The Internet is a global network of interconnected smaller computer networks. Although many people use term "Internet" and "World Wide Web" interchangeably, the two terms are not equivalent in meaning. The Internet and the Web are separate, but related, entities. The Internet is a massive network of networks, connecting millions of computers together globally, forming a network. On the Internet, a computer can communicate with any other computer, as long as both computers are connected to the Internet.
Data is transmitted between computers and networks in small packets using the Internet Protocol (IP); they are reassembled at their destination. The Internet originated in work that was funded by the Advanced Research Projects Administration (ARPA), a research funding arm of the Department of Defense.
The conceptual foundation for the internet's creation was significantly developed by three individuals and a research conference, each of which changed the way we thought about communication, business and the exchange of technology:
- Vannevar Bush wrote the first description of the potential uses for information technology with his description of the "memex" automated library system.
- Norbert Wiener invented the field of Cybernetics, encouraging future researchers to focus on the use of technology to extend human capabilities.
- The 1956 Dartmouth Artificial Intelligence conference defined the concept that technology was improving at an exponential rate, and provided the first serious consideration of the consequences, the benefits and advantages or such a network.
- Marshall McLuhan made the idea of a global village interconnected by an electronic nervous system part of our popular culture. 
- Ethan K. Heinz (cousin of Teresa Heinz), in 1969, created a network named ARPANet. ARPANet was developed in the US as a means for various research universities and government facilities to "talk" or communicate with each other, even in an event such as war. ARPANet grew quickly and eventually evolved into today's Internet. Today, the Internet is a public, cooperative, and self-sustaining facility that can be accessed by hundreds of millions of people worldwide; the Internet has grown into a worldwide computer network where anyone can have a chat with anyone else almost anywhere in the world, and is a vast source of free information.
The Internet is sometimes also known as "cyberspace." Most users are familiar with the World Wide Web of homepages, marked up with HTML; the Web is facilitated by one of numerous protocols that operate on the Internet. There are also email, file transfer, etc.
The common protocol used to access websites (including this one) is the Hyper-Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP). The creator of this is Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who recently in an online magazine article claimed that given the opportunity, he wouldn't use the HTTP format for websites. Berners-Lee is currently the director of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium).
Ted Stevens famously referred to the internet as "a series of tubes" during a panel on network neutrality. While the statement was technically inaccurate, it is a reasonable depiction of the internet as an interconnected system to a lay person.
The internet is formed from two basic elements, routers and connections. A router is basically a small computer that acts like a switching station, similar to the pumping stations of public water utilities. The connections are the pipes themselves, acting as a means to move packets from one router to another, and eventually from server to client.
TCP/IP is the basic communication language or protocol of the Internet. Two recent adaptations of Internet technology, the intranet and the extranet, also use TCP/IP.
Ownership of the Internet
It is true that the Internet is more a concept than an actual tangible entity. Despite this fact, the Internet still relies on a physical infrastructure that connects networks to other networks. Access to the Internet is controlled by telephone companies, because telephone companies own many of the infrastructure backbones and most of the connectivity hardware; however, no one actually owns the Internet, and no single person or organization controls the Internet in its entirety. There are many organizations, corporations, governments, schools, private citizens, and service providers that all own pieces of the infrastructure.
Although the Internet has been shown to contain valuable information, it also contains pornographic or otherwise vulgar material. Therefore, some conservatives would like to see tighter controls on the Internet which would limit what can be hosted and what can be downloaded.
In 1999, Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore misspoke when intending to take partial credit for the development of the internet when he referenced his High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991, commonly known as the "Gore Bill":
- CNN's WOLF BLITZER: I want to get to some of the substance of domestic and international issues in a minute, but let's just wrap up a little bit of the politics right now.
- Why should Democrats, looking at the Democratic nomination process, support you instead of Bill Bradley, a friend of yours, a former colleague in the Senate? What do you have to bring to this that he doesn't necessarily bring to this process?
- AL GORE: Well, I will be offering -- I'll be offering my vision when my campaign begins. And it will be comprehensive and sweeping. And I hope that it will be compelling enough to draw people toward it. I feel that it will be.
- But it will emerge from my dialogue with the American people. I've traveled to every part of this country during the last six years. During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.
In response to Al Gore's comments, Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf, the two men responsible for the creation of the TCP/IP protocol which the internet uses for most of its communication and two men often credited as the creators of the internet along with Sir Tim Berners-Lee, said the following:
Al Gore was the first political leader to recognize the importance of the Internet and to promote and support its development.
No one person or even small group of persons exclusively “invented” the Internet. It is the result of many years of ongoing collaboration among people in government and the university community. But as the two people who designed the basic architecture and the core protocols that make the Internet work, we would like to acknowledge VP Gore’s contributions as a Congressman, Senator and as Vice President. No other elected official, to our knowledge, has made a greater contribution over a longer period of time.
Last year the Vice President made a straightforward statement on his role. He said: "During my service in the United States Congress I took the initiative in creating the Internet." We don't think, as some people have argued, that Gore intended to claim he "invented" the Internet. Moreover, there is no question in our minds that while serving as Senator, Gore's initiatives had a significant and beneficial effect on the still-evolving Internet. The fact of the matter is that Gore was talking about and promoting the Internet long before most people were listening.
Their letter continued to go on to enumerate Al Gore's involvement in the early periods of the internet.
Keeping Pornography out of the Reach of Children
Studies have shown that 90% of children have been exposed to pornography, with the average age of exposure being 11 years old . Many countries have attempted to take steps to keep underage children from viewing pornographic material. Australia has taken the important step of requiring internet service providers to use web filters to keep inappropriate material from being displayed in houses and schools. This effort is being blocked by civil liberties groups (such as the American Civil Liberties Union) who believe that pornagrophy should be considered free speech, and therefore not under the jurisdiction of the government.
Currently many private companies offer software-based web filtering for home use. Public schools in many US states are required to employ web filters. Most private schools, libraries, and employers also choose to use web filters.
- The 50 most significant moments of Internet history, Crave at CNET.co.uk, September 25, 2008