What Is the Internet?

Consider adding BTB content back:
  • Several pages in this lab suggest a brief reading from the Blown to Bits appendix in the "If There Is Time" sections:
  • In this lab, you will learn how the Internet works.

    On this page, you will learn the basics of what the Internet is, what's most important about how it works, and what it means to store information in "the cloud."

    CSN-1.B.1 (minus "open"), CSN-1.D.1, CSN-1.D.2, CSN-1.D.3

    People talk as if "the Internet" and "the World Wide Web" are the same thing, but they are not. The Internet is a network of independent but connected computing devices spread out all over the world. The World Wide Web is the collection of interlinked website documents that you can view with a web browser by typing an address like https://snap.berkeley.edu/snap/snap.html. Most web pages are written with HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and interpreted by your browser using HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol).

    The Internet is more general than the World Wide Web. It also supports email, mobile apps, texting (SMS or Short Message Service), file transfers, and many other ways that computers communicate.

      CSN-1.D (in #1)
    1. Talk with Your PartnerWrite Out Your Thoughts
      What is the difference between the Internet and the World Wide Web?

    The World Wide Web has grown far beyond its original purpose, which was rapid and easy exchange of information within the scientific community. The expansion of the Web to include things like online shopping and personal blogs was an unintended consequence of the technology.

    CSN-1.B.1 ("open" part), CSN-1.E.1
    graph of a network with a sender and a receiver at each end and multiple connections among multiple notes between them

    How Does the Internet Work?

    The Internet is a massive network of computers that facilitate communication around the globe. It works because it's engineered to be fault-tolerant (capable of working even if some of the network breaks down) and uses protocols (a type of abstraction) for routing and transmitting data:

    The Internet isn't just a network of computers, though. It's a network of networks. The connection points between networks are called routers, networking devices that route traffic between subnetworks on the Internet. Making sense of the information happens at the destination computer.

    Image from UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.
    Dandelion-like Graph of Internet from UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering,
      Talk with Your Partner
    1. Why does the graph of the Internet look like a tangle in the middle with fireworks on the outside?
    2. Discuss how this shape is related to how people connect to the Internet (though an ISP, etc.). Write out a brief description and/or explain it to someone else.
    3. CSN-1.A
      Talk with Your Partner Write Out Your Thoughts Describe how computing devices are connected in a network.

    What Is the Cloud?

    In the early days of the Internet, bandwidth was slow, so people couldn't send video (only text and small pictures). Back then, computers were huge and expensive, so people went to a computer center to do their computations. As the technology became smaller and more efficient, however, these centers became less important because people could do computations on personal computing devices.

    More recently, though, certain kinds of computation (such as web searches and voice recognition) require more computational power, and these tasks are instead sent to huge "computer farms" where tens of thousands of computers work together on a problem. These computer farms, all together, are referred to as the cloud. You have been using the cloud throughout this course: all of your Snap! projects are stored in the cloud. You still use computer at your desk, but some of the programs actually run on the cloud.

    When you save your Snap! projects to your account, they aren't stored on your local computer but on the cloud; that's why you have to log in to access them. Similarly, if you use Google Drive or Dropbox, all of those files are stored in the cloud. And if you use a web-based email service (such as Gmail or Yahoo), your emails are stored in the cloud too.
    1. Which of the following is not an advantage of storing data using cloud computing?
      Prevents loss of data due malfunction of user’s personal computer.
      Easy to scale up from individual use to implementation by large companies.
      Has potential to be environmentally friendly due to many users efficiently sharing large systems and resources.
      Improved security and privacy over storing data on a personal computer.