The Internet and the WorldWide Web -
What's the Difference?

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I have been asked many times by seniors questions like, "What is Internet?", "What is Worldwide Web (WWW)?", "Are Internet and the Worldwide Web the same thing?", "What is the difference between Internet and www?", and so forth. Well, here are answers to these questions in layman's words.

The Internet is a global network of computers. This network literally connects millions of computers that are located in many different countries of the world. Through this network of computers people can exchange data thereby making it possible for us to send and receive news, views, pictures, videos, music, and virtually any kind of information from one corner of the world to another. The word Net is a short form of the word Internet.

Worldwide Web (www) and the Internet is not the same thing, even though common people like you and me tend to use these words synonymously. The Internet is much bigger than the Worldwide Web (also known as the Web). The Internet is a network of networks. Data is transmitted through the Internet following various protocols or languages. The Internet uses many languages. Whereas the Worldwide Web follows only one protocol called the HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol). The Worldwide Web uses only one language. The Worldwide Web is just a part of the Internet. The Internet is also used for e-mail (e-mail uses a language called Simple Mail Transfer Protocol or SMTP), File Transfer between two computers using File Transfer Protocol (FTP), Usenet news groups, and Instant Messages.

To simplify matters I shall give an example here which may not be 100% correct, but you will get an idea. Think of the Internet as one big continent like Europe where many languages are spoken. Now think of one country in Europe, say Greece, where only one language (Greek) is spoken. In this example, Greece is the Worldwide Web, and Europe is the Internet.

The Worldwide Web, or just the Web, supports only those documents that are created using a special markup language called HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language). These web documents are called the web pages. The web pages are viewed utilizing special software called web browsers or just browsers. Two of the most commonly used browsers are Internet Explorer and Netscape. Update: The most commonly used browsers these days are Internet Explorer (by Microsoft), Chrome (by Google), and Firefox (by Mozilla). Mac computers come with Safari browsers.

The beauty of the web pages is that they are not just black text on white background. The pages can be of any color and so can be the text. Not only that, the pages are also capable of displaying pictures, animated graphics, videos, and playing music. But the most astonishing feature of the web documents is probably that they are joined together using links (a.k.a. hyperlinks). Simply by clicking on a link, you can jump from one page to another.

So without going into hard-to-understand technical details, I have told you the difference between the Internet and the Worldwide Web (www). But rest assured that most non-technical people use the terms Internet (Net) and the Worldwide Web (Web) synonymously and interchangeably. No harm done. We all get by and do our work without knowing the difference. It is only the computer nerds who frown when we say Internet for Worldwide Web or vice versa.

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