An internet is a more general term informally used to describe any set of interconnected computer networks that are connected by internetworking.
The Internet, or simply the Net, is the publicly accessible worldwide system of interconnected computer networks that transmit data by packet switching using a standardized Internet Protocol (IP) and many other protocols. It is made up of thousands of smaller commercial, academic, domestic and government networks. It carries various information and services, such as electronic mail, online chat and the interlinked web pages and other documents of the World Wide Web.
Creation of the InternetDuring the 1950s, communications researchers realized that there was a need to allow general communication between users of various computers and communications networks. This led to research into decentralized networks, queuing theory, and packet switching. The development of ARPANET in the United States would lead to technical developments that made it the center point for the development of the Internet.
The first TCP/IP wide area network was operational in 1984 when the National Science Foundation's (NSF) constructed a university network backbone that would later become the NSFNet. It was then followed by the opening of the network to commercial interests in 1995. Important seperate networks that have successfully entered the Internet include Usenet, Bitnet and the various commercial and educational X.25 networks such as Compuserve and JANET.
The collective network gained a public face in the 1990s. In August 1991 Tim Berners-Lee publicized his new World Wide Web project, two years after he had begun creating HTML, HTTP and the first few web pages at CERN in Switzerland. In 1993 the Mosaic web browser version 1.0 was released, and by late 1994 there was growing public interest in the previously academic/technical Internet. By 1996 the word "Internet" was common public currency, but it referred almost entirely to the World Wide Web.
Meanwhile, over the course of the decade, the Internet successfully accommodated the majority of previously existing public computer networks (although some networks such as FidoNet have remained separate). This growth is often attributed to the lack of central administration, which allows organic growth of the network, as well as the non-proprietary nature of the Internet protocols, which encourages vendor interoperability and prevents any one company from exerting too much control over the network.
Today's Internet Apart from the incredibly complex physical connections that make up its infrastructure, the Internet is held together by bi- or multi-lateral commercial contracts (for example peering agreements) and by technical specifications or protocols that describe how to exchange data over the network.
Unlike older communications systems, the Internet protocol suite was deliberately designed to be independent of the underlying physical medium. Any communications network, wired or wireless, that can carry two-way digital data can carry Internet traffic. Thus, Internet packets flow through wired networks like copper wire, coaxial cable, and fiber optic; and through wireless networks like Wi-Fi. Together, all these networks, sharing the same high-level protocols, form the Internet.
The Internet protocols originate from discussions within the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and its working groups, which are open to public participation and review. These committees produce documents that are known as Request for Comments documents (RFCs). Some RFCs are raised to the status of Internet Standard by the Internet Architecture Board (IAB).
Some of the most used protocols in the Internet protocol suite are IP, TCP, UDP, DNS, PPP, SLIP, ICMP, POP3, IMAP, SMTP, HTTP, HTTPS, SSH, Telnet, FTP, LDAP, SSL, and TLS.
Some of the popular services on the Internet that make use of these protocols are e-mail, Usenet newsgroups, file sharing, Instant Messenger, the World Wide Web, Gopher, session access, WAIS, finger, IRC, MUDs, and MUSHs. Of these, e-mail and the World Wide Web are clearly the most used, and many other services are built upon them, such as mailing lists and web logs. The Internet makes it possible to provide real-time services such as Internet radio and webcasts that can be accessed from anywhere in the world.
Some other popular services of the Internet were not created this way, but were originally based on proprietary systems. These include IRC, ICQ, AIM, and Gnutella.
There have been many analyses of the Internet and its structure. For example, it has been determined that the Internet IP routing structure and hypertext links of the World Wide Web are examples of scale-free networks.
Similar to how the commercial Internet providers connect via Internet exchange points, research networks tend to interconnect into large subnetworks such as:
GEANT Internet2 GLORIAD These in turn are built around relatively smaller networks. See also the list of academic computer network organizations
In network schematic diagrams, the Internet is often represented by a cloud symbol, into and out of which network communications can pass.