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Internet 101

The Internet

About the Internet and the World Wide Web

The InternetThe Internet is a worldwide network of smaller computer networks and individual computers, all linked together by coaxial cable, telephone lines or satellite links. The World Wide Web is just a part of the Internet, connected via hyperlinks. The Internet isn't owned by anyone. It isn't controlled by anyone and has no geographical boundaries. It isn't located anywhere. It is timeless and spaceless.

What is the Internet?

The Internet currently made up of millions of individual computers and computer networks (peers). Once you have an Internet account, either through an Internet service provider, like MCI or AT&T (an ISP), or through an online provider, like America Online or CompuServe, you can connect to this network through your provider's "gateway" (their entrance ramp to the Internet).

Different parts of the Internet work differently, but they all use the same peer network and transmit information in the same way. All information travels around the Internet in small units, called "packets." When you send anything on the Internet bigger than the proverbial cyber "bread box", it's broken into several packets which are reassembled at the destination. As they work their way to their destination, the packets bounce separately from peer to peer, like pinballs, around the Internet. They are directed around the Internet by computer routers which determine the best and fastest route around the Internet for each packet.

Our air traffic controllers can learn from the routers. They are the real beauty of the Internet. Routers reroute information around any system problems or shutdowns. If the traffic is too heavy in New York City, your information may arrive via Philadelphia with some packets arriving via Denver. It's simply a matter of finding the most efficient route. Physical distance means nothing in cyberspace.

Who invented it?

The Internet was developed in 1970 by ARPAnet, the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense. It was designed to allow the scientific community to communicate with each other and with the Department of Defense. It was specifically designed to survive a nuclear attack that would have cut off normal communications, like telephones, because it's self-healing. That means if one part is shutdown, the routers reroute traffic around the shutdown. It fixes itself.

How many people are on the Internet?

No one really knows for sure. Estimating how many people use the Internet has become as popular a pastime among Internet statisticians as predicting the weather, and just about as accurate.'s estimated that in mid-1997 there were approximately 40 million people on the Internet, 30 million from the U.S. and 10 million internationally. And, it's growing exponentially. People in the know estimate that there were about 70 million people online in 1998 and It is also estimated that about 15 million of them were children, worldwide.

How do people around the world speak to each other on the Internet?

The computers and networks comprising the Internet all speak the same language, TCP/IP. People on the Internet, though, speak different languages. But, since the Internet originated in the United States, English is considered the official language of the Internet (except in France, where all web sites must be maintained in French as a primary language if the server that hosts the web site is located in France).

Although other languages are being used more often on the Internet, English still predominates, and is likely to continue to do so.

What's The World Wide Web?

"WWW" stands for the World Wide Web. When people talk about surfing the Net, they are really talking about surfing the Web. The Web is a section of the Internet where information is linked to other related information, allowing you to jump from one place to another. (Actually, you don't go anywhere, the information comes to you. It just feels like you're jumping around.) It is also rich with graphics and sound. Lately, with the introduction of new applications, like Flash, it has become interactive and more loaded with multimedia fun.

The Web is the most popular area of the Internet. It now accounts for more than 90% of all Internet usage. It's also the fastest growing segment of the Internet. From only 130 web sites in 1993, there are now millions of separate sites, Web pages and files, worldwide.

Prior to the Web, the Internet was merely text and programs; it contained no graphics or sound, no animations or videos. It was a place for academics, scientists and programmers.

How does the WWW work?

Using HTTP, the Web works through hyperlinks,...interconnected documents and multimedia applications (such as audio and video). Your Web browser, such as Netscape Navigator or Microsoft's Explorer, is a software program that makes this all work. Like a spider web, where one thread is connected to many others, which are in turn connected to many more, you can click on one hyperlinked topic, and be whisked away to another connected place on the Web, anywhere in the world. (They work like footnotes which allow you to view the source or reference when you click on the linked text.) Being whisked from one site to another, using hyperlinks, is called "Web surfing."

Who invented the WWW?

The Web is still in its infancy, though. Less than eight years old, it was invented in 1989, when Tim Berners-Lee, while at CERN (the European Particle (atomic research) Physics Laboratory), in Geneva, Switzerland, introduced HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP). HTTP is the language that Web browsers use to help you move around the Web.

Although HTTP was released in 1992, the Web didn't become popular until Mosaic, the first Web browser (the software program that uses HTTP and lets you read text graphics and other multimedia and navigate the Web) was developed in 1993

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Parts of this Web site were taken from Parry Aftab's book The Parent's Guide to Protecting Your Children in Cyberspace. Marvel and all character names and the distinctive likenesses thereof are trademarks of Marvel Characters, Inc., and are used with permission. TM & © 2004 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved. Super Heroes is a Co-owned registered Trademark.
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