The Internet is the global system of interconnected computer networks that use the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to link devices worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of private, public, academic, business, and government networks of local to global scope, linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless, and optical networking technologies. The Internet carries a vast range of information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext documents and applications of the World Wide Web (WWW), electronic mail, telephony, and file sharing.
The Internet, sometimes called simply “the Net,” is a worldwide system of computer networks – a network of networks in which users at any one computer can, if they have permission, get information from any other computer (and sometimes talk directly to users at other computers). It was conceived by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the U.S. government in 1969 and was first known as the ARPANet. The original aim was to create a network that would allow users of a research computer at one university to “talk to” research computers at other universities. A side benefit of ARPANet’s design was that, because messages could be routed or rerouted in more than one direction, the network could continue to function even if parts of it were destroyed in the event of a military attack or other disaster.
The internet began life in 1969, when scientists working for the US Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA, now known as DARPA) connected computer networks at the University of California and the Stanford Research Institute. The system supposedly crashed when the team in California typed the G of “login”, but the technology had been proven and the network began to grow.
ARPANET, as it was known, was soon extended by technology like email. Email was developed in 1971 by Ray Tomlinson, and was so useful that by 1973 it made up three quarters of the traffic on the network. By this time, there were 40 individual networks connected to ARPANET. The first connection across the Atlantic Ocean also happened in 1973, when University College London was connected.
Around this time, other networks similar to ARPANET were being created in other countries. A system was developed to connect these networks together: this system is known as TCP/IP, and is still used today. The word “internet” refers to this process of connecting networks together to form a bigger network : “inter-“ means “between”, and “net” is short for “network”.
The early internet would be unrecognisable to most people today: there was no such thing as a website, and almost all communication was text-only. The online world we are more familiar with came a step closer in 1989, when Tim Berners-Lee proposed the “World Wide Web”, in which “hypertext” documents would be linked together for users to browse. The first web page was published in 1991, and the idea grew into the web we know today.
In 1990, the first publically-available ISP (Internet Service Provider) started, and internet access became a possibility for the general public. 1993 saw the first popular web browser, Mosaic, and websites for the US government and the United Nations. In 1996, Hotmail was launched as the first web-based email service, and in 1998 Google went live. The web we know today was beginning to take shape.