Do you ever wonder how people communicated before the internet? Carrier pigeon, telegraph, telephone? There were actually a number of ways people connected with each other, but they also seem somewhat inefficient and even difficult. Frankly, the internet is such an amazing tool that it’s often hard to imagine life without it. Most people think of the internet as a monolith, but it’s actually an undergirding technology that enables a bunch of other technologies within its framework.
What Is the Internet?
The internet is a network of computers that allows us to share information using various technologies. A simple way to imagine it is to think of the internet as a highway. On that highway are different vehicles. The various vehicles that travel on the highway are the different technologies that the internet enables.
1. The World Wide Web
The World Wide Web is probably what most people think of when they imagine the internet. It’s basically an information system where documents and other web-related items are identified by Uniform Resource Locators or web addresses. URLs, https://whatever.com/, for example, are accessible via the internet.
The World Wide Web was developed by Tim Berners-Lee at the European physics lab CERN in 1989. The final version was finalized in 1990. The resulting software became part of the public domain in 1993. This made it possible for companies and people around the world to create their own websites and share information. As of 2021, there were 1.9 billion web pages.
Usenet is a platform that you may not have ever heard of. And, like the World Wide Web, people often confuse it with the internet itself, but it stands apart. Usenet is a communications platform that people use in much the same way as they use web discussion groups, forums, and online bulletin boards. You’re able to gain access to the network through a Usenet provider.
Usenet actually began back in 1979. It was the project of two Duke University students, Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis, who set up a small network of three machines in North Carolina. The goal was to provide a way for the machines to share information, similar to what the internet makes possible today.
Before the introduction of email, written correspondence had to be delivered by hand through the mail, typically. Today, it’s actually hard to imagine a time when we had to rely on the post office to send someone a letter or a document. Email is electronic mail shared between devices. And the technology is made possible by the internet.
Email dates back to 1971 when Ray Tomlinson created the first electronic messaging system. Of course, the advent of the internet and websites had a lot to do with the evolution of email, since today most people access their email through the web. Now, people commonly use email for everything from paying bills to launching marketing campaigns.
4. Mobile Apps
Perhaps nothing has made life in the twenty-first century more convenient than mobile phone applications. With phone apps, we’re able to monitor our bank accounts on the go, check the workflow on our jobs, and even meet our future spouses. Again, this is a technology that is made possible by the internet.
Basic phone apps could be found in the 1990s, but they didn’t really take off until the 2000s. Today, phone apps have become an essential part of everyday life.
5. Instant Messaging
Imagine needing to send a quick message to someone before the arrival of the internet and instant messaging. You’d be required to actually interrupt the person with a phone call. Being able to send someone an instant message via smartphone is another technology that is made possible by the internet.
In many ways, instant messaging has become more popular than email, as it’s considered more informal and a quicker way of reaching people.
We can probably all agree that, for the most part, the internet is a wonderful technology. And it has made possible the introduction of various other technologies. Everything from the World Wide Web to email relies on the architecture of the internet to function. And although people interchange the word ‘internet’ for the World Wide Web and other platforms, they are all distinct technologies.