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Internet and the World Wide Web

Internet and the World Wide Web

Overview of the Internet

Internet history

Evolution of the World Wide Web

Web browsers

The cyberspace explosion

Blogs

Resources

Overview of the Internet

The Internet is global computer-based information system that is based on thousands of data networks scattered throughout the world. The networks may link hundreds, thousands, or millions of computers, allowing them to share information with one another and to share computational resources at businesses, universities, Internet service providers, governments, and other such organizations. Besides computer hardware, the Internet is also composed of software, cell phones, cameras, satellites, television monitors, robotic devices, and a wide array of other components. Whatever can be connected so that it can access the Internet is considered part of the Internet.

The Internet was created in 1983 as a product of academic and scientific communications. Universities and other academic institutions formed a network to connect their internal networks to a larger system, and these communications were built on standards or protocols for addressing systems and for exchanging data. Called the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), these included the word Internet that came to identify the huge, global network in use today.

By linking their communications, the original users of the Internet were able to exchange electronic mail (now known as e-mail), use file transfer protocol (ftp) to exchange data, obtain access via telephone lines to computers at other locations (through telnet), and to converse using newsgroups and bulletin boards. By the 1990s, the Internet was the common bond among millions of computers.

Internet history

The Internet did have a parent in a program called ARPANET, the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network. The United States Department of Defense developed ARPANET in 1969, from a directive given by President Dwight Eisenhower, as a network for organizations involved in defense research and as a secure communications system that would also survive attack. The first connection of the ARPANET was between the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and Stanford Research Institute (SRI). One of the characteristics of ARPANET was that its data were transmitted in so-called packets that were small parts of the longer messages the computers were exchanging. By segmenting the data and sending it by packet-switching, fewer problems in data transfer occurred. The system also had fault tolerance, which meant that communication errors could happen without shutting down the whole system.

When researchers began extending ARPANET into other applications, the National Science Foundation (NSF) adapted ARPANETs TCP/IP protocols to its own NSFNET network with many potential layers and the ability to carry far more communications. In fact, many other education and research organizations formed other networks in the 1980s; the Computer + Science Network (CSNET), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Department of Education (DOE) were among these. The need to make these networks a seamless operation was addressed when the National Research and Education Network (NREN) was formed, and it smoothed operations to make the Internet the network of all networks. By 1990, ARPANET ceased to exist because it had been fully replaced by the Internet.

While government and academic entities were developing networks that eventually combined under the infrastructure of the Internet, some businesses created successful networks of their own. Perhaps the most famous of these was Ethernet, a creation of Xerox Corporation that, in 1974, enabled all the machines in a single location to communicate with each other. In 1991, the Commercial Internet Exchange, or CIX, was formed by businesses with their own large networks. CIX is a high-speed interconnection point that allowed the member networks to exchange information for commercial purposes. CIX was largely independent of the NSFNET. Today, the Internet seems like one massive entity, and these separate networks are not easily distinguished in the global workings of the Internet.

The NSF remains actively involved in the operations and future of the Internet as one of several organizations that administers the Internet. The Internet Network Information Center (InterNIC) and the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) name networks and computers and resolve conflicts. Other organizations develop and administer protocols and engineer the complex interrelationships of networks.

While the Internet was evolving, need arose for methods for independent computer users to access the Internet. Within businesses, educational institutions, and government organizations, the Internet is accessed through a LAN, or Local Area Network, that provides service to all the employees of a company, for example, and is also a stepping-off point for Internet access. Independent users contract with commercial access providers to obtain Internet access. The commercial access providers are hosts to the Internet. They include America Online (AOL), Compuserve, Netcom, Verizon, AT&T, and many other nationwide and local providers.

Internet communications use a number of other technologies. Services are transmitted by telephone, television cables, satellites, fiber optics, and radio. Cable television wires and fiber optic telephone wires are steadily becoming more popular especially among users who want high-speed Internet services termed broadband services. Most consumers use modems (devices that translate electrical signals to sound signals and back) as the means of accessing the Internet through telephone lines. Special cable modems have speeds of 3 to 30 Megabits per second (Mbps) or more (a bit is a basic unit of computer information, and mega means million) per second. Telephone companies also provide Digital Subscriber Line services that use a wider range of frequencies over regular telephone lines and can transmit data at 8 million bps (Mbps) or more.

Evolution of the World Wide Web

In 1990, British physicist and computer scientist Sir Timothy John (Tim) Berners-Lee (1955) and other scientists at the international organization called CERN (European Center for Nuclear Research) in Geneva, Switzerland, developed a computer protocol called the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) that became the standard communications language between Internet clients and servers. Exchanges of information on the Internet take place between a server (a computer program that both stores information and transmits it from one computer to another) and a client (also a computer program but one that requests those transmittals of documents from the server). The client is not a person; the person giving instructions to the client is called a user. The first Web server in the United States was the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) in Palo Alto, California. To be able to look at retrieved documents, the users computer is equipped with browser software. The programmers at CERN also developed a text-based Web browser that was made public in 1992; they also proposed the name World Wide Web for their system.

Documents that comply with the HTTP protocol are called hypertext documents and are written in HyperText Markup Language (HTML), which includes both text and links. Links are formally called hypermedia links or hyperlinks that connect related pieces of information through electronic connections. Through links, users can access arrays of documents identified by these shared links. Documents consisting of text are identified through hypertext; and other kinds of information like photos and other images, sounds, and video are identified as hypermedia. Users find and access hypertext or hypermedia through addresses called Uniform Resource Locators or URLs. URLs often contain the letters http, www, and html (or htm) showing that, within the HTTP rules, they want to access the World Wide Web by speaking in HTML.

Most Web pages use HTML, however, lately Extensible Markup Language (XML) is becoming popular for business use. It allows a particular company to customize its Web presence, rather than to use the predetermined language of HTML. Others languages are also becoming more popular in use. The Wireless Markup Language (WML) is used for small wireless devices such as cell phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs). ECMA Script (or, JavaScript) is being used as a scripting language. In the future, Content Distribution Network (CDN), or mirroring, will gain popularity as Internet users demand faster response times. CDN allows multiple sites to contain the same information so the user can access the site that can provide the information the fastest. This ability is especially important when companies expect an exceptionally large volume at their Web site.

Web browsers

The World Wide Web helped new users to explore the Internet and became known as the Web or www. The World Wide Web is a graphical map for the Internet that is simple to understand and helps the user navigate around Internet sites; without the Web, the Internet would have remained a mystery to those without computer training. Web browsers have made the huge blossoming of use of the Web possible. Following CERNs pioneering work, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) developed Mosaic, a web browser that adapted the graphics, familiar icons (picture symbols), and point-and-click methods which were available on personal computers in 1993 to the Web. In 1994, Marc Andreesen (1971), originally from Cedar Falls, Iowa, one of Mosaics creators, helped form the Netscape Communications Corporation and devised Netscape Navigator, a highly successful Web browser that gave users comfortable access to the Web by using a mouse to click on familiar picture icons and search for information through links. These easy steps eliminate the need for the average user to understand computer languages and programming.

The cyberspace explosion

In two years, from 1993 to 1995, the World Wide Web exploded from an unknown entity to one that pervades every aspect of life: access to libraries around the world, recipes and coupons for tonights dinner, medical advice, details on how to build a space shuttle, and shopping for everything from music to mortgages. By 1997, 47 million Americans had attempted to access the Internet, prompting high-tech executives to classify the Internet as mass media. By 2005, it is estimated that there were about 197,800 million users of the Internet in the United Statesabout two-thirds the population of the United States. The top five users of the Internet in the world, as of 2005, were: the United States (approximately 197,800,000 people; 18.3% of total world usage), China (119,500,000; 11.1%), Japan (86,300,000; 8.0%), India (50,600,000; 4.7%, and Germany (46,300,000; 4.3%).

Colleges are using the Internet to market their facilities, recruit students, and solicit funds from alumni. In 2003, the Internet search engine Yahoo! reviewed 4,000 campuses and identified the top 100 schools as the most wired with access to library catalogs, access to the Web for students, computer connections available to every dormitory resident, and a range of other services. Forbes magazine did a similar review in 2006 and found that Atlanta, Georgia, is the most wired city in the United States, followed by Orlando, Florida; Seattle, Washington; and San Francisco, California, in that order. Programs for younger students sponsored by the NSF (National Science Foundation) and NASA let grade school children go on electronic field trips through closed-circuit television broadcasts from the planet Mars, the South Pole of Earth, and other places far beyond the classroom. The New York Times newspaper reported that the average Internet user spent about three hours per day using the Internet (as compared to 1.7 hours for television watching), with most of the time spend emailing, web browsing, and instant messaging.

Blogs

A blog (which is a contraction of Web log) is an Internet website where personal thoughts and opinions are made in journal style writings and displayed in reverse chronological order. Blogs are often compared to a mixture of a persons personal diary and a guidebook. They provide commentary or news on a particular subject such as politics, local community news, business features, and sports figures or events. Blogs report political news. Some blogs are personal diaries of people going through (for example) cancer treatments, divorces, or other similar problems within their lives, and of highlights in their lives such as marriages and pregnancies. Some blogs contain photographs, audios, and videos, but many are simply text messages. Before blogs became popular on the Internet, people used bulletin boards, email lists, and other means to communicate with friends and strangers.

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project (Pew Charitable Trusts), a poll taken between January and March 2005 reports that 9% of Internet users say they have created a blog and 25% of Internet users say they have read blogs.

The blog was first used by Jorn Barger (1953), from Ohio, on December 17, 1997 whenafter inventing the word weblog to describe the act of logging information on the Webhe altered the word weblog to we blog within his own blog site. The word blog caught on, and it began to circulate throughout the Web. Blogging was around before the 1990s but

KEY TERMS

Cyberspace The computer universe including software and data.

Hypermedia, hypermedia links, or hyperlinks Computer sound, video and images that comply with HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP).

Hypertext Computer text documents complying with HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP).

Internet The huge network connecting all other networks.

Links The electronic connections between pieces of information.

Local Area Network (LAN) The private network used within a company or other organization.

Modem A device that modulates electrical computer signals from the sender into telephone tones and demodulates them back to computer signals at the receivers end.

Network A system made up of lines or paths for data flow and nodes where the lines intersect and the data flows into different lines.

Packets Small batches of data that computers exchange.

Protocols Rules or standards for operations and behavior.

Web browser Software that allows the user to access the World Wide Web and the Internet and to read and search for information.

became more popular when automated publishing services (such as Blogger, Radio, and Microsoft Network [MSN] Spaces) offered blogging services. At that time, around 1999, the activity of blog sites became very popular. Open Diary, considered the first blog community, opened in October 1999. Other blog sites opened in that year included LiveJournal, Pitas.com, and Diaryland. Evans Williams and Meg Houriban started blogger.com in August 1999, which was later bought by Google in 2003.

There are different types of blogs. Business blogs are used for the express purpose of companies, either internally for their employees or externally for such areas as marketing, customer/investor communications, and advertising. Video blogs rely only on videos to relay their messages, while photo blogs only use photographs. Many blogs cover only specific topics such as politics, news, travel, and entertainment. Some blogs are typecast as to the digital device used to create them: whether it be a cell phone, PDA, laptop, or other similar device.

Since 2004, many blogs have complimented the established news media with their coverage of news events. News services often now have their own blogs to add to their news coverage. Many politicians use blogs to discuss issues with their constituents. The United States Democratic and Republican parties both acknowledged the usefulness of bloggers during their political campaigns and conventions in 2004.

Internet2 is a consortium of hundreds of universities, laboratories, corporations, and government organizations tied together with high-speed networks linked by fiber optic backbones. They have joined together to help organize the many emerging technologies that are shaping the Internet for the future. The University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development (UCAID) created it in 1996. Members of the UCAID hope to create, develop, coordinate, and manage new applications that can be used as complements to the existing Internet applications and infrastructures for the use and betterment of all of society.

Resources

BOOKS

Bakardjieva, Maria. Internet Society: The Internet in Everyday Life. London, UK, and Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2005.

Cantoni, Lorenzo. Internet. London, UK, and New York: Routledge, 2006.

Okin, J.R. The Information Revolution: The Not-for-dum-mies Guide to the History, Technology, and Use of the World Wide Web. Winter Harbor, MN: Ironbound Press, 2005.

Schneider, Gary P. New Perspective on the Internet: Comprehensive. Boston, MA: Thomson Course Technology, 2007.

OTHER

Electronic Software Publishing Corporation. Internet and World Wide Web History. <http://www.elsop.com/wrc/h_web.htm> (accessed October 13, 2006).

Gillian S. Holmes

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