The Difference Between the Internet and the Web

The web is just one part of the internet

Graphic design showing internet elements
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People often use the words "internet" and "web" interchangeably, but this usage is technically incorrect. The internet is an enormous network of billions of connected computers and other hardware devices. Each device can connect with any other device as long as they are both connected to the internet. The web consists of all the webpages you can view when you go online on the internet using your hardware device. One analogy equates the net to a restaurant and the web to the most popular dish on the menu.

The Internet Is Hardware Infrastructure

The internet is a massive combination of billions of computers and other connected devices located worldwide and connected via cables and wireless signals. This enormous network represents personal, business, educational and government devices that include large mainframes, desktop computers, smartphones, smart home gadgets, personal tablets, laptops and other devices.

The internet was born in the 1960s under the name ARPAnet as an experiment in how the U.S. military could maintain communications in the case of a possible nuclear strike. With time, ARPAnet became a civilian experiment, connecting university mainframe computers for academic purposes. As personal computers became mainstream in the 1980s and 1990s, the internet grew exponentially as more users plugged their computers into the massive network. Today, the internet has grown into a public spiderweb of billions of personal, government, educational and commercial computers and devices, all interconnected by cables and by wireless signals.

No single entity owns the internet. No single government has authority over its operations. Some technical rules and hardware and software standards enforce how people plug in to the internet, but for the most part, the internet is a free and open broadcast medium of hardware networking.

The Web Is the Information on the Internet

You have to access the internet to view the World Wide Web and any of the webpages or other content it contains. The web is the information-sharing portion of the web. It is the broad name for the HTML pages that are served on the internet.

The web consists of billions of digital pages that are viewable through web browser software on your computers. These pages contain many types of content, including static content such as encyclopedia pages and dynamic content like eBay sales, stocks, weather, news and traffic reports.

Webpages are connected using Hypertext Transfer Protocol, the coding language that allows you to jump to any public web page by clicking a link or knowing a URL, which is the unique address for each webpage on the internet. 

The World Wide Web was born in 1989. Interestingly enough, the web was built by research physicists so 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.

The Web Is Just One Part of the Internet

Although webpages contain an enormous amount of information, they aren't the only way information is shared over the internet. The internet—not the web—is also used for email, instant messages, news groups and file transfers. The web is a large portion of the internet but it isn't all of it.