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The Internet and the Web: Aren't They the Same?

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The Internet is the biggest example of a TCP/IP network. It is both technologically complex and incredibly "simple" in what it does for you. Think about it. When you send an email for example—let's say it's a note to a friend with a picture imbedded—without a lot of fanfare and without causing a lot of headaches to hundreds of technicians, it pretty much instantly appears at its precise destination, sometimes across the country or across the world.

Of course, there's not one single entity (government, telephone company, cable company) that is in control of it all. But there are a lot of long-distance phone companies involved in building the Internet landscape. After all, there does HAVE to be plenty of wires and cables strung over long distances and networking-computers (servers) helping your data get to its destination.

Take a NAP

These networks are the backbone of the Internet...and they have to communicate with each other for things to work. They intersect at large switching facilities called Network Access Points, or NAPs.

In the United States, there is a major Network Access Point on both the East and West Coasts (Washington, D.C. and San Jose, California). Many Internet Service Providers use one of these sites as a national connection point.

There are also a number of regional NAP sites in other U.S. cities, such as Chicago, Houston, Dallas and New York.

The ISP Connection

How does this relate to you? Well, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) connects to the Internet through one of these NAPs. An ISP leases something called a Point of Presence, or POP, connection. ISPs that connect to a larger NAP site are usually larger Internet vendors, who might even lend some of their connection capacity to smaller Internet Service Providers.

And that's how it goes. The Internet is a countless number of connections and business arrangements and connection agreements, with the Internet Service Providers hooking up the NAPs, while offering services for you, businesses and organizations of every kind. It's like a spider web, without a center, and without a single spider making it all happen.

So then, how does the Internet manage to work? Here's a simple explanation.

It has a common set of rules for how to network data and connect with client computers (users like you who request services) and servers (ISPs, for example), computers that provide services.

It is managed and maintained by a common collection of organizations, such as the Internet Advisory Board (IAB) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

It "speaks" a common language.

Also, the Domain Name System (DNS), which manages the assigning of Internet names (Web addresses) to IP addresses, has a tremendous impact on what makes the Internet work. In other words, when you type in "WhatIsMyIPAddress.com," your IP address connected instantly with ours. That's an amazing feat.

The Internet vs. The Web

So if the Internet is this amazing network of computers, is that the same as the World Wide Web?

No. It isn't.

Even though the Internet and the Web are almost indistinguishable these days, there is a difference. The Internet is the infrastructure: It is an extensive and massive collection of TCP/IP networked and connected computers all over the world.

The World Wide Web is essentially the graphical interface to the Internet. What you see on your computer screen when you call up a website is a result of an interaction (an electronic "conversation") between your Internet browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer, etc.) and a Web server computer.

The Internet gives life to the Web, not the other way around.

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