networks come in a wide variety today. By far the most common is the so-called “Ethernet” network, which uses physical cables to link computers in different locations including homes, schools, and workplaces. However, WiFi is becoming more common for linking devices together, eliminating the need for cords.
Establishing a Web Connection
You’re using networking technology when you connect to the Internet, but the details are frequently murkier than that. The Internet was not created overnight; the proverb “Rome wasn’t built in a day” is appropriate. Because another form of network, the phone network, already existed everywhere in the world, the Internet was able to spring up swiftly and cheaply for individuals.
Since the phone system already existed, common people’s home computers could link up with the advanced system originally designed for the military and scientific community. Only advanced knowledge of modems and other forms of technology was necessary. Using a modem, a phone line can be converted into a local area network (LAN) connection between a user’s house and an Internet service provider (ISP). It’s the equivalent of a bridge connecting the road systems on an island and the mainland, melding the two road systems into a single entity.
“(A)DSL” and “Cable” connections, which provide lightning-fast Internet speeds, are functionally identical to phone line connections. Any technology far enough along is hard to tell apart from magic, as Arthur C. Clarke famously put it.
The World Wide Web
The most impressive aspect of the Internet is not its technological foundation. Large computer networks similar to the Internet have been around for a while, and “The Internet” has been there for a long time before the word became common use. It’s incredible that such a large-scale computer network can function without being constructed or regulated in a systematic fashion. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a nonprofit organization funded by the United States government that has the most power over the Internet’s underlying computer infrastructure, although no one could accuse it of “controlling” the Internet because of its narrow scope.
The Internet is a tribute to the collaborative efforts of technologists as well as the independent efforts of business owners to implement the Internet’s underlying infrastructure, which is based on the conventions established by those same technologists. Although the Internet did not originate on the Microsoft Windows “operating system,” rather, it was developed on top of much older technical operating systems, the technology was easily adaptable to common computers by adding support for the required networking conventions in Windows. Like the development of the telephone network before it or the global spread of human population and society, significant upswings often occur unexpectedly when there are strong foundations and few bottlenecks (such as controlling bodies).
What I’ve explained so far is probably not how you or most others think of the Internet. You probably don’t think of the Internet as a free and equal distribution of data, and in some ways, you’re right. This is because up to this point, I’ve just described the system’s foundations, and this foundation operates below the level at which you’d ordinarily be aware. At its most fundamental level, your experience of the Internet is more akin to a transaction between a receiver and a seller than a mutual exchange of information or goods. When you send an email, you also receive the service of having it delivered to the recipient’s inbox.
The Internet is a network of computers, but not every computer has the same capabilities. There are both computers that serve others and computers that receive services. Servers are computers that serve others, while clients are computers that receive services from servers. While all computers on a network are equal in theory, commercial enterprises typically deploy servers with far superior connectivity than end users. You don’t have to pay any money to visit a website, but someone has to pay for the server it resides on. Typically, the website’s owner pays a ‘web host’ (a commercial company that owns the server).
I will now describe how two computers, which could be on opposite ends of the planet, can exchange communications via the Internet.
Let’s say you’re in the middle of sending a letter you wrote. Simply putting a name on the envelope wouldn’t get it to its destination unless you lived in a really small town. It’s unusual for a name to be granular enough. As a result, we employ addresses, which typically consist of the person’s name, the house number, the road name, the town name, the county name, and sometimes the country name, in order to get in touch with them. This enables communication via a different network type, namely the postal network. A letter’s journey through the postal system typically begins at the sorting office closest to the sender, moves up to larger sorting offices until it reaches a sorting office that handles regions for both the sender and the receiver, and finally moves down to smaller sorting offices until it reaches the sorting office closest to the receiver.
Our postal situation is influenced by two main factors: a method of addressing that “homes in” on the final destination, and a method of delivering messages that “broadens out” before “narrowing in.” The computerized equivalent accomplishes the same goal with greater efficiency.
An Internet Protocol address can be used to “home in” on a specific computer on the network. The process of “homing in” is not carried out in a purely geographical fashion, but rather in terms of the connection-relationship between the several smaller computer networks that make up the Internet as a whole. In the physical world, neighbors are those living close by, while in the virtual world, neighbors are those who share your network.
Computer networks, like the postal system with its sporting facilities, typically connect to several different networks. In order to increase the likelihood that the message will be received, a computer network will broadcast it to a bigger network. This ‘broadening out’ process continues until the message is being processed by a network that is ‘over’ the destination, at which point the ‘narrowing in’ phase begins.
An IP address can look like “126.96.36.199.” They’re essentially a string of digit sequences, with the groups getting more locally significant as you move to the right. Each cluster of digits represents a value between zero and 255. This is only a rough estimate, however, this address may be interpreted as
116. A Computer
in a residential area 115
Among a broader community of 60
managed by a network provider 69
(in the virtual world)
The local area network, the wide-area network, the Internet Service Provider, and the Internet are all examples of computer networks. Therefore, a message destined for the same “larger neighborhood” would first be sent to one of the intermediary computers in the larger neighborhood, before being sent back down to the appropriate “smaller neighborhood,” and finally arriving at its intended destination.
Transmission of Meaning
The message delivery system is up and running, so the hard part is over. All that’s required is that we format our communications in a particular way so that the receiver can make sense of the information.
Real-world letters have two things in common: they are written on paper and in a language that both the sender and the recipient can understand. As I’ve mentioned before, norms are crucial to the smooth functioning of networks; the same is true for our messages.
The Internet Protocol (IP) specifies the format and contents of the packets used by all portions of the network to transmit information. You can get by without knowing this terminology, but you should be aware that these messages are oversimplified and prone to mistakes.
In the context of a continuous dialogue, multiple ‘packets’ would be sent in both directions, each one representing a complete thought or sentence.
Communicating the real meaning
Anyone who has ever played Chinese Whispers will understand how easily a message can become garbled (‘corrupted’) when it passes through a chain of intermediaries on its way from sender to receiver. While errors in computer networks are rarely that severe, it is still important to have a system in place that can automatically identify and fix any issues that arise.
Envision yourself attempting to edit a letter to fix the spelling mistakes. The number of words is much smaller compared to the number of possible letter combinations for words. Errors, where letters should form words, are easy to spot, and so is the replacement word you can imagine should have been used.
Indeed, it is effective.
The process of fixing typos in online messaging is remarkably similar. The sent messages are simply made longer than necessary, and the surplus is used to “sum up” the message; if the “summing up” doesn’t match the message, an error has been identified, and the message must be resent.
In many cases, it is not necessary to resend a message because the problem can be diagnosed logically.
There is no foolproof method for error correction because the message and the “summing up” section could both be inaccurate by accident, giving a false impression that nothing was wrong. The hypothesis relies on storing a sufficiently large “summing up” component so that this undesirable possibility is so remote as to be safely ignored.
In order to send messages across the Internet reliably, ‘TCP’ is used. TCP/IP is the common abbreviation for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol and is used for virtually all communication on the Internet. While Internet Protocol (IP) is essential to the Internet, Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) is not, and other ‘protocols’ may be used that I will not discuss.
Individuals, not IDs
Most people are more familiar with “Internet Addresses” like “http://www.ocportal.com” than with “188.8.131.52.” Since names are more familiar to humans than numbers, the domain name system (DNS) is often used to give names (‘domain names’) to specialized computers that humans need access to.
IP addresses are still used for all communication on the internet (remember ‘184.108.40.206’ is an IP address). Therefore, prior to the actual exchange of data, the ‘domain names’ are secretly converted to IP addresses.
Looking up a domain name boils down to a straightforward technique of “homing in” by reading the name from left to right in an interrogative fashion. To illustrate, let’s take a look at how we’d try to find ‘http://www.ocportal.com’ in a search engine.
Every device connected to the Internet can easily connect to the “root” DNS servers, which are in charge of top-level domains (TLDs) including “com,” “org,” “net,” and “UK.” A random one of these machines is contacted. When asked if it recognizes the address “http://www.ocportal.com,” the DNS server computer will reply that it knows which server computer handles the domain “com.”
When asked if it is familiar with the URL “http://www.ocportal.com,” the ‘com’ server computer will reply that it knows which server computer is responsible for the domain in question.
If you ask the computer running “ocportal.com” if it recognizes “http://www.ocportal.com,” it will say that “220.127.116.11” is the address of the relevant server.
Keep in mind that a server machine merely being responsible for a domain name does not mean that the domain name in question corresponds to that machine. For instance, the DNS server for ‘ocportal.com’ might not be the same server as ‘ocportal.com’.
Computers will remember results to avoid doing a full interrogation for every name to lookup since some domain names or parts of domain names are very regularly used. Because the looking-up computer does not carry out the whole search itself, I have greatly simplified the process in my example. The ‘root DNS servers’ and the DNS servers responsible for names like ‘com’ would be overwhelmed if every machine on the Internet performed a comprehensive search. Instead, it would have to ask its own specialized “local DNS server,” which might recall a result of partial result, or might seek help (full, or partial), from its own specialized “local DNS server,” and so on.
People are given domain names by registering them with an agent (a “registrar”) of the organization responsible for the last portion of the domain name. At the time of writing ,.com and.net domains are managed by VeriSign, of which Network Solutions is a division. Most domain buyers probably don’t know about the countless registrars who work for VeriSign; they just buy the names they want from the agent and have only one point of contact, along with their web host (which is often the same company), for everything related to their domains. Never buy a domain; only rent it, and renew it for a term slightly longer than the renting duration.
I’ve explained in detail how information is transmitted across the Internet, but these transmissions are still utterly unprocessed and illegible at this point. Layering yet another protocol on top of our existing physical network (IP and TCP) is necessary before any useful communication can take place.
Multiple protocols exist to build upon preexisting channels of communication, such as:
HTTP is used for accessing websites and is commonly read by browser software.
Using POP3, a user can download their email and read it locally on their computer.
IMAP4 – for storing messages on the server and reading them in email client software
When using email software, SMTP is used to send messages.
File Transfer Protocol (FTP) — Used for transferring data between computers (occasionally through a web browser, though dedicated FTP software is preferable).
ICMP is used for a variety of purposes, including sending out “pings” (the Internet version of “Are you there?”).
The MSN Messenger protocol is only one of many that aren’t actually industry-wide standards but were developed by a single company to serve the needs of their own product.
Unless you have a specific reason to know them, I will not go into detail about any of these processes.
The data exchanged between parties in a protocol is typically a request or an answer to a previous request. For instance, in the case of HTTP, a client computer sends a request for a specific web page to a server, and the server essentially answers with the requested file enclosed within HTTP.
It is the ‘ports’ via which these protocols are implemented that tell the computers which one to utilize. For instance, the port number ’80’ is used by most web servers, therefore any incoming messages on that port are handled by the web server software, which learns to expect the hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP) format.
It’s easier for a client computer since it knows that each message it sends will be answered in the same protocol. The server and client computers usually establish a stream (labeled discourse) between them when exchanging messages. They can then link messages to the stream based on their IP address and port of origin.
The Internet, or WWW
I’ve covered how the Internet operates, but I haven’t gotten to the specifics of the ‘World Wide Web’ (the ‘web’). People often confuse the Internet with its underlying publication system, the Web.
It would be ridiculous if every website on the Internet needed its own ‘domain name,’ but IP addresses (often located via domain names) are used to identify resources on the Internet. The web, however, needs something more sophisticated. You probably already know about “URLs” (uniform resource locators), the identifiers used on the web to link to specific pages; they are posted everywhere these days, albeit sometimes in abbreviated form.
An example of a common URL is this:
However, that isn’t a whole URL, as URLs are often far more involved than that. For instance:
The more complicated example is unnecessary for understanding this topic.
The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is the foundation of the World Wide Web. Hence, “http://” is the standard prefix for URLs. Some URLs may begin with ‘ftp://’ because most web browsers also support FTP.
A source identifier’ is typically only the name of a file on the server. A file with the same path on the server machine, such as “mywebsite/index.html,” would be located in a dedicated directory. Since the web wasn’t created for Windows, the previous operating system standard of using the “symbol to denote directories is still in use.
There are now three tiers of “Internet Address,” each representing a higher level of sophistication:
Electronic Protocol Numbers
Inputting a URL into a web browser would cause the browser to make the necessary connections to the server computer defined by the URL (often via the HTTP protocol). The browser would then get an attachment from the server machine. The browser would read the file and determine how to display it, just like any other piece of software on a computer would. A ‘MIME type’ is used in the HTTP protocol to provide the type of resource that can be sent from the server, so that the web browser can determine how to interpret the file. If the web server computer is just sending out a file stored on disk, the web server computer determines the MIME type based on the file’s extension (for example, ‘.html’).
One type of file that specifies a website is called an “HTML” file. It’s a text file that combines the data needed to render a document with the document itself. If you’re inquisitive, you can use your browser’s “View page source” feature to inspect a web page’s raw code, which includes both normal human language and short text between ”
ocProducts (http://ocproducts.com/) is led by Chris Graham, who also serves as the company’s Managing Director. ocProducts provides cutting-edge website solutions via the ocPortal website engine (http://ocportal.com/). With ocPortal, anyone can build, maintain, and host a cutting-edge website with a high degree of interactivity and flexibility.