What is the Internet, and How Does it Work?
I am absolutely tired of people coming up to me with complete ignorance about the internet. Just the other day, I was talking to someone about domain names and they asked me, "What's a domain name?" I replied, "An easier way to remember an IP." "What's an IP?"
To those of you who are now shifting guiltily in your seats, I didn't mean to offend you. The thing is, most schools before high school don't teach internet infrastructure in science class or any other class. Most adults weren't in school during the advent of the dot com bubble. Therefore, mostly college kids know about this stuff. The basic knowledge of how the internet works is a necessity. This is the future.
I will present this information to you in noob form. I'm sorry; people who don't know basic information like this can be considered noobs.
So, what is the Internet?
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks. It's like the universe in a way; every universe has galaxies and stars in it, etc. In other words, every website you see is part of a computer, not an entity. There is no central storage unit that keeps the internet. It uses a thing called "TCP/IP" to connect to each other.
But how does the computer give me information?
These computers, called servers, are all connected to the Internet, just like your computer. The difference between your computer and servers is that they have a special software installed that allows the computer to be displayed on the internet freely. You can do it too with something like the Apache Web Server.
Some types of servers include:
- Web Servers, which convey websites to browsers
- Email Servers, such as POP3, IMAP, and SMTP, which allow email to be sent or recieved by communicating
with other servers
- Database Servers, which store and send data
So how am I able to connect to the Internet?
The Internet can be accessed through Internet Service Providers, or ISPs. ISPs include Time Warner Cable, AT&T, and the like. Basically they link you to the wires that link the Internet together, just like a telephone system. Once again, there is no central entity. A good simile would be like the Hindu Brahma. Brahma is in every living thing. There is no central Brahma. Similarly, every computer connected to the Internet is part of the Internet.
How does a website work?
Here's a good example of a website: my website.
My website is hosted on the servers of BlueHost Inc., which means that my website is a bunch of files and data inside of their computers. The .com part of my website is called a domain, and that domain is assigned to the IP address of my site, kind of like a shortcut. When you go to my website, you connect to the internet through the network of wires, cables, and antennas throughout the world. You basically tell my website to send you something called HTML, and my website sends you the HTML and information all in less than a second on good days.
So there you have it.