A computer network is a system of interconnected computers that can communicate with each other. It can be local in nature wherein a few computers might be inter-connected and they communicate with each other via a network of wires. Extrapolate it to the entire world, and you have the internet – a computer network consisting of all the computers in the world which are interconnected to each other. The word itself is a combination of the words “interconnected” and “network”. It is used for a large number of purposes, some of which will be covered in this article.
The history of computer networks can be traced back to the 1960s in USA where attempts were made to build a robust and fault-tolerant communication. ARPANET was the first network which largely served regional academic and military networks. In the 1980s, research at CERN in Switzerland by British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee resulted in the World Wide Web, linking documents into an information system, accessible from any node on the network. It was only in the 1990s that various commercial networks were linked and the modern internet came into being. Since then, its commercialization has led to proliferation of internet into almost all aspects of life including communication, education, shopping, media and telephony. These services converged onto the internet platform, and people could now access these services without any physical restrictions. Such popularity of the internet led in late 1990s to a lot of speculation in the internet field which eventually resulted in even more increase in the reach and its acceptability.
Till today, the Internet has no single governing body and every country has its own set of laws by which the it is governed within that country.
Since the Internet consists of numerous computers, if all of them communicated in their own way, it would be impossible for two devices to communicate with each other. To overcome this, certain standardization is needed. Thus, certain protocols are devised which lay out standards on how two devices will communicate will each other. A protocol is a set of rules defining the way in which data is stored or transmitted.
A non-profit organisation named Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) handles the technical specifications which makes the Internet work. It also handles the “standardisation” aspect through various work-groups which are open to anyone to contribute. When an outcome is achieved by a work-group, it publishes a document called Request for Comments (RFC) on the IETF website. Another body named Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) coordinates the maintenance of domains and IP addresses on the internet.
The various computers on the Internet are identified by an IP address, which is a set of four numbers, each ranging between 0 to 255. Since it would be difficult for humans to remember numbers, there are corresponding Domain Names which correspond to IP-Addresses (e.g. an IP address of www.google.com is 18.104.22.168). This mapping is always working seamlessly in the background that
The Internet has possibly been the major revolution in computer world after the discovery of computer itself. It carries many network services, most prominently the World Wide Web, including social media, electronic mail, mobile applications, multiplayer online games, digital telephony, file sharing, and streaming media services.
Its usage has grown tremendously. From 2000 to 2009, the number of Internet users globally rose from 394 million to 1.858 billion. By 2010, 22 percent of the world’s population had access to computers. In 2014 the world’s Internet users surpassed 3 billion or 43.6 percent of world population, but two-thirds of the users came from the richest countries, with 78.0 percent of Europe countries population using it, followed by 57.4 percent of the Americas.
However, by 2018, this trend had shifted so tremendously that Asia alone accounted for 51% of all Internet users, with 2.2 billion out of the 4.3 billion users in the world coming from that region.
Since the Internet is available at much cheaper rates now-a-days, it has become a part of everyone’s lives. It helps you connect to your friends and relatives, and recently to strangers too. It helps you to watch media content whenever you want to watch it. It helps you to make your assignments, collaborate with others and also share your files with the entire world. It helps you to order stuff online. It has broken all the physical barriers. The rise of Social Media websites has led to the creation and sharing of information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. You can promote your brands or products through appealing websites, We now see politicians focusing on political campaigns through the Internet and social media.
Activists have also found an easy way to enable faster and more effective communication by the use of internet. Similarly hacktivism (hacking + activism) is the use of technology to promote a political agenda or a social change.
As mentioned above, there are so many benefits of the internet, but it all comes at a price, which is covered in the next post.
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