The Internet explained

By 14th August 2017Blog

Before the Internet, there was the ARPANET. This was a research project for the American military and was part of the “ambitious projects” branch. ARPANET was a test of packet-switching, which breaks data into small packets so they can be transmitted through the network. One of the first ARPANET applications was Telnet, which allowed a researcher at one ARPANET site to log into a computer at another site.

In 1970 ARPANET had grown to universities such as Harvard and MIT. Each site had a router that cost around half a million dollars in today’s money. 1973 saw ARPANET going international with a satellite link connecting Norway and London to other sites in America. Due to the expenses incurred with expanding ARPANET, by 1982 there were only 100 nodes. ARPANET allowed computer scientists to communicate and even had a bulletin board that they shared tips, jokes, recipes and much more.

In 1984 ARPANET became the Internet. Network operators realised that if it continued to grow, it would become unmanageable so they created a decentralized “network of networks”. What this meant was that different networks could be managed by different organisations but still communicate with one another.

In order to get this network out to the public, the computer scientists needed to create what we refer to as a “backbone”. The first of these was NSFNET. NSFNET was used to link the supercomputer centres together to allow researchers across the country to access them. This allowed NSFNET to become the major “backbone” of the internet. Schools that didn’t have a direct connection to this built their own networks to connect to the closet NFSNET node.

In 1993, the US still dominated the internet game but it was slowly becoming a global network. In 1994, private companies took over the job of carrying long distance traffic. By 2000, almost half of America was connected. Today there are 2.5 billion people connected to the Internet.

There are 2 basic ways people can access the internet: through a fixed internet connection or via cell phone data.  Internet access is also a lot faster in some place than others. Hong Kong has the fastest speed in the world.

When they made the Internet public the controlling system they used us something known as IP addresses. Globally we have 5 IP address companies that control them. The original system, called IPv4 was created to only allow for 4 billion IP addresses, which is almost exhausted. Therefore, today we use IPv6 which will never run out.

The fastest way to send information around the world is through Fibre optic cables. The downside of this is that they are quite fragile, we saw this in 2008 when India and Egypt were out due to an undersea cable being “cut” in the Mediterranean.

Due to a number of links going into the US, it is almost impossible for an entire Internet shut down. However, some countries have government policies where they control Internet access and could switch off the Internet. This is the same when it comes to censorship of the Internet. China has a “great firewall” that blocks sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

For the first decade of the 2000’s, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was the most popular browser. When Firefox was released in 2009, it became the most popular browser, followed now by Google’s Chrome. Chrome is now the most popular browser globally.

The Internet has definitely thrown us into a world where information is easily accessible and our ability to communicate with everyone is faster than ever before.

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