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 WORLD-INFOSTRUCTURE > WHAT IS THE INTERNET > WHAT IS THE INTERNET?
  What is the Internet?


Each definition of the Internet is a simplified statement and runs the risk of being outdated within a short time. What is usually referred to as the Internet is a network of thousands of computer networks (so called autonomous systems) run by governmental authorities, companies, and universities, etc. Generally speaking, every time a user connects to a computer networks, a new Internet is created. Technically speaking, the Internet is a wide area network (WAN) that may be connected to local area networks (LANs).

What constitutes the Internet is constantly changing. Certainly the state of the future Net will be different to the present one. Some years ago the Internet could still be described as a network of computer networks using a common communication protocol, the so-called IP protocol. Today, however, networks using other communication protocols are also connected to other networks via gateways.

Also, the Internet is not solely constituted by computers connected to other computers, because there are also point-of-sale terminals, cameras, robots, telescopes, cellular phones, TV sets and and an assortment of other hardware components that are connected to the Internet.

At the core of the Internet are so-called Internet exchanges, national backbone networks, regional networks, and local networks.

Since these networks are often privately owned, any description of the Internet as a public network is not an accurate. It is easier to say what the Internet is not than to say what it is. On 24 October, 1995 the U.S. Federal Networking Council made the following resolution concerning the definition of the term "Internet": "Internet" refers to the global information system that (i) is logically linked together by a globally unique address space based on the Internet Protocol (IP) or its subsequent extensions/follow-ons; (ii) is able to support communications using the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) suite or its subsequent extensions/follow-ons, and/or other IP-compatible protocols; and (iii) provides, uses or makes accessible, either publicly or privately, high level services layered on the communications and related infrastructure described herein." (http://www.fnc.gov/Internet_res.html)

What is generally and in a simplyfiying manner called the Internet, may be better referred to as the Matrix, a term introduced by science fiction writer William Gibson, as John S. Quarterman and Smoot Carl-Mitchell have proposed. The Matrix consists of all computer systems worldwide capable of exchanging E-Mail: of the USENET, corporate networks and proprietary networks owned by telecommunication and cable TV companies.

Strictly speaking, the Matrix is not a medium; it is a platform for resources: for media and services. The Matrix is mainly a very powerful means for making information easily accessible worldwide, for sending and receiving messages, videos, texts and audio files, for transferring funds and trading securities, for sharing resources, for collecting weather condition data, for trailing the movements of elephants, for playing games online, for video conferencing, for distance learning, for virtual exhibitions, for jamming with other musicians, for long distance ordering, for auctions, for tracking packaged goods, for doing business, for chatting, and for remote access of computers and devices as telescopes and robots remotely, e. g. The Internet is a wonderful tool for exchanging, retrieving, and storing data and sharing equipment over long distances and eventually real-time, if telecommunication infrastructure is reliable and of high quality.

For a comprehensive view of uses of the Matrix, especially the World Wide Web, see ""24 Hours in Cyberspace"




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What is the Internet
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