The internet has been described as “a massive network of networks”. It includes all of the interconnected computer networks that together form a global network. With the help of internet routers and name servers, this interconnected network enables any connected computer in the world to communicate with any other connected computer, as long as they are both talking the same language.
The Internet is highly complex global network of computer networks that enables a wide variety of communication protocols.
The Internet language, or communication protocol, that we are all most familiar with is HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP). It’s the protocol that makes the World Wide Web, or just the web, possible. It’s the communication protocol that connects your computer or phone to web servers that deliver the websites you visit. To understand the anatomy of the net, or how the net works, let’s consider what happens when you visit a website using HTTP.
How The Internet Works
How the Internet works is a very complex subject with a great deal of detail and nuance. If you really want to know how the Internet works down to the finest point, there are multiple resources where you can learn all of the details. However, for most of us, a general description that glosses over some of the finer points is perfectly adequate, and will provide a working understanding of how this network of networks actually works.
Websites are made up of files full of code. Servers are the computers where the website files are stored. Some files, such as those containing HTML and CSS code, are simply sent straight to your browser to be interpreted. Other types of files, such those containing PHP or Ruby on Rails programming, have to be processed on the server to dynamically generate the website you want to see. After processing files as needed, the results are sent back to your browser. In addition to storing these files, different types of servers are also the computers that communicate to locate and retrieve the website you want to view.
When you power up your computer, or open up a browser on your smartphone, here’s the process that plays out to deliver a website to your device:
- You open up a browser and type in the domain name of the website you wish to visit. For example, you might type https://websitebuilders.com.
- Your browser is not connected directly to the Internet. Instead, it is connected to a server managed by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). The ISP’s server is your point of connection to the Internet.
- When you hit “Enter” after typing in the domain name, your browser converts your request into packets of information that contain your request as well as additional information needed to understand your request, and make sure the website you’ve requested makes it back to you.
- Once your ISP receives the packet with your request it will check with another type of server, called a Domain Name System (DNS) server, to find the actual location, or IP address, of the web server where that website resides.
- With the IP Address of the web server identified, your ISP sends your request directly to the web server that contains the website you’ve requested.
- The web server receives the request, processes whatever files needs to be processed and sends back a copy of the website you want to view. Using the information included in your request packet, the web server sends the website files back to your ISP.
- Your ISP receives the files, notes that they are a response to your request, and delivers the files to your browser.
- Your browser receives the web page files, interprets their contents, and displays the contents in your browser.
- Every time you click on a link or type in a new address, this entire process is played out again.
Different Internet communication protocols each work a little differently. HTTP, the protocol that powers the web, is the protocol described above. Other protocols make use of the same basic components: your device and a variety of servers, but process information a little differently to support the service, such email or a VOIP phone call, that you’re accessing.
The Internet is highly complex global network of computer networks that enables a wide variety of communication protocols. Each of these protocols makes use of the network of servers that are the backbone of the Internet itself. These servers talk to each other using these communication protocols to support the services you’ve come to depend on, such as accessing websites, sending and receiving email, making VOIP video and phone calls, and streaming the latest episode of your favorite show.