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How Does the Internet Work?

Updated on September 25th 2023

February 22nd 2023

Ontology Of Value How-does-the-internet-work-1024x683 How Does the Internet Work? Engineering IT Job Market Analysis and Predictions
Image generated with Stable Diffusion on February 22nd, 2023 using the prompt "artistic vision of internet as a way of connecting people"

This text was fully written by humans.

SUMMARY / KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • In this article, we dive into the inner workings of the Internet and explore the various components that make it function.

  • First, we introduce the origin story behind the Internet. How did it all start?

  • Then, we cover all the key concepts you need to understand in order to grasp how does Internet work — all from the physical infrastructure that connects physical devices to the Internet, to the protocols that enable communication and the servers that store and transmit information. 

  • We also mention ICANN: the non-profit organization that guards the Internet.

  • Lastly, we discuss the current stage of development of the Internet and possible future directions for the development of the world wide web.

How Does the Internet Work? On The Origin of the Internet.

If you are reading this text, you probably spend a vast portion of your daily life online—working, studying, catching up with the news, getting entertained, exploring the world. 

But have you ever wondered how does the Internet work? What is the fabric of this complex network that has revolutionized the way we communicate and access information? 

And, how is it possible for you to connect to a server on the other side of the world in just a few seconds (or even milliseconds!) and access virtually any piece of information you desire? 

In this article, we’ll dive into the inner workings of the Internet and explore the various components that make it all possible. We’ll cover all the key concepts you need to understand in order to grasp how does Internet work.

From the physical infrastructure that connects physical devices to the Internet, to the protocols that enable communication and the servers that store and transmit information. So, get ready to learn about the amazing technology that has transformed our world.

The Internet has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1969 as a project funded by the US Department of Defense. The goal of the project was to create a network of computers that could communicate with each other and share resources, in order to ensure the continuity of military communications in the event of a nuclear attack. 

The first iteration of the Internet was called the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), and it connected four universities in the United States: University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Stanford Research Institute (SRI), the University of California-Santa Barbara (UCSB) and the University of Utah.

Over the next several decades, the Internet continued to evolve and expand, with the development of new technologies such as the creation of commercial ISPs (or, Internet Service Providers). 

Today, the Internet is a global network that connects billions of devices around the world, enabling communication and the exchange of information on an unprecedented scale.

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How the Internet Connects Devices.

1. Physical Infrastructure.

The physical infrastructure of the Internet refers to the hardware that enables devices to connect to and access the Internet. This includes a variety of components, such as:

Cables:

The Internet relies on a complex network of physical cables to transmit data from one place to another. These cables can be made of copper wire, fiber optic strands, or a combination of both.

Routers:

Routers are devices that direct traffic on the Internet, helping to ensure that data is transmitted to the correct destination. They are connected to the Internet via cables and use IP addresses to identify the devices they are communicating with.

Servers:

Servers are powerful computers that store and transmit information on the Internet. They can be located in data centers or other locations and are connected to the Internet via cables and routers.

Modems:

A modem is a device that allows your device to connect to the Internet via a phone line or cable connection.

WiFi:

WiFi technology allows devices to connect to the Internet wirelessly, using radio frequencies to transmit and receive data.

All of these components work together to form the physical infrastructure of the Internet, enabling devices to connect and communicate with each other.

2. Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

An Internet Service Provider (ISP) is a company that provides access to the Internet. Whenever you want to connect to the Internet, you need to sign up for an Internet service plan with an ISP. There are several different types of Internet service plans available, including broadband, DSL, and dial-up.

Once you have signed up for an Internet service plan, you will receive a router from your ISP. To access the Internet, you will need to connect your device to the router using an ethernet cable or WiFi. 

Once connected, you can access the Internet by opening a web browser and typing in a URL. The request for information will be sent to a server over the Internet, and the server will send the information back to your device, allowing you to access the desired website or online content.

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The Role of Protocols In The Mechanics of the Internet.

1. What Is a Protocol?

Protocols are an essential component of the Internet, serving as the rules and standards that govern communication between devices on a network. They define how devices should connect to the network, transmit and receive data, and handle errors and other issues that may arise. 

Without protocols, it would be impossible for the Internet to function as a cohesive network, as devices would be unable to communicate with each other in a meaningful way. There are many different protocols used on the Internet, each serving a specific purpose and enabling various types of communication and data transfer.

2. Common Protocols.

There are many different protocols that are used on the Internet, each serving a specific purpose. Here are 4 examples of common protocols:

TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol).

TCP or IP is the primary protocol used on the Internet and is responsible for transmitting data between devices. It consists of a set of rules that define how data should be transmitted and received, as well as how errors should be handled.

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol).

HTTP protocol used for transmitting data on the World Wide Web. It is the foundation of the Internet, as it enables the communication between web browsers and web servers and allows users to access websites and other online content.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol).

FTP protocol used for transferring files between computers on the Internet. It enables users to upload and download files from a server and is commonly used for transferring large files or transferring files between servers.

SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol).

SMTP protocol used for transmitting email messages between servers. It enables users to send and receive email messages and is used by email clients such as Outlook and Gmail.

These are just a few popular examples among the many protocols that are currently used on the Internet.

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How Is Information Transmitted And Received On The Internet?

Transmitting Information Online.

The process of sending and receiving information on the Internet is fairly straightforward. Whenever you want to access information on the Internet, you use a device such as a computer, smartphone, or tablet to send a request for the information to a server.

This request is sent via your Internet Service Provider (ISP) over a network of lines and cables to the server, which is a powerful computer that stores websites and other types of information.

Once the server receives the request, it retrieves the requested information and sends it back to your device over the same network of lines and cables. Your device receives the information and displays it on the screen for you to view.

This process happens in a blink of an eye, allowing you to access information and communicate with others around the world in real-time. The speed of the process depends on a variety of factors, including the speed of your Internet connection, the distance between your device and the server, and the amount of traffic on the network.

The Role of Servers In The Internet.

A server is a powerful computer that is used to store and transmit information on the Internet. Servers are connected to the Internet via cables and routers and are able to communicate with other devices on the network.

There are many different types of servers, including web servers, application servers, and file servers, each serving a specific purpose. Web servers are used to store and transmit websites and other online content, while application servers are used to run applications and provide services to users. File servers are used to store and transmit files, and email servers are used to transmit and receive email messages.

Servers are typically located in data centers or other secure locations and are designed to handle large amounts of traffic and data. They store and transmit information using a variety of protocols, such as HTTP and FTP, which enable communication between servers and other devices on the Internet.

Overall, servers play a crucial role in the functioning of the Internet, as they store and transmit the vast amounts of information that are accessed by users around the world. Here are 5 main types of servers:

Web Servers.

Web servers are used to store and transmit websites and other online content. They receive requests for webpages from users and send the requested webpages back to the user’s device.

Application Servers.

Application servers are used to run applications and provide services to users. They are often used in enterprise environments to provide access to business-critical applications and data.

File Servers.

File servers are used to store and transmit files. They are commonly used to store and share files within an organization or between users.

Email Servers.

Email servers are used to transmit and receive email messages. They are used by email clients such as Outlook and Gmail to send and receive email messages.

Database Servers.

Database servers are used to store and manage large amounts of data. They are often used in conjunction with application servers to provide access to data for applications.

How Are Websites Hosted?

Websites are hosted on servers, which are powerful computers that store and transmit websites and other types of information on the Internet.

When you want to access a website, you use a device such as a computer, smartphone, or tablet to send a request for the website to the server that hosts the website. The server retrieves the website and sends it back to your device, where it is displayed in your web browser.

To host a website, a company or individual must rent space on a server from a hosting provider. The hosting provider will provide the server and the necessary infrastructure to store and transmit the website, as well as an IP address that is used to identify the website. The website owner is responsible for uploading the website’s content and maintaining the website on the server.

There are many different types of hosting options available, including shared hosting, dedicated hosting, and cloud hosting. The type of hosting that is best for a website depends on the size and needs of the website, as well as the budget of the website owner.

Here is the list of available types of hosting that can serve to put your website in virtual world:

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The Role of ICANN In The Internet.

ICANN stands for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. It is an international non-profit organization responsible for coordinating the maintenance and management of the global Internet’s system of unique identifiers, such as domain names and IP addresses – or, “Internet police” if you will.

ICANN plays a crucial role in ensuring the stability and security of the Internet by overseeing the process of assigning and managing unique identifiers. It also sets policies and standards for the use of these identifiers, and it works with other organizations around the world to promote the development and growth of the Internet.

ICANN was created in 1998 and has headquarters in Los Angeles, California. It operates under a set of bylaws and policies that are designed to ensure that the organization is accountable and transparent in its operations.

What Is Dark Web?

And now, let’s briefly mention the elephant in the room: what we see while browsing the Internet is not the whole spectrum of online content. Well, it’s not even close! 

The so-called dark web is a bit like dark-matter in space. It is a part of the internet intentionally hidden and inaccessible through standard web browsers and search engines such as standard search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo.

Websites and online platforms that belong to dark web are not publicly available but require special software, configurations, or permissions to access. To access the dark web, you typically need to use specialized software such as the Tor (The Onion Router) network. 

Tor is designed to provide anonymity and privacy to its users by routing their internet traffic through a series of volunteer-operated servers, making it extremely difficult to trace the origin of the traffic. This network allows users to access websites with “.onion” domain extensions, which are unique to the dark web.

As it consists of pages not indexed by search engines and is hard to access in a systematic way, it remains unclear how large the dark web is and what portion of the Internet it occupies.

Why would any user of the Internet be willing to hide their content from web browsers? Well, the dark web gained reputation as a hub for illegal activities, although this is not necessarily true. Visitors of the dark web can maintain their privacy and freely express their views, therefore, many Internet users prefer to stick to the dark side of the web just to stay free and uncensored.

Conclusions: Where Are We In The Evolution of the Internet and What Is The Future?

Keep Mental Hygiene and Productivity Online!

Remember that the Internet is not our natural habitat as humans. While connecting, you enter a real jungle! And even if you know a lot about the way Internet and human brain function, as the Internet user you remain prone to manipulation and cognitive biases (a.k.a. cognitive errors).

Browsing online is like a Nervo game of sorts. You try to (1) Complete your tasks and achieve your goals, (2) Maintain your peace of mind. While the whole rest of the Internet tries to (1) Possess your time and attention, (2) Frighten you or piss you off. So, brace yourself and learn how to keep mental hygiene while surfing.

Furthermore, remote work requires a great deal of self-awareness and self-discipline. You can find our advice for how to effectively manage yourself while working online in the following articles:

Web3.

One problem with democratizing the Internet is that, we experience the economic tragedy of the commons problem: as the Internet belongs to everyone and has no formal owner or manager, it becomes a scene for noise, dirt, and abuse like a public square in the ancient times. How to keep it clean if no one feels responsible for it?

As we explained in our article “What Is Web3? The Future of Web3 and How It Will Affect The Job Market,” we are now going through transformational or even revolutionary times in the history of the Internet, moving from centralized platforms dominating the web2 toward more decentralized and hopefully fairer web3. 

As opposed to large corporations trading their users’ data — which is the reality of today’s web2 — in the new, democratic version of the Internet, content creators and data donors will directly benefit from their input and effort via virtual economics.

However, where will this bring us? Is web3 the real deal, or is this just an empty phrase; a marketing buzzword to attract the tech investors’ money? Opinions vary but one thing is for certain: the race to come up with new, more democratic protocols to share and access the data online will benefit us all.

Ontology Of Value The-Evolution-of-the-World-Wide-Web-www-web1-web2-web3-1024x699 How Does the Internet Work? Engineering IT Job Market Analysis and Predictions

Metaverse.

Yet another new online trend is the Metaverse: a vision known since the very beginnings of the Internet and propagated worldwide by the (in)famous Mark Zuckerberg.

As introduced in our article “What Is Metaverse And How Will It Influence The Economy And Job Market?,” Metaverse is supposed to be a “digital universe that you can inhabit and explore with others. It is created and owned by its inhabitants.”

The concept is highly controversial, and was once called “the colonization of consciousness” by the comedian and Internet personality Russell Brand. However, the development of the platforms and hardware (including the race between Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Meta to develop high-resolution VR technology) enabling Metaverse to happen, is fast.

Given the technological progress around the concept of Metaverse, the development Metaverse might lead to the birth of multiple new trends in the economy and consumer markets in the coming years and is definitely a trend worth watching.

To end this article in a thought provoking way, here are a few examples of how the product of the Internet, Stable Diffusion, interpreted the prompt “artistic vision of internet as a way of connecting people.” And how do feel about the future of the Internet? Please share with us in the comments below!

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Please cite as:

Siddiqui, H. A., Bielczyk, N. (2023, February 22nd). How Does the Internet Work? Retrieved from https://ontologyofvalue.com/how-does-the-internet-work/

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