Internet vs. the World Wide Web


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

In casual conversation, “internet” and “World Wide Web” are usually taken to mean the same thing. In reality, they’re quite different. The World Wide Web is just one of many methods that allow us to access information on the internet. Stay tuned, we’re about to get technical.

What is the internet?

The internet isn’t an enigma. It’s a physical infrastructure. This massive global network is essentially the sum of tens of thousands of smaller interconnected computer networks. If you’re reading this, there’s probably a computer network set up near you—at your home, in the office or at a local coffee shop. All these networks are connected to each other by systems of larger networks. When you step back and look at the connections as whole, you have the internet. Computers, tablets, smartphones and other web-enabled electronic devices use these interconnected networks (internet) to communicate with one another.

In order to ensure that information gets where it’s supposed to go, devices use a set of established rules and languages called protocols. More on that in a minute.

What is the World Wide Web?

The World Wide Web is a subset of the internet. This virtual information system uses the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) to string together websites and transfer requested pages to your computer. It utilizes URLs to identify documents and hyperlinks to keep these web resources connected. As of 2014, the indexed World Wide Web contained at least 3.32 billion pages. So while it’s just one piece of the internet jigsaw puzzle, it’s an integral one.

How does a web browser work?

Interactions between the internet and the World Wide Web may sound complicated, but they occur every time you visit a website like Google, Amazon or Facebook. When you turn on your computer and join a nearby Wi-Fi network, you’re officially tapped into the gigantic system of servers known as the internet. But to access content on the internet, you’ll need a vehicle. That’s where web browsers come in. When you open Firefox, Safari, or another browser, you’re prompted to type a website URL into the address bar up top. This gives the driver (your computer) directions to your desired destination. You’ll notice that most URLs start with http:// . This prefix signals to the web server that you’re speaking its language. The http://www that comes next tells the server that the site you wish to visit is weaved into the World Wide Web.

Putting it all together

The World Wide Web exists within the enormous network system that is the internet. Though they both play a part in serving up websites, it’s important to understand the subtle (but certain) differences between them. After all, this dynamic duo shapes the virtual world as we know it.