What Is the Difference Between the Internet and the Web?

Graphic design showing internet elements
DrAfter123/Vetta/Getty Images

Question: What Is the Difference Between the Internet and the Web?

People commonly use the words "Internet" and "Web" interchangeably. This usage is technically incorrect.

Answer: The Internet and the World Wide Web have a whole-to-part relationship. The Internet is the large hardware container, and the Web is the contents within the container. It is common in daily conversation to abbreviate them as the 'Net' and the 'Web', and then swap the words interchangeably.

But to be accurate, the Net is the restaurant, and the Web is the most popular dish on the menu.

Here is the detailed explanation:

1: The Internet Is Hardware:

'The Internet' is a massive combination of millions of computers, connected via cables and wireless signals. This enormous hardware collection represents personal, business, and government devices that include: handheld devices, large mainframes, automobile and vending machine processors, personal tablets, and even wristwatches.

The Internet was born in the 1960's under the original name 'ARPAnet'. ARPAnet was originally an experiment in how the US military could maintain communications in case of a possible nuclear strike. With time, ARPAnet became a civilian experiment, connecting university mainframe computers for academic purposes. As personal computers became more mainstream in the 1980's and 1990's, the Internet grew exponentially as more users plugged their computers into the massive network.

Today, the Internet has grown into a public spiderweb of millions of personal, government, and commercial computers, all connected by cables and by wireless signals.

No single person owns the Internet. No single government has authority over its operations. Some technical rules and hardware/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.



Here is a conceptual diagram of the Internet and how it contains many forms of online communications



2: The Web Is Content Served Up Through Hardware:

The World Wide Web, or 'Web' for short, is the broad name for HTML  pages that are served on the Internet.

The Web is comprised of billions of digital page that are viewable through web browser software. These pages contain many flavors of content, including more static content (e.g. encyclopedic pages), and more dynamic content (e.g. eBay sales, stocks, weather, traffic reports).

Web pages are connected using hypertext transfer protocol, the coding language which allows you and me to jump (hyperlink) to any other public web page. There are over 65 billion public web pages on the Web today.

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 each other's computers. Today, that idea has evolved into the greatest collection of human knowledge in history.


Next: Internet 101.
Next: Understanding URL and Internet Addresses
Next: What is "P2P" Networking?
 

More From Us