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The internet is a modern-day necessity. Most people cannot imagine life without an internet connection, but only a few know how the internet works. From considering it to be supported by solar panels to thinking of it as an invisible system of current that surrounds us, people have different perceptions of the underlying mechanics of an internet system.

Even though, the internet is the most highly pervasive technology that has permeated all parts of our lives, understanding how it works is not necessary to use it. For this reason, some people do not understand how the internet works. Whereas, others find it too complicated and beyond their technical grasp. The truth is it is not that complicated!

This guide takes you to the internet basics including how it works, its components, and its brief history. So keep on reading!

What Is the Internet?

Contrary to popular belief, the internet is not a fuzzy cloud or aura of electric currents that surround us. The truth is there is much hardware that makes up the internet. To put it simply, the internet is a global network of interconnected computer networks. From massive underground cables to satellites orbiting the earth, several physical entities make communication between these networks possible. Therefore, when you go online or connect to the internet, you are essentially connecting to this huge global network.

A Brief History of the Internet

The internet now has grown into a massive global network but it started simply as a way for government researchers to share information back in the 1960s. Back in those days, computers were huge, and to transfer information between two devices, people had to travel to the site of the other device. The Internet was established to share information remotely.

During the cold war, post the launch of the Sputnik satellite, the US defense department needed a way to transfer information even under nuclear attack. As a result, the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network or ARPANET was formed. This network can be considered the earliest form of what we now consider the internet. Even though the formation of ARPANET was a success, its access was limited to defense and research organizations. As a counter, different computer networks were created.

On 1st January 1983, a new communication protocol by the name of TCP/IP was established which provided a standard way for these different computer networks to communicate.  For this reason, the official birthday of the internet is considered to be 1st Jan 1983.

Internet Components

Here are a few vital components of the internet that you must understand to know how it works:


A protocol is the standard way data is transferred between two computers. Computers process data in the form of bytes, which is a sequence of 0s and 1s. Without a protocol in place, all you will see on your computer screen is a long string of zeros and ones. A protocol helps the computer translate the bytes of data into something understood by the user.

Here are some common protocols used to communicate data to the internet

IP addresses

As mentioned earlier, the internet is a system of globally connected computer networks. Each computer on this network has its unique IP address, which allows the computer to communicate with one another. When you sign up for an internet service, your ISP assigns you a public IP address. This IP address is how other devices on the internet will communicate with you. IP address helps differentiate between the different devices connected to the internet.   

IP addresses are written as a set of four numbers separated by a period and ranging from 0 to 255. A full IP address can range from to IP addresses are not randomly selected numbers—instead these are allocated by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Here is an example of an IP address:

Domain Name

Imagine typing in the IP address of the host server every time you visit Google or YouTube. Using the internet for simple browsing would become so difficult. This is why Domain names exist. Domain names are what you type into your browser to search a website such as ‘’, ‘’, and ‘’. Domain names are easier to remember than IP addresses.

Data Packets

These are the packets of information or data traveling across the internet. Information is broken into simpler pieces and transferred as data packets. These packets are governed by internet protocols, which ensure they are understood by the computer. Your device receives this information and using the protocol translates it into images, texts, and audio that you can understand.

Fun fact: Cybersecurity technologies like Firewalls read incoming data packets to identify any malicious content.

Internet Infrastructure

The physical components that support and transmit data for internet services are called the internet infrastructure. Networking infrastructure can include everything from the fiber optic, cables, or copper cables that carry the data to the core routers, which transmit the data. Network Service providers (NSPs) are companies that own, sell and operate this internet infrastructure. ISPs or internet service providers buy internet services and infrastructure from NSPS and sell it to businesses and commercial customers.

Major ISPs include:

How the Internet Works

When you try to access YouTube on the internet, your device does not directly send data to the hosting computer. There is a process in place that it follows. Your computer sends this information to your router, which sends it to the router at your ISP, which then communicates to other routers and the chain goes on until it reaches the hosting server. Data packets sent from the host server make the same reverse journey to your system.

You can think of it as writing a letter to a friend living in another city or country. You send the letter to the local post office, which sends it to another post office that delivers the letter to your friend. This is a very simple analogy to explain the complex process of data transfer. There is a ton of software at play here as well.

With a global network of billions of interconnected devices, data transfer is not as linear as the explanation seems. The packets of data can take multiple paths to transmit the information, as computer networks are interconnected and highly complex.

Internet vs WWW

There is a common perception that the internet and the World Wide Web are the same things. This is not exactly right. The internet is a system of interconnected computer networks that are sharing information. Whereas, the Web is a collection of websites that uses the internet as a means to transmit information. If all websites were wiped from the internet, the internet would still exist, however, without the internet World Wide Web would not survive.

How Can You Access the Internet?

You can get internet access through an ISP. Internet access or data is transferred to your home via cables. There are different underlying broadband technologies that ISP employ to provide internet access. The quality of internet service will vary according to the type of connection or the medium of internet connection. So factors like connection reliability download and upload speed, and plan price are largely affected by the connection type.

Here is a brief overview of the most common internet connection types that you will come across.

Fiber Optic Internet

Fiber optic internet is the latest advancement in broadband technology. It relies on fiber technology where data is transferred digitally as light pulses across large glass cables. Fiber optic is the fastest internet service you can get. It is the only connection type offering symmetric speeds. With every other connection type, you will have to compromise on upload speeds whereas a fiber connection offers the same download and upload speeds. Many ISPs are now offering multi-gig internet plans, thanks to fiber optic technology and fiber infrastructure.

Some popular fiber internet service providers are AT&T, CenturyLink, Metronet, Ziply Fiber, and Astound Broadband powered by Grande.

Cable Internet

In a cable internet connection, data is transferred across copper cables. It is one of the most widely accessible connection types and the best option next to fiber internet. With cable internet, you get decent internet speeds, but might have to put up with the occasional speed throttling during peak usage times.   

Some popular cable internet service providers are Spectrum, Xfinity, Cox, Optimum, and Mediacom.

DSL Internet

DSL uses phone lines to transmit data much like the old Dial-up internet service. However, with dial-up internet, the home phone and internet could not be used simultaneously. However, this is not the case with DSL internet. If you do not have access to fiber and cable internet, DSL is a good option.

Some popular high-speed DSL internet providers include Kinetic by Windstream and CenturyLink.

In a Nutshell

Now that you know how the internet works, all there is left to do is invest in a good internet provider. With a reliable internet connection, you can explore all the online space has to offer. To find a reliable and fast internet service provider, call 1-855-349-9328 and get the best internet deals near you.

Rose Walker

Whether it's crafting compelling product descriptions, optimizing our website for search engines, or writing engaging and helpful guides and reviews, Rose brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table. Their contributions to our blogs and web content has allowed us to provide ample information to internet users regarding the top-notch services provided by AT&T and DIRECTV. She is one of the most dedicated writers in our team, who aims to guarantee that all our buyers and readers make informed and sound decisions about their internet, TV, and phone subscriptions.