Internet vs. Web: What's the Difference?

The web is just one part of the internet

Graphic design showing internet elements
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People often use "internet" and "web" interchangeably, but it's technically incorrect. The web is really just one part of the internet.

The internet is an enormous network of billions of connected computers and other hardware devices. Each device can connect with any other device as long as they're both connected to the internet with valid IP addresses. The web, on the other hand, consists of all the web pages you can view when you access the internet.

This website you're on right now is part of the web but it's not considered the internet. One way to think about it is to equate the net to a restaurant and the web to the most popular dish on the menu.

The Internet Is Hardware Infrastructure

The internet is a massive combination of billions of computers and other connected devices located worldwide and connected via cables and wireless signals. This enormous network represents personal, business, educational, and governmental devices that include large mainframes, desktop computers, smartphones, smart home gadgets, personal tablets, laptops, and other devices.

The internet was born in the 1960s under the name ARPAnet as an experiment in how the U.S. military could maintain communications in the case of a possible nuclear strike. With time, ARPAnet became a civilian experiment, connecting university mainframe computers for academic purposes.

As personal computers became mainstream in the 1980s and 1990s, the internet grew exponentially as more users plugged their computers into the massive network. Today, the internet has grown into a public spiderweb of billions of personal, governmental, educational, and commercial computers and devices, intertwined by cables and wireless signals.

No single entity owns the internet. No single government has authority over its operations. Some technical rules and hardware and software standards enforce how people plug into the internet, but for the most part, the internet is a free and open broadcast medium of hardware networking.

The Web Is the Information on the Internet

You have to access the internet to view the World Wide Web and any of the web pages or other content it contains. The web is the information-sharing portion of the web. It's the broad name for the pages that are served to visitors on the internet.

The web consists of billions of digital pages that are viewable through web browser software on devices like phones, tablets, and computers. These pages contain many types of content, including static content like encyclopedia pages, but also dynamic content like eBay sales, stocks, weather, news, and traffic reports.

Web pages are connected using Hypertext Transfer Protocol, the coding language that allows you to jump to any public web page by clicking a hyperlink or entering a URL, which is the unique address for each web page on the internet. Search engines like Google make it easy to browse the web for these pages so that you can find articles to read, videos to stream, etc.

The World Wide Web was born in 1989. Interestingly enough, the web was built by research physicists so they could share their research findings with each other's computers. Today, that idea has evolved into the greatest collection of human knowledge in history.

The Web Is Just One Part of the Internet

Although web pages contain an enormous amount of information, they aren't the only way information is shared over the internet.

The internet — not the web — is also used for email, instant messages, newsgroups, and file transfers. In other words, the web is just a large portion of the internet, but it isn't all of it.