An introduction to computers and computer systems
An introduction to computers and computer systems

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2 The internet

The internet has probably had more impact on our daily lives than any other technology emerging from the information age. Most people, however young or old, will have heard of and used the internet, although it may mean different things to different people. For some, it is the means of accessing the web; for others, an essential part of their work; for some, an important tool for keeping in touch with friends or relatives; and for some, something not well understood and even to be feared.

The terms internet and World Wide Web are often used interchangeably. It is common to speak of ‘going on the Internet’ when using a web browser to view web pages. However, the World Wide Web or the Web is only one of a large number of Internet services.

The World Wide Web is a global collection of documents, images, multimedia, applications, and other resources, connected by hyperlinks, and each with a unique Uniform Resource Identifier (URI), which provide a global system of named references. URIs identify services, databases, documents and resources.

Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is the main access protocol of the World Wide Web. Web services also use HTTP for communication between software systems for sharing and exchanging data. It is one of many protocols that can be used for communication on the Internet.

Other uses of the internet are email, data transfer and even telephony. Each requires their own standard to operate, such as File Transfer Protocol (FTP) for data transfer.

The Internet itself is a global network that comprises many voluntarily interconnected networks. It deliberately has no central server. This means the internet has no single point of failure, but will keep working should any of the connected networks or devices fail.

The underlying technology and main protocols are governed the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). This is an international non-profit organization that anyone may associate with by contributing technical expertise.

Other bodies ensure standards such as Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) which administers the principal name spaces of the Internet. ICANN is governed by an international board of directors drawn from relevant technical, business, academic, and other interested communities.

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