What is the internet?

Guide to understanding what the internet is

I will cover some basics such as history and infrastructure and a few technicalities of what the internet is. But more importantly, I will look at what the internet is from a different angle - the impact of the internet. By the time you are done here you will hopefully understand the internet from a whole new perspective.

Jump to section:
What is the internet’s history and development
What is the internet’s impact on society?
Conclusion on the internet

History of the internet

The internet of course started out as a project of the United States military. It is a well-known fact that the military had been developing giant room sized computers around the country that could process a few kilobytes of information per second by the 1950s. Well what’s better at defeating the Russians than a bunch of individual room sized computers? A bunch of room sized computers that can share information with each other around the country. If you are unaware, the post-world war 2 era was basically an instant cold war between the United States and Russia, Democracy and Communism, the Allies and the Iron Curtain.

So the government started putting cables into the ground, across water ways, around mountains, etc, connecting all the computers, creating a rudimentary ad-hoc network. And the internet was born! Well not quite as we see it today, but sort of. Next universities began creating their own networks of computers, and the universities connected with other universities, and other government organizations started using the network, and other countries built their own networks. And soon all the networks were connecting with one another.

Once personal computers and Microsoft Windows began to emerge, it was only natural for Internet Service Providers to emerge and offer people the ability to connect to this massive network and access the ever increasing database of knowledge. (albeit on slow 28.8k and 56.6k modems)

Well of course as we now know as if it’s second nature, technology gets faster, more powerful, smaller, better over time through research and development. As was the case with Computers and the internet. The more computers and servers that connected to the internet, the more powerful and useful it became.

So what is the internet? Well basically the internet is a network of connected computers and servers (Dedicated computers meant to be on at all times for others to access). Each server and computer that is connected to the network receives an individual Internet Protocol #, kind of like a telephone #. You can type http://google.com or you can type and they’ll bring you to the same place.

What is the internet’s impact?

Of course the question “What is the internet" is not quite answered without considering what is really is to different people, and the impact it has on society.

If you ask a child what is the internet to them, they might say a place to play kid’s games.

If you ask a teenager what the internet is, they may say it’s a place to connect with all their friends in a way that was impossible a decade ago.

Young adults and adults alike may talk about incredible massively multiplayer gaming experiences that involve people from around the world.

If you ask someone in developing and third world countries, "what is the internet", they may say it’s a place to learn incredibly useful and valuable information of the world around them, ideas, social practices, farming techniques, democracy, skills, alanguages, etc.

An oppressed nation may describe the internet as a tool for fighting tyranny and seeking democracy.

Journalists if asked what the internet is will likely say it’s a never ending source of leads, fact checking, and background information.

Businesses will say the internet revolutionised how they interact with their clients and customers, how they offer services, and market their products.

An average person may not even think twice about the fact that almost any question you can think of has likely already been answered on the internet, and it’s available for you to look into, and discuss with others.

Religious groups may say the internet has been a way to spread their message to “every corner of the Earth".

Religious groups and police forces on the other hand may say the internet has brought about significant new challenges to battling crime, or upholding morality in society.

Of course for office workers, salespeople, businessman, and other groups of working people, if asked what is the internet, they will likely say it has increased productivity, efficiency, and the number of hours worked in a week.

So what is the internet?

The internet is a place to connect with anyone and everyone on the planet. A place to share ideas and knowledge. A place to advance the human race. It is a tool for democracy, a tool for world citizenship, a tool to end tyranny. It continues to grow and develop over time.

What is the internet to you?

Last Updated: December 10, 2013

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