If you and I connect our computers together with a cable, then we have formed a basic network. You and I can now send files back and forth, share screens, access information on the other computer, play a game together, and so on. This forms an Internet.
The internet is an enormous, international network of computers.
Most of the internet consists of servers- which are basically computers whose sole purpose is to store data and let other computers access it.
Big internet companies, like Google, have buildings full of their own servers. Other companies own servers and rent them out for a price- if you pay Legibra for a website, your website is “hosted” (saved and accessible to the rest of the internet) on one of our servers. All servers on the internet essentially speak a certain language (http), the development of which laid the foundation for the internet.
Of course, in order to have a network, we need to connect all of these computers/servers together. So how are these servers connected?
Computers all have their own individual numbers called IP (internet protocol) addresses. When you type in a website address (aka a domain name) your browser connects to a domain name server (DNS). The DNS then tells your browser the IP address of the website you’re after (computers connect via IP addresses, not website addresses – those are for us because they are easier to remember). Once your computer knows the IP that it needs, it starts to connect to that server, but it often can’t connect directly, it must connect to lots of servers along the way by connecting and basically saying “hi, I’m computer #x and I’m looking for computer #z.”. “Okay” says the other computer, “I’ll connect you to another system that’s closer to that one!”, and so on until the connection is made to the server you’re after.
The last major piece of the puzzle is Internet Service Providers (ISPs). These are the guys who connect you to the internet. Essentially, they lay the cables that connect your home computers to the backbone and charge you to use that service, think Faiba or Zuku.
Still need a clearer concept of how the internet works behind the scenes? This video provides a clear explanation. Click here to watch it.
This post was originally published on Reddit and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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