What is The Cloud?

"Cloud computing" is a popular term used to refer to the capability of storing computer files or running computer programs on specialized server computers on the Internet. This means that a person doesn't have to keep a file or install a program on their own computer, which would take up processing power and/or memory space.  It also means that the files or programs can be accessed from pretty much any computer that can connect to the Internet, as opposed to a specific one.  This is where the most popular conception of "the cloud" in relation to computers comes from: that computer files or programs stored by server computers on the Internet are floating around freely, like a cloud would.  Any computer (with the right credentials) can come along and access them, and can do so from any server computer within a specific group.

How does "the cloud" work?

"The cloud" works by having several interconnected server computers work together to store computer files or run a computer program that, due to its required processing power and/or size, would be difficult for a single computer to handle on its own.  If it helps, think about it in terms of how a construction crew works: more people working on the job means the building gets built faster, and with less work for each individual member of the crew.  In addition, more workers can be tasked with doing the harder jobs, while easier jobs can be left to fewer workers.

Types of cloud computing

There are several different ways that cloud computing can be used.  One example is online office software that allows multiple people to work on a document at the same time, such as Google Docs.  Another is Heroku, a service that allows people to create their own websites and web programs without having to do much of the code-crunching; it's what we use to bring you Techboomers.com! 

One of the more simple and common uses of cloud computing is to store computer files in a secure place on the Internet, which is known as "cloud storage".

Cloud storage

A popular use of cloud computing is for storing and accessing computer files.  By putting your computer files on server computers in "the cloud", you can free up memory space on your computer's hard drive for other things.  Plus, since your files are now on server computers in "the cloud", they will be safe even if your own computer breaks.  But that's not all!  You can also access your computer files from any other computer that's connected to the Internet, even if it's not your own.  Just find the cloud storage service that you use on the Internet and log into it, and your files will be right there waiting for you!  Common cloud storage services include Dropbox, Box.com, SpiderOak, and TeamDrive.

If you'd like to learn how to use Dropbox for cloud storage, visit our Dropbox Course.

Benefits of cloud computing

Cloud computing has several alleged benefits, including:

  • Speed — More computers working on the same task means that it gets done faster.

  • Cost & Efficiency — Several low-cost, average-performance computers working together is less expensive and more efficient than a few high-cost, high-performance computers working alone.

  • Maintenance & Access — Since a "cloud" program or file is housed entirely on server computers on the Internet, you don't have to install it or keep it on your own computer (thereby taking up its memory space and processing power) in order for the program or file to work.  This also means that you can access a "cloud" program or file from pretty much any Internet-enabled device, and not just a single specific computer.

  • Productivity — Since a "cloud" program or file is available to multiple users at the same time (as opposed to just a single person based on whether or not they have the program installed — or the file located — on their hard drive), teams can more easily collaborate on projects.

  • Reliability — Since servers share information about the "cloud" programs and files among themselves, the program or file is less likely to experience an interruption, shutdown, or loss if something happens to one or more of the servers.

Introduction to Web Browsers

What is a web browser / Internet browser?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "(web) browser" as:

"A computer program used for accessing sites or information on a network (such as the World Wide Web)."

If you've been following our lessons up until now, you'll recall that the World Wide Web is a collection of information and other media, organized by "websites", connected by "hyperlinks", and built on top of the global network of linked computers that make up the Internet.  Now, here's the million-dollar question: how do you actually get (to) this information?  Though the World Wide Web is built on top of the Internet, it isn't just floating around in cyberspace where anyone can get at it (in fact, this would be quite dangerous, as it would be very easy for anyone to get into private areas and look at personal information!).  Instead, different pieces of the World Wide Web (usually individual websites) are stored on special computers called "servers", which only release certain information to people who know how to ask for it.

This is where web browsers come in.  A "web browser", or an "Internet browser" (as it is sometimes called), is basically a computer program that acts as your tour guide for the World Wide Web.  It knows how to ask nicely for and get web pages from the server computers they're on, shows you the information and media that are on each web page, and takes you to wherever a hyperlink leads when you click it.

Web browsers often have other neat functions, too.  You can "bookmark" certain web pages so that you can quickly access them again if you need to, or even designate a "home" web page that your browser will automatically get for you when you open it.  You can also add extra functions to a browser in order to access content that you otherwise couldn't (the Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight plug-ins are two common examples of this), and even customize how your browser looks!

Oh, and most web browsers are free to download, install, and use.  We thought we should mention that.  You can put away your wallet now.

What are the best web browsers?

Currently, there are five Internet browsers that people around the world use more than any others.  And, like we mentioned, they are all free to download, install, and use.



This web browser was created by the Mozilla Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping create an Internet that everyone can — and is allowed to — access and contribute to the growth of through innovating new and better online experiences.   Created in 2004, it enjoyed moderate success that peaked around 2010, but its popularity has been slowly declining recently.  It is most popular in Southeast Asia, though it also has strong followings in some countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean.



This web browser was created in 2008 by Internet mega-corporation Google.  Its popularity skyrocketed over the next few years, and it is now currently the most used web browser in the world.  Part of its popularity comes from the fact that it's an "open-source" browser, so people can look inside it and see how it works.

Internet Explorer


This web browser by Microsoft was one of the first popular and commercially-available ones, besides Mosaic and Netscape Navigator.  It comes pre-installed on many devices that use the Windows operating system.  Created in 1995, it has seen its popularity decline considerably within the last 5 years or so, though it is still popular in Eastern Asia.  Microsoft has announced that it will replace Internet Explorer with a new service called "Edge", which will be released alongside the Windows 10 operating system in July 2015.



This web browser was created in 2003 and comes pre-installed on many Apple devices.  It has traditionally not been very popular, but its use has steadily been increasing over the past 5 years or so, to the point where it is supposedly more popular than Firefox now.



Another early web browser that debuted in 1996, Opera hasn't been all that popular throughout its lifespan.  However, it has produced some innovative features that other more widely-used browsers have adopted, such as allowing a user to begin their browsing session by choosing from a list of websites that they most frequently visit (known as the "Speed Dialing" feature).  Opera is mostly used in Africa.

Types of Websites

There are many different types of websites out there on the World Wide Web today.  However, in general, they all fall into one of two categories: static or dynamic.  We'll go over these two primary types of websites at the end of the article, though.  For right now, we'll explain a little bit about some of the common sub-types of websites that you will find.

Common types of websites

Personal Website

Many people and companies have their own personal websites, where they may show of their products or services, or otherwise promote themselves.

Example: https://techboomers.com

Search Engine / Directory

This type of website doesn't usually have much of its own content.  Instead, the bulk of its code is dedicated to helping you find content elsewhere on the Internet, based on key words and phrases, as well as certain other criteria.

Example: https://www.google.com

Forum / Message Board

This type of website is usually based on a certain theme, and allows users to create sub-topics about that theme.  Users can then post messages back and forth about a certain sub-topic to have a conversation about it.  Many websites have this type of functionality built in, but others stand on their own.

Example: https://www.doityourself.com


"Blog" is short for "web log", and it basically constitutes an online journal.  People can write down their day-to-day thoughts; add pictures, videos, or hyperlinks; customize how their blog looks; and decide whether or not they want to share what they have to say with others.  Websites that help people to create their own blogs include WordPress, Blogger, and Tumblr.

Example: https://whitehouse.tumblr.com


A "wiki" is a special kind of website that is sort of a cross between a directory and a forum.  A wiki often provides information on a particular topic, but this information is not necessarily controlled by the person who makes the website.  Instead, anyone who wishes to can register with the website, and — as long as they play by the rules — add and edit any relevant information to any sub-topic on the wiki that they know about.  Other users can also leave comments and start discussions concerning the validity of the information, or simply to ask questions about it.  The most famous wiki is Wikipedia, which is a general encyclopedia, but there are many more out there dedicated to books, TV shows, movies, video games, and more!

Example: https://en.wikipedia.org


E-commerce websites facilitate the online trading of goods and services by allowing users to buy or bid for products.  Many of the most popular ones allow users to list and sell their own products.  Common examples include Amazon and eBay.

Example: https://www.amazon.com

Social Network

A social network is a website that acts as a centralized place for people to find and connect with other people and brands that they know.  It then allows them to interact with each other by sharing and discussing what's going on in their lives, playing games, organizing events, commenting on news stories, and more.  Two of the most popular social networks are Facebook and Twitter.

Example: https://www.twitter.com


These types of websites facilitate the sharing of computer files between multiple people, either through direct transfers or a technology called BitTorrent (which allows the user to download different parts of a file from multiple different sources, thus splitting up the workload).  However, these types of websites often do not have a comfortable relationship with many national and international copyright laws.

Example: https://www.dropbox.com

Static vs. dynamic websites

You may sometimes hear people refer to "static" or "dynamic" websites, or to "Web 1.0" or "Web 2.0".  Here's an explanation of what they mean.

A "static" website refers to a website whose pages appear in your web browser exactly as they are stored on the server computer that you get them from.  This generally means that, beyond hyperlinks, there isn't very much that you can actually do on them; sometimes, there will be audio or video, but it will usually play automatically without your ability to control it.  Static websites are mostly used simply to provide information, with the same information being given to every person who visits the website.  Static websites are often associated with the term "Web 1.0".

Examples of static websites include:

A "dynamic" website refers to a website with pages that can change themselves by running extra functions in the background.  This can allow the user to make changes to pages on the website without having to go to another page or reload the current page every time a change is requested.  A common example is that in many modern search engines, or websites with search functions, the search bar will suggest key words or phrases that you might be looking for while you're typing in your search terms.  You don't have to wait to hit the "Search" button to see possible results, and the page doesn't have to reload every time you type in something new in order to give you new suggestions.  Dynamic websites are often associated with the term "Web 2.0".

What is a Website?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "website" as:

"A place on the World Wide Web that contains information about a person, organization, etc., and that usually consists of many web pages joined by hyperlinks."

In our What is the World Wide Web article, we compared the World Wide Web to a giant library.  If we follow that comparison, then websites would be the World Wide Web's equivalent of books.  They're collections of related information (which, appropriately for this metaphor, are called web "pages") in a more-or-less contained spot (we'll discuss what this means in a minute).  And each of these pages is usually tied to the other by hyperlinks, just as the spine of a book binds the whole book together.

Continuing the book metaphor, though, websites aren't like traditional books.  Most traditional books are linear; that is, they make the most sense if you read each page in order from the beginning of the book to the end.  Instead, websites are more like "choose-your-own-adventure" novels: depending on which hyperlinks you follow, you'll end up at different web pages on a website, and may end up back at the same page more than once.  You might even end up on another website entirely!

What a website is, for practical purposes

In our introduction to what a website is, we mentioned that it's a collection of information in a more-or-less contained location on the Internet.  It's time to explain what we mean by that.

If you'll recall from our What is a U.R.L. article, there are three major parts to an Internet address: the protocol, the domain, and the path.  Basically, then, a website is a collection of all possible URLs that share the same domain.  So, for example, any web page whose U.R.L. includes "techboomers.com", regardless of what comes before or after, is part of the Techboomers website, including:

Again, though, there are certain exceptions where a web page can have a slightly different domain but still not be part of a completely different website.  For example, "https://www.stitch.net/about-us/" and "https://support.stitch.net/category/64-edit-your-profile" are still part of the website "stitch.net", despite having slightly different domain types (general World Wide Web page vs. help page).

Examples of popular websites

There are over 175 million active websites (that is, ones people actually use) on the World Wide Web today.  Some of the most popular ones in the world that we have courses for include:

Google Search


Google Search is the world's most popular search engine website.  Just type a few keywords into Google's search bar, click "Search", and you'll find all kinds of websites and web pages that have something to do with the words that you typed in.  Google does lots of other stuff, too!

Our Google Search Course: https://techboomers.com/p/Google-search



Facebook is one of the most popular social network websites out there.  It lets you find people you know based on your hometown, job, school, or current city.  You can also follow the activity of organizations, companies, and celebrities.  Then you can let each other know how you're doing, organize events, play games, and more!

Our Facebook Course: https://techboomers.com/p/facebook



Amazon is a popular online marketplace website that lets you buy all sorts of things from Amazon itself, or from people all over the world.  Then, everything gets shipped right to your doorstep. You can even sell your own items, or trade them in to Amazon!

Our Amazon Course: https://techboomers.com/p/amazon



Wikipedia is an interesting website, in that it's an encyclopedia written almost completely by the people who use the website, as opposed to the people who run it!  Almost anyone who visits Wikipedia can add, edit, or remove an article, though sometimes this is restricted to people who are registered with the website.  Is there a piece of knowledge that you can contribute?

Our Wikipedia Course: https://techboomers.com/p/Wikipedia



Twitter is a website that allows people to broadcast short messages of what they're doing or thinking about, up to 140 characters (letters, numbers, symbols, or spaces) in length.  It's a popular social network website, like Facebook, so you can also follow the activity of people, companies, and groups that you know.

Our Twitter Course: https://techboomers.com/p/twitter

What is a Hyperlink?

Definition of a hyperlink

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “hyperlink” as:

“A highlighted word or picture in a document or web page that you can click on with a computer mouse to go to another place in the same or a different document or web page.”

Okay, so… really, what are hyperlinks?

Hyperlinks are basically words or phrases (called “hypertext”) — or sometimes pictures — that act as shortcuts to parts of a page, other documents, or other website pages.  So, for example, instead of scrolling down a lengthy document just to get to a certain section, you may be able to click a hyperlink in the table of contents and immediately skip to that section.  Or, you can click a hyperlink on a web page to get to another, related page in the same website, without having to type in its U.R.L. by hand.  The World Wide Web doesn’t necessarily need hyperlinks to work, but hyperlinks do make the World Wide Web much easier to browse!

As a real-world parallel, think about when you make a phone call to a company or institution that has an automated phone system.  You’re given different options of where you want to go within the system by pushing different buttons; “For [option X], press 1; for [option Y], press 2; for [option Z], press 3”, and so on.  You can even press a special sequence of buttons to reach a certain department or person directly.  You are using a series of quick shortcuts to find places that would otherwise be tedious to get to.

What do hyperlinks look like?

Generally, something is a hyperlink if you move your mouse cursor over it, and the cursor changes from an arrow () to a pointer finger ().

You will usually find hyperlinks in one of four forms.  The easiest one to spot is a U.R.L. that is fully typed out and highlighted, such as this one:

Another common one you’ll see is a string of text that’s highlighted in some way, denoting that a U.R.L. (and, thus, a hyperlink) is connected to it.  It looks like this:

Certain images on the Internet also have U.R.L.s connected to them, allowing you to access hyperlinks by clicking on them.  For example, clicking our logo below will take you to our home page.

There are also some advanced hyperlinks that, when you click them, will cause something to happen or appear on a web page (besides just moving to a new place) without having to reload the entire web page.

In general, text hyperlinks are usually underlined and appear in one of two colors:

There are exceptions, of course; some hyperlinks aren’t underlined or in either of these colours (though they usually stand out in some way to differentiate them from other words on the page).

How do hyperlinks work?

Depending on how a hyperlink is set up, it can behave in different ways.  These include:

  • Moving your mouse cursor over a hyperlink can give you information on where it leads, and/or cause extra information or a preview of its destination to automatically pop up.

  • Clicking a hyperlink can take you to a specific place within a document or web page, such as right to the end, back to the top, or to a specific section.

  • Clicking a hyperlink can take you to a website from a document, another web page on the same website, or to another website entirely.

  • Clicking a hyperlink on a web page that takes you to another web page may replace the web page that you’re currently on, or open the destination web page in a new window or tab in your web browser.

  • Clicking a hyperlink on a web page may allow you to open or download a file or document.

  • Clicking a hyperlink on a web page may change the web page in some way, such as making a part of it visible that wasn’t before.  This may happen without the web page having to reload.

What is a URL?

What does U.R.L. stand for?

U.R.L. is an acronym that stands for "Uniform Resource Locator".  It is also sometimes said to stand for "Universal Resource Locator". That probably doesn’t help you understand what one actually is, though, so let's get into what "U.R.L." actually means.

What is the definition of U.R.L.?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "U.R.L." as:

"The address of a resource (as in a document or website) on the Internet that consists of a communications protocol followed by the name or address of a computer on the network, and that often includes additional locating information (such as directory and file names)".

Think of a U.R.L. as a mailing address for the Internet.  In real life, you use your mailing address to make sure that your mail gets sent to you and nobody else, or to make sure that someone gets to your house and not somebody else's when you're trying to give them directions.  A U.R.L. works in much the same way: its job is to give something on the Internet a unique identity, so that you can find it without winding up somewhere else, or in multiple places at once.

What does a U.R.L. mean?

A U.R.L. is composed of three major parts: the protocol, the domain, and the path.  Let's look at a sample Internet address and break down what each part is, and what it means.


The protocol declares how you're going to connect to what you're looking for on the Internet.  In terms of a real-life parallel, when you want to talk to someone, do you see them in person, send them a letter or email, or phone them?  These are all different "protocols" for communicating with that person.  A common protocol is "HTTP", which stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol.  This is a standard protocol for connecting to web pages on the World Wide Web. 

Another common protocol you may see is "HTTPS", which is basically "HTTP" with extra security functions built in.  It's generally used when dealing with banking or other personal information exchanges, in order to keep your information hidden from those who might steal it and use it for malicious purposes.  However, many websites that store user information are beginning to use it by default now.  And, as you can see from our example, Techboomers is one of them!  After all, we want you to feel as safe as possible when using our site, as well as the Internet at large.


The domain declares where you're trying to connect to.  Again, for a real life example, if you were trying to send a letter to me, a domain would represent the mailing address of my house.

A domain is usually split into three parts: type, name, and designation.

  • Type is the general technical specification of the server you're connecting to.  The most common one you'll see is the one in our example, "www".  This means that you're trying to connect to a general page on the World Wide Web.  Some other types you may see are "mail" if you're using an email client, or "support" or "help" if you're visiting a website's help section.

  • Name is an identifying part given to something on the Internet by the people who run it.  Our domain name is "techboomers" because that's who we are: Techboomers.  However, some others have to get creative with their domain names in order to not overlap with other, possibly similar places.  For example, the music group known as "Magic!" has their domain name as "ournameismagic" to differentiate it from the trading card game "Magic: The Gathering" (magic.wizards) or the online delivery request application called "Magic" (getmagicnow).

  • Designation, also known as "top-level domain", is an indicator of the specific purpose of the domain that you're connecting to.  Ours is ".com", because we're a business (though many other websites use ".com" as their designation, even if they aren't actually businesses).  Other common designations include ".org" (for non-profit organizations), ".net" (networks that connect people or provide information), ".edu" (for American colleges and universities), and ".gov" (for the American government).  There are also country-based designations, such as ".ca" for Canada, ".uk" for the United Kingdom, and ".ru" for Russia.


The path declares exactly what you are looking for in the domain that you're connecting to.  In the case of a website, the "path" is the specific web page on that website that you're trying to get to.  To continue our parallel with traditional mail, the "path" part would be you writing my name at the top of your letter to me, or at least somewhere on the envelope.  This is so that, even though there are multiple people living at the address that you're sending the letter to, it is clear that your letter is intended to be read specifically by me.

In our example, the path is "/t/what-is-a-url".  The "/t" part tells you that this web page is part of our "Tutorials" section, and the "/what-is-a-url" part tells you the specific name of the web page that you're trying to get to out of all the ones we have marked as "tutorials".  In this case, it's "What is a U.R.L.?"

Extra tip!

Since "HTTP" is the most common protocol and "www" is the most common domain type on the World Wide Web, you can usually get away with not typing one or the other (or perhaps both) into your web browser's address bar when you're trying to get to a specific website.  Instead, you can just type in the website's domain name and designation (and maybe a path, if you're trying to get to a specific web page). 

For example, if you're trying to get to our home page, instead of typing "https://www.techboomers.com" into your web browser's address bar, you can just type in "techboomers.com", and your web browser will fill in the missing parts for you automatically.  In fact, you'll notice that many of our links on the website will use this shortcut as well, in that they omit the domain type (so instead of "https://www.techboomers.com", they're just "https://techboomers.com").

What is the World Wide Web?

The World Wide Web, also known as the W.W.W. or just "the Web", is a collection of connected multimedia documents — known collectively as "web pages" — that is accessed over the Internet.  These "multimedia documents" could be written information, pictures, animations, sounds, videos, games, and more, or a combination of any of these!  The other neat thing about the World Wide Web is that many of these documents have parts that connect you to other documents, so you can move between pieces of related information.

If it helps, think of the World Wide Web as a giant library.  When you open a book in this library, you may just see written text, or you may see a photograph or drawing.  You may even hear a sound or see an animation or video, or you may even be able to play a game!  Plus, there are certain words in the book that reference a different part of the book, or another book entirely!   That's kind of how the World Wide Web works.

Internet vs. World Wide Web

There are many people who use the term "Internet" as a sort of catch-all term that covers the World Wide Web as well.  We do it here at Techboomers, too, mostly to avoid confusion from people who aren't aware that there is a difference between the Internet and the World Wide Web.  The two ARE different, though, and we'll explain how.

As we explained in our What is the Internet article, the Internet is a collection of computers and computer networks that are connected together, in order to facilitate sending information back and forth between them.  The World Wide Web is simply a collection of information (albeit a very big one!) that takes advantage of the Internet and its connections in order to make itself accessible to many different people all at the same time. 

If it helps, think of it in terms of trade.  In addition to taking advantage of natural air and water currents (for airplanes and boats), people have built roads, bridges, railways, canals, tunnels, and all manner of transportation aids all over the world in order to help people get from one place to another.  You can think of this collection of transportation connections as the Internet.  Now, one of the things that this transportation network has made possible is the moving of goods from one part of the world to another.  This is why, at your local supermarket, you can find bananas from South America, pasta from Europe, and electronics from East Asia.  In this sense, you can think of all of these products moving back and forth across a worldwide transportation network as the World Wide Web, and your supermarket as a website where many of these connections come together.

The main point to remember is that the World Wide Web is to the Internet what trade goods are to transportation routes: it's a service or resource that is made possible or available by the underlying connections.  The World Wide Web needs the Internet to work, but the Internet doesn't need the World Wide Web to work.  Likewise, there are some computer programs, such as the communication service Skype, that use the Internet to work, but don't necessarily use the World Wide Web all that much.

Who invented the World Wide Web?

Credit for the invention of the World Wide Web most often goes to British computer scientist Timothy Berners-Lee, who created it while he was working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (C.E.R.N.) in Switzerland during the late 1980s and early 1990s.  However, Berners-Lee's research was based on ideas about new ways to share information using computing technology, which date as far back as the 1940s.  These include Vannevar Bush's idea for a filing system that could mimic how the human brain works (which he called a "Memex"), Ted Nelson's conception of "hypertext" as the multi-directional connection scheme that such a system would be based on, and Douglas Engelbart's "online system" that would provide an easy-to-use computer network and interface (i.e. a personal computer) that could put this into practice. 

Berners-Lee took these ideas on how to connect libraries of documents and built a user-friendly system for doing so on top of the already-existing infrastructure of the Internet.  Thus, the World Wide Web as we know it was born.

What is the Internet?

The Internet makes so many parts of our modern everyday lives possible or more convenient that it’s easy to lose sight of what the Internet actually is.  At TechBoomers, we understand that the Internet can be a difficult concept to grasp, as it’s often caught up in a tangle of other closely-related ideas that either make the Internet possible, or are possible because of the Internet. 

So don’t get discouraged if, by the end of reading this article, you still don’t quite get what the Internet is.  As you read the rest of the articles in our Introduction to the Internet course, it should hopefully become clear what the Internet is and isn’t; that is, what technologies come together to make the Internet, and what technologies merely rely on the Internet to work.

Definition of the Internet?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives the definition of “Internet” as:

“An electronic communications network that connects computer networks and organizational computer facilities around the world.”

What this basically means is that the Internet is just a whole bunch of computers connected together.  In principle, it’s somewhat similar to how phones work; it’s a collection of various individual devices that are connected at different centralized points, in such a way that it allows people to talk back and forth with each other.  In fact, the Internet actually used to need phone lines to work (and yes, we’re old enough here at TechBoomers to remember those times)!

But the Internet is more advanced than that.  For one thing, there are different types of computers.  While many are designed to be personally easy-to-use with image-based interfaces, there are others that have little interactivity at all.  They are simply used to connect groups of related computers and send their information somewhere specific, or act as gatekeepers for information coming in or going out. 

In addition, computers close together can have their own small private networks.  It’s sort of like how certain phone numbers in large businesses have “extension” numbers that you can punch in to reach a specific department or person.  Finally, like people sometimes have home phone numbers and business phone numbers so that callers can reach the same person in different places, there are often many different ways to reach the same place on the Internet through hyperlinks.  (See our What is a Hyperlink article for more information.)

In fact, if you tried to map out all of the different connections on the Internet, it would look something like this

That’s pretty mind-blowing, right?  And that’s just from 2005.  Imagine how much the Internet has grown since then!

Where did the Internet come from?

The Internet actually started as a military project back in the 1960s, spearheaded by the American government with co-operation from Britain and France.  The goal was to create a communication network through computers that had enough redundant connections to prevent the cutting off of one (due to sabotage or interception by the enemy) from taking the whole network down.  The result was an early form of the Internet called ARPANET.

About two decades later, the National Science Foundation began pouring funding into a way to adapt ARPANET’s technology for non-military uses.  This resulted in many colleges and universities in America having their computer networks connected into a smaller, academia-focused Internet.  Eventually, commercial telecommunications providers began funding research for adaptation of Internet technology as well.  As more institutions and individuals began connecting their computers to the publicly-available networks that were created, the Internet as we know it today was born.

For a more detailed explanation of where the Internet came from, you can read our History of the Internet article.


That’s a brief introduction to what the Internet is.  Keep reading the articles in this course, and you’ll get a better idea of what makes the Internet work, and what other technologies — such as the World Wide Web, which we’ll talk about next — work because of the Internet!