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In·ter·net (n.)
An interconnected system of networks that connects computers around the world via the TCP/IP protocol.

Well that helps a whole lot, doesn't it?

Computers are attached to networks so they can communicate and share files. Networks connected together using special computing devices called routers are called internets (note the lowercase 'i' in internets). The complete set of all the networks built and connected by human beings on the planet Earth are called The Internet (note the word the and the capital I in Internet).

If you're interested in the History of the Internet or how it came to be, click HERE.

Why do we mention human beings and planet Earth? Because we have satellites (UoSAT-12, A1SAT-1, CHIPsat, CANDOS and UK-DMC) that are directly on the Internet (thanks to Cisco and NASA) and NASA is building a network for space exploration starting with Mars extending the Internet to a second planet.

Now that we got that straight, let's confuse things a little.

What's the difference between the Internet and the World Wide Web?

Put most simply, the Internet is the hardware, the World Wide Web (The Web for short) is software.

Everyone knows what a web page is if they have ever surfed the Web. But do they know what the Internet is? Is it web pages? Is it chat? Is it e-mail? Is AOL the Internet? (NO!)

The Internet is the all the computer and telecommunications gear that supports ALL of those things and more. Web pages, chat & IRC, instant messages, and even AOL are just programs that use the Internet. They are not the Internet itself. The Internet is a combination of computers, wires and other specialized telecommunications equipment that makes it possible to transfer data between any two computers connected to the Internet.

NEWSFLASH!!  The World Wide Web doesn't exist.

"WHAT?!!" you're saying, "Of COURSE the web exists, I can click on it!"

Don't make me get existential...

The Web is not a real, coporeal, physical object. If you use AOL, sometimes you're using a web browser (and sometimes you're not). If you click on the big blue e on your desktop, you're using a web browser. A web browser does most of the work when you are surfing the Web. Your web browser is just a program that gets your computer to open a connection on the Internet to a web server and then uses that connection to download a web page.

The Internet does exist! The Internet is physcal hardware you can put your hands on (routers, T1's, wiring, etc.), not files full of text stored on hard drives in a million different computers. The Web is a construct Neo... (er, sorry Mr. Fishburn). The Web is nothing more than the files on web servers connected to the Internet that you use software on your computer to access. When you connect to AOL over your cable modem, you're still using software to connect over the Internet to connect to AOL's servers. The process is the same; software running on your computer accesses the network infrastructure that is the Internet to connect to a server and retreive or send data.


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