Brief Explanation Of What The Internet is and How it Works

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The Internet has effectively changed the world. It sounds like such a cliche to hear about that now. But the way the Internet has exploded over the past few years has in fact made it an understatement.

Yes, that’s the kind of impact that the Internet has on the global stage.

The Internet is able to do that because it is an unparalleled tool for communication. Never in human history has distances seem so insignificant. It has become as easy to talk with a person halfway across the planet as it is with a neighbor a couple of houses away. Well, almost.

There are still some hiccups when it comes to clarity of connection. Particularly for certain parts of the world. However, that can be viewed as a minor issue in the grander scheme of things.

So the Internet is a major instrument of change and has become such a big deal. Its influence and reach are increasing at a tremendous rate.

But in the middle of enjoying and reveling in its comforts and convenience, have you ever stopped to wonder - just what is the Internet and how does it work?

What is The Internet?

People the world over use and benefit from the Internet. We even use it on a daily basis. So much so that we can sometimes take it for granted.

But do we know what it is? 

The Internet is basically a global computer network that is mainly used for communication. It is also a collection of networks that are linked together intricately. Simply put, the Net is a platform for moving data from one place to another. That enables us to communicate through browsing, chatting, and sharing.

So you can chat with your friend who is vacationing in the tropics while you’re at home in London. Or send an email for a job application while you’re on the go at a train station. Or browse the World Wide Web for educational information. Or share funny videos of your puppy performing funny tricks.

The list goes on, much like how the Net is linked. It’s like an information superhighway that serves as a connection for the world’s computers.

What’s fascinating is that the Internet is actually a collection of standalone computers. Each one is linked together through the use of the telephone network.

Types of Internet Connection

Wired Internet

The most common type of connection is the wired Internet connection. It ranges from fiber optic cables to phone lines (DSL). There are probably hundreds of thousands of miles of wire used for this connection all over the planet.

A lot of the wires are laid underwater or underground. This helps prevent the degrading of the wires. 

In this type of connection, data is capable of traveling as much as 70 percent the speed of light. fiber optic cable makes such a fast transfer of data possible.

Satellite Internet

Satellite connection is the next best option if wired connection is not available. It is fast, although not as fast as wired Internet connection.

The reason it is a little slower is because of greater transmission distances. Data would also need to pass from satellite to satellite if the final address is not within the satellite’s range.

Cellular Internet

Cellular Internet connection is a relatively recent addition. This means that cell phones have joined the Internet craze.

Cell towers serve as wide Wireless Access Points (WAP). The difference is that they are for cell phone or data-enabled services use.

Cell phones can also be used as wireless routers using mobile hotspots, where devices could connect to the Internet using WiFi.

Internet Connection vs WiFi Connection

We need to make one thing clear. There is a distinction between your Internet connection and WiFi connection. One does not have anything to do with the other.

The two terms are also often used interchangeably, but it is wrong to do so. WiFi is really concerned about how strong you are connected to a Wireless Access Point (WAP) that’s located in your Local Area Network (LAN).

On the other hand, your Internet connection measures how strong you are connected to the Internet. There are cases when you can have a strong connection to your WiFi and then have no Internet connection at all. And the reverse can also be true.

The Internet’s Main Task

As mentioned above, the net moves data from one place to another. That is the main function of the Internet and it is quite simple. The entire system does not distinguish between the information that is handled. Everything is treated the same way, no matter what that information is about.

In that sense, the Internet is like the great equalizer when it comes to the information that passes through it. There is no special treatment for anyone or anything.

This simplicity is what makes the net such an effective platform for moving all kinds of data. There is no specialization whatsoever. So people can use the net to test new applications. They can run their new apps on the basic network of the Internet and see if it works. Some might see this as a secondary function of the Internet. As a testing ground for new apps that can further ease the life of net users the world over.

How Does The Internet Work?

Okay, so we now know what the Internet is. Or at least a very basic knowledge of its background.

That should be enough to propel us to the next basic question - how does it work?

It would be easy to conceive of the workings of the net as some uber-complicated process. A complex process that ordinary folks will find hard to wrap their head around.

The reality however is that it is a mixture of both simplicity and complexity. Sounds confusing? Let us try to explain.

About Packet Switching

We’ll start by explaining how the Internet moves data. By now we know that the net moves quite a huge amount of data all the time.

It’s able to do this through the process known as “packet switching”. How does packet switching work?

For example, you are going to email someone in the Philippines. Instead of sending your email in a single go, it will be broken up and sent in small separate pieces called packets.

Each of those small pieces is tagged with its ultimate intended destination. They are also allowed to travel separately.

The packets are all allowed to travel through different routes. And when they finally reach their intended destination, the packets are reassembled to make the email whole again.

Packet switching means that there is no need to have a permanent connection between the two parties that are communicating. A whole chunk of the network will likely be blocked as a result. The same thing would happen if the email traveled as one piece instead of in several pieces.

Another result of packet switching is that many people can use the Internet at the same time. The packets are able to flow using different routes, it just depends on which ones are the busiest or quietest. Ultimately, there is a more even use of the entire network.

To say that the Internet has made the world a smaller place is a testament to its power and reach.

It continues to do so every day, with Internet speed and quality of connection improving by leaps and bounds.

  • 👍 Hopefully, this brief description of what the Internet is and how it works can help us all appreciate and understand this technology.

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