Understanding of “Internet”

Understanding of “Internet”

Yingxin Lyu

Now, people can say they are “on the Internet” at any time. It is hard to find one thing that people do in daily life does not need connecting to Internet. However, what does it means to be “on the Internet”? It may look like a huge spider web with thousands of nodes, and people are on those nodes. With the thread between nodes, they are connected and they can share information. A person with his or her devices that can connect to the Internet, as an entity faces with the device, and behind the device, there is a huge network. The entity chats with friends, so they send messages to each other, then communicate and socialize. In this case, he or she is on the Internet means the person can send his information through the network to friends who are physically separated from him or her, or receive friends’ information. The information runs through local area network (LAN), a router, and a wide-area network (WAN), and it goes through a set of protocols, and finally arrive at the destination1. Moreover, the person logs in Google, types the keyword, and search for desired information. He or she first sends order to the Domain Name Service (DNS), than the website address is translated to the Ip address of Google2, so the finally the interface of Google shows on the screen. Then the person’s keyword is transferred to Google’s server and it filters information related and sends to the user. The entity is “on the Internet” if he can go through these processes. No matter what interaction people implement through Internet, like chatting, searching, browsing, or watching videos, the essence of these things is receiving and sending information. Thus, People are “on the Internet” means they can go through a lot of processes to send and receive information with devices.

However, most people tend to consider “the Internet” as a totalized, reified, or uniform “technology”. It is hard to teach everyone to understand the huge network processes and technologies, and protocols behind Internet, but we can use metaphor to enlighten people, leading them to consider Internet as a network with subsystems, subcomponents, and social institutions orchestrated to work together. In Code.org Video Lessons, they metaphors the process of downloading a music as sending packages, and TCP is compared to a guaranteed mail service. Similarly, we can compare the Internet logistics process. That is, whenever you type a sentence or key word in a search box and press the “enter”, it is like you prepare a gift and put it in the package, then give it to the carrier. The keyword is not just show up in the screen, you keyword, or order, is translated in to binary language and go through protocols, servers. Like the package is transported first by the carrier to the small warehouse that keeps all packages of the nearby district, and then by tracks or planes to the other city, arriving at a big warehouse, next it will  be distributed to smaller warehouse, and finally the carrier will sent the package to the receiver. This example is transparent if we try to compare the process of chatting to it. People sending a message to their friends just like sending a package, and they receive them as the same way. There is also a big network of logistics management, and it is more familiar to people, using such a metaphor will let the Internet with its whole big system easy to understand and acceptable.

It is crucial for more people to understand that “Internet” is not a uniform “technology”. Knowing that Internet is a big system designed elaborately will inspire people to apply the similar design idea to create new network design.



  1. Ron White, How Computers Work. 10th ed. Que Publishing, 2015.
  2. Denning, Peter J., and Craig H. Martell. Great principles of computing. MIT Press, 2015.