Internet vs. Web: What's the Difference?

The web is just one part of the internet

Illustration of laptops and computer-related images

DrAfter123 / Vetta / Getty Images 

People often use the terms internet and web interchangeably, but they are actually two different things. The internet is an enormous global network of billions of servers, computers, and other hardware devices. Each device can connect with any other device as long as they're both connected to the internet using a valid IP address. The internet makes the information sharing system known as the web possible.

The web, which is short for World Wide Web, is one of the ways information is shared on the internet (others include email, File Transfer Protocol (FTP), and instant messaging services). The web is composed of billions of connected digital documents that can be viewed using a web browser, such as Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Edge (formerly known as Internet Explorer), Firefox, and others.

The World Wide Web, or simply "the web," is one part of the internet.

You might think of the internet as a library, and the books, magazines, newspapers, DVDs, audiobooks, and all the other media it contains as websites.

History of the Internet

The internet was born in the 1960s under the name ARPAnet as an experiment by the U.S. military, which was searching for ways to maintain communications in the case of a possible nuclear strike. By creating a decentralized network, communications could be maintained even if parts were taken offline. ARPAnet eventually became a civilian effort, connecting university mainframe computers for academic purposes.

As personal computers became mainstream in the 1980s and 1990s and the internet was opened to commercial interests, it grew exponentially. More and more users plugged their computers into the massive network through dial-up connections, then through faster connections such as ISDN, cable, DSL, and other technologies. Today, the internet has grown into a public spiderweb of interconnected devices and networks.

No single entity owns the internet, and no single government has absolute authority over its operation. Some technical rules, and its hardware and software standards, are agreed upon by invested organizations, groups, businesses, and others and help the internet remain functional and accessible, but for the most part, the internet is a free and open broadcast medium of networked hardware with no single owner.

History of the Web

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

The credited inventor of the World Wide Web is Tim Berners-Lee.

You have to access the internet to view the World Wide Web and the web pages or other content it contains. The web is the collective name for all of the pages, sites, documents, and other media that are served to visitors.

Information on the Internet

The web consists of digital documents, referred to as web pages, that are viewable through web browser software on devices like smartphones, 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.

A collection of connected web pages that are publicly accessible and under a single domain name is referred to as a website.

Web pages are connected using Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), the coding language that allows you to visit any public web page. By clicking a hyperlink or entering a Uniform Resource Locator (URL), your browser uses this unique address to find and access a web page. Search engines like Google make it easy to filter the billions of web pages now populating the web by locating the articles, videos, and other media you want to find based on your search criteria.