How the Internet Really Works: Basic Questions and Simple Answers

In this insight article, we'll answer the most important and intriguing questions about how the internet works, which often arise among novice users.

Mykola (Nick) Hrytsaienko
October 16, 2023

Today, for most of us, the internet seems like a given - an extremely familiar technology, making it nearly impossible to imagine the modern world without it. Moreover, thanks to modern smartphones, most of us have access to the World Wide Web from almost anywhere.

However, not everyone even understands the basic principles explaining how the internet operates. This applies to both everyday users and owners of large traditional companies just starting to consider the benefits of IT technologies for their business and its digital transformation.

That's precisely why we decided to answer key questions about the internet and its operation. We won't delve into technical details that are likely to be confusing for many of our readers. Instead, we'll briefly address each question in the simplest terms possible.

What is the internet? The internet consists of billions of various devices interconnected with each other. It's somewhat like a giant web where each node represents a computer or any other gadget, and the individual strands are channels for data transmission back and forth.

Why are IP addresses needed? Every device connected to the internet is assigned a unique number composed of several digits separated by periods. It's like the address of your home but is intended to make it easier to locate a resource on the World Wide Web.

The lights in this photograph of North America could symbolize the billions of devices connected to the internet | Source: NASA

Why are domain names needed? To access a specific site, you can also enter its IP address into the browser's address bar. However, for ease of finding the desired information, it's simpler to use understandable domain names made of straightforward words. These are deciphered through DNS and translated into IP addresses.

What constitutes a request? When you want to visit a particular site, your computer sends a special request to the server where the data is located. Like a letter, it reaches the specific address through a multitude of routers and then returns with the necessary information.

How is information transmitted on the internet? In reality, a variety of methods are used to transfer information across the World Wide Web. For instance, continents are connected by vast underwater cables, while satellites convey data where cables are absent. At home, you most often use Wi-Fi, and outside, cellular network technologies.

How safe is it to use the internet? Sadly, it's not the safest place, rather than just a realm of boundless knowledge. It's riddled with various threats, including malicious software and fraudsters. Encryption and other security measures are used for protection.

What are cloud technologies? These are essentially servers that store user information and provide access to it via the internet. For example, photos from your smartphone often automatically upload to cloud storages like iCloud for iPhones and Google Photos for Android.

Who controls the internet? In reality, there isn't a main computer or a singular organization that governs the entire World Wide Web. The internet is a decentralized system built on standards and protocols to which all network participants must adhere.

Overall, the internet is a remarkable human creation, resulting from the collaboration of many individual minds and even entire countries. It has already transformed our world and continues to do so. If your company isn't represented on the internet today, it's significantly behind. In this case, it needs to expedite its digital transformation as soon as possible.

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