Understanding the Internet
If you are like most people, you can make use of almost everything that the Internet has to offer. You are able to visit websites that interest you, get and send emails, connect with your friends using social media sites, and more. And yet, very few people are able to understand the inner works of the Internet. It's not a surprise, because the web is a complex system. Fortunately, by the end of this guide, you will be able to understand all its key aspects.
The very first, and one of the most important components of the Internet is... a huge network of cables! Yes, you can't talk about the web without discussing about submarine communication cables. It is true that wireless Internet is now the reality. We've gotten Wi-Fi and satellite-based connections, for example. And yet, the Internet's infrastructure is heavily based on cables. Without them, servers would be unable to communicate.
A server is nothing more than a powerful computer which was built with reliability in mind. Servers will often include special components which allow them to store more data, for example. Why? Because servers are connected to the Internet, and the webpages that you are accessing while you are browsing the web are, in fact, files that reside on a server. Just think at the billions and billions of websites that have been built since the Internet was invented; all their files are stored on servers that are located across the entire world.
It's quite clear that without knowing a server's unique address, you can't get access to its content. You wouldn't send out a letter without writing the address on the envelope, hoping that it will miraculously reach the intended recipient, isn't it? It's the same with servers; each one of them has a unique IP address, which looks like this: 123.512.427.974. The IP address is the server's equivalent of a postal address in the real world.
You could access the desired website by typing in its IP address into the browser's address bar, but you would have a hard time remembering all those numbers, right? That's why Domain Name System (DNS) servers were invented in the first place. A DNS service will translate user-friendly domain names to their IP addresses' equivalents. So, when you type cnn.com in your browser, a DNS server makes sure that you will land to 188.8.131.52, the current IP address of the Cable News Network's website.
Regular users, who don't have Internet servers in their homes, need to connect their computers and mobile devices to an Internet server. Most of us do this by utilizing the services that are offered by an Internet Service Provider, also known as an ISP. So, if you want to visit cnn.com, your requests are sent to your ISP's server, which will send the data over those long Internet wires, routing them to CNN's website. Since signal perturbation can be a serious issue, your data will be split in small packets. Once that all the packets have reached their destination, they are reassembled and processed.
Since most of us have wired-based Internet connections, it is practically impossible to connect several devices (also known as clients) to the web at the same time. That's exactly why routers were invented! By making use of a router, people can connect more clients to the Internet using either wired-based or wireless connections.
What if I told you that your computer has a unique IP address as well? Well, it is true! If you've got a computer, a laptop, a tablet and a smartphone that are connected to the Internet in your home, each one of them is assigned a unique IP address. Often, these addresses look like this: 192.168.10.1, 192.168.10.2, 192.168.10.3, and so on. It's the only way of making sure that your laptop's data packets don't interfere with the ones that are sent from your smartphone to your ISP.
That wasn't so hard, isn't it? I guarantee that if you have understood the concepts that were explained in this article, you are more knowledgeable than many of your friends and neighbors.