The Internet – A Network of Computer Networks

The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks.

When two or more electronic devices (e.g. computers) are connected so that they can communicate, they become part of a network. The Internet consists of a world-wide interconnection of such networks, belonging to companies, governments and individuals, allowing all of the devices connected to these networks to communicate with each other.
In order to communicate, computers need to be able to understand each other. On the Internet, communication is possible because all devices use the same “language” or protocol, namely the Internet Protocol, a ‘single market’ with no physical, technical or national barriers. It forms the basis for all other systems of communication on the Internet.
Sending any communication over the Internet using the Internet Protocol is quite like sending the pages of a book by post in lots of different envelopes. All of the envelopes use the same sender address and the same destination address. Even if some envelopes are transported by ship and others by air, the envelopes all eventually arrive at their intended destination and the book can be reassembled. The fact that page 47 was received before page 1 is of no importance. 
On the Internet, the contents of the envelope are also based on conventions/protocols (agreed formats), one for each type of communication. Examples of such conventions on top of IP are:
SMTP for sending emails
HTTP for accessing web sites and
BitTorrent for peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing (a way to exchange data files with large groups of people)
Anyone is free to invent their own convention/protocol and use it on the Internet, as long as it works on top of the Internet Protocol. In other words: the only limit is the limit of the human imagination, the only rule is that the address on the envelope is in a standard format. The openness of the system is what makes the Internet the global phenomenon it is. Every restriction on the openness of the Internet reduces its potential for future development.
The universal use of a single protocol for all communications has a number of important advantages. The devices that are responsible for transporting Internet data (called routers) do not need to be programmed differently to deal with different types of data – they don’t even need any information about the data they are transporting as long as it is all using the Internet Protocol. Like the postman delivering traditional mail, they only have to look at the outside of the envelopes to be able to deliver the message.
It doesn’t matter if the envelope contains a bill or a love letter (except to the recipient of course).This leads to unlimited innovation possibilities in terms of new protocols and applications. Privacy by design – there is no need to know anything about the contents of any communication.
At its core, the Internet offers only one flexible service – getting data from one device to another regardless of the nature of the devices, regardless of how and where the devices are connected to the Internet and regardless of the nature or content of the data.

It is this openness and flexibility that is the primary reason for the innovation and democratic and economic successes of the Internet.


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