The Internet and the World Wide Web, or simply the web, are not the same thing. The Internet is “a massive network of networks”. It is composed of local computer networks, and the connections that exist between those networks, which together form a worldwide communication network. The web, on the other hand, is the information shared over the internet by way of HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP).
The Internet is the network, and the web is made up of the websites accessed over the Internet by way of HTTP.
Since they are two separate entities, the Internet and the web have distinct histories and were started at different times. While the web was only born in 1990, the origin of the Internet can be traced back a few decades further, to the 1960s.
The First Computer Networks
At it’s core, the Internet is a network that allows packets of information to move from one computer to another. Research into packet switching can be traced back to the 1960s. The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), funded by the United States Department of Defense, was one of the most prominent and successful of these early network research projects, and led to the development of communication protocols that allowed for internetworking: the connection of different computer networks, and an idea fundamental to the eventual creation of the Internet as we know it today.
Take a look at some of the earliest maps showing the growth of ARPANET.
The first internet connection was made between UCLA’s School of Engineering in Los Angeles, and a research organization, SRI International, in Menlo Park, CA. The day was October 29, 1969. Additional ARPANET sites were added quickly, and a total of fifteen sites were connected just two years later. The real growth didn’t happen until the standardization of the internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) in 1982, which enabled worldwide communication using a single protocol.
Another major expansion occurred in 1986 when the National Science Foundation Network (NSFNET) allowed research and education organizations to make internet connections to supercomputer sites in the United States. Soon thereafter commercial Internet service providers (ISPs) began to appear, and by 1990 the Internet had outgrown the technological underpinnings of ARPANET to the point that it was decommissioned. The Internet stood fully on it’s own in 1995 when NSFNET was also decommissioned, and the Internet became a commercially-supported network of networks that would stand or fall based on it’s own merits.
The Web As a Catalyst for Growth
Want to get a sense of what the Web was like at birth? Check out the first website.
The incredible reach of the Internet today is due in no small to the web. The advent of HTTP, the proliferation of ISPs, and the launch of the NCSA Mosaic browser in 1993 and Netscape Navigator less than a year later, were all instrumental in making the Internet a place where anyone could reach a global audience. Ecommerce sites such as Amazon and Ebay were founded very shortly thereafter in 1994 and 1995 respectively, and online communities in the form of forums and bulletin boards proliferated.
Without the web, it’s hard to imagine the Internet having the sort of global penetration that it enjoys today. The web was the Internet service most easily adapted to commercial purposes, and readily adopted by an increasingly computer-literate public. However, the web is not the only service made possible by the Internet.
Other Services Made Possible by the Internet
HTTP, the communication protocol that makes the web possible, is just one of the many communication protocols used to transfer information across the Internet. Various other communication protocols make other Internet services possible. Two additional critical services delivered across the Internet are communication and data transfer.
The communication services made possible by the Internet have become a staple of modern life. It’s hard to imagine what business and personal communication would look like today without the availability of Internet-enabled services such as email and VOIP phone calls.
Data transfer is another service enabled by the Internet that businesses and individuals rely on every day. Common Internet tasks such as file sharing, the use of FTP software to move files on and off of web servers, and streaming of media files are all made possible by data transfer internet communication protocols.
The Internet was born in the 1960s as a research project developed by educational, governmental, and non-profit research organizations. Since then it has grown up into the network that connects us in ways never before possible.
- The web, made possible by the Internet, has created a virtual world in which we do business, work, and play.
- Communication services such as email and VOIP phone service, made possible by the Internet, provide unprecedented ability to communicate privately to virtually any other person in the world.
- File sharing services, made possible by the Internet, enable virtual collaboration and a shared experience around rich media.
Born in the 1960s, exploding in reach beginning in the 1990s, and reaching new corners of the globe every day, the Internet has rapidly become a fundamental part of the infrastructure of modern life.