What is the difference between the Internet and the World Wide Web?

Craig W. Thompson, professor and Acxiom Database Chair in Engineering, computer science and computer engineering, replies:

People use the terms Internet and World Wide Web interchangeably, but they are not synonymous. The Internet is an underlying network that enables higher level applications like the Web, e-mail, instant messaging, file transfers and search engines to operate.

The Internet is a decentralized global network connecting millions of computers and allowing them to share information. Each computer separately decides what services to make available to the global Internet community. Home users often connect to the Internet via Internet Service Providers (ISPs) using phone lines, DSL or cable. The Internet is a collection of standards, including Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) a set of rules that define how to reliably send packets of information between computers and how to route these packets through the network to their final destination.

The World Wide Web is a collection of hypertext files available on Web servers located anywhere on the Internet that end-users can access via Web browsers like Internet Explorer or Mozilla. In the 1980s, Tim Berners-Lee, working at CERN, the European particle physics lab in Geneva, developed protocols for sharing information and a browser that used these standards. Key standards include a way to specify links (Uniform Resource Locators or URLs, e.g. http://www.uark.edu), a document format (Hypertext Transfer Markup Language or HTML) that provides simple ways to add headers, bold, and other markup to a document, and a way to exchange documents (Hypertext Transfer Protocol or HTTP).

Another standard incorporated into browsers is Multiple Internet Mail Extensions (MIME), a method of identifying file types by their standard extensions, so that browsers could display many kinds of information.

Thus, the Internet enables network technology but it has grown because of applications like the Web, e-mail and others that make it easy for people to share information. n

About The Author

University Relations Science and Research Team

University Relations Science and Research Team

Matt McGowan
science and research writer
479-575-4246, dmcgowa@uark.edu

Robert Whitby
science and research writer
479-387-0720, whitby@uark.edu

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