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  Report: What is the Internet

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  Operating the net: overview

The Net consists of thousands of thousands of governmental and private networks linked together. No legal authority determines how and where networks can be connected together, this is something the managers of networks have to agree about. So there is no way of ever gaining ultimate control of the Internet. Although each of these networks is operated and controlled by an organization, no single organization operates and controls the Net. Instead of a central authority governing the Net, several bodies assure the operability of the Net by developing and setting technical specifications for the Net and by the control of the technical key functions of the Net as the coordination of the domain name system and the allocation of IP numbers.

Originally, the Net was a research project funded and maintained by the US Government and developed in collaboration by scientists and engineers. As the standards developed for ensuring operability ensued from technical functionality, technical coordination gradually grew out of necessity and was restricted to a minimum and performed by volunteers.

Later, in the 1980s, those occupied with the development of technical specifications organized themselves under the umbrella of the Internet Society in virtual organizations as the Internet Engineering Task Force, which were neither officially established nor being based on other structures than mailing lists and commitment, but nonetheless still serve as task forces for the development of standards ensuring the interoperability on the Net.

Since the late 80s and the early 90s, with the enormous growth of the Net - which was promoted by the invention of Local Area Networks, the creation of the World Wide Web, the increased use of personal computers and the connecting of corporations to the Net, just to name a few - coordination of some technical key functions as the domain name system was handed over to corporations as Network Solutions Inc.

Since the year 2000, a new model for technical coordination has been emerging: Formerly performed by several bodies, technical coordination is transferred to a single non-governmental organization: the Internet Coordination of Assigned Numbers and Names.

browse Report:
What is the Internet
-4   What is the Internet?
-3   How the Internet works
-2   Acessing the Internet
-1   Internet services
0   Operating the net: overview
+1   Who owns the Internet and who is in charge?
+2   Internet, Intranets, Extranets, and Virtual Private Networks
+3   In Search of Reliable Internet Measurement Data
+4   Global Data Flows
World Wide Web (WWW)
Probably the most significant Internet service, the World Wide Web is not the essence of the Internet, but a subset of it. It is constituted by documents that are linked together in a way you can switch from one document to another by simply clicking on the link connecting these documents. This is made possible by the Hypertext Mark-up Language (HTML), the authoring language used in creating World Wide Web-based documents. These so-called hypertexts can combine text documents, graphics, videos, sounds, and Java applets, so making multimedia content possible.

Especially on the World Wide Web, documents are often retrieved by entering keywords into so-called search engines, sets of programs that fetch documents from as many servers as possible and index the stored information. (For regularly updated lists of the 100 most popular words that people are entering into search engines, click here). No search engine can retrieve all information on the whole World Wide Web; every search engine covers just a small part of it.

Among other things that is the reason why the World Wide Web is not simply a very huge database, as is sometimes said, because it lacks consistency. There is virtually almost infinite storage capacity on the Internet, that is true, a capacity, which might become an almost everlasting too, a prospect, which is sometimes consoling, but threatening too.

According to the Internet domain survey of the Internet Software Consortium the number of Internet host computers is growing rapidly. In October 1969 the first two computers were connected; this number grows to 376.000 in January 1991 and 72,398.092 in January 2000.

World Wide Web History Project,