The Web and the Internet are not the same thing

The terms “the Internet” and “the Web” are often used as if they are the same thing. They’re not, and understanding the differences can help make things a lot clearer.

The Internet has been in development since the 1960’s, and is a way to allow different computers around the World to talk to one another. Whether it is downloading a pdf file from a website, or chatting to a friend over Skype – it is the Internet that connects the computers together. The Internet is not actually a single physical network – it’s just a set of rules (Internet Protocols) that allow different networks to communicate.

When you connect your computer to the Internet, it joins this network – and you can send or receive information from any other computer or server online.

The Web (or World Wide Web) is the system of web pages and sites that uses the Internet to pass the files across. It was developed in the late 1980’s by Tim Berners-Lee, and you need a Web Browser to access it. This could either be in a PC, a mobile phone or one of the new iPods.

The Web is just one of many services that use the Internet – other services include e-mail, internet telephony and peer-to-peer file transfers. In the not-too-distant future, most people will probably get all their TV programmes piped down the Internet as well. And, looking deeper into my Crystal Ball I see people being digitally transferred from location to location.

Since many of the services that use the Internet (such as e-mail) can now be accessed through websites, the confusion is likely to get worse.

In simple terms, just remember that the Internet is the computer network, the Web is a service that uses it.

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