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Internet

Internet (sometimes just the net) is the grand, decentralized global network of interconnected computer networks that allows advanced, cheap, practically instantaneous intercommunication of people and computers and sharing of large amounts of data and information. Over just a few decades since its birth in 1970s it changed the society tremendously, shifted it to the information age and stands as possibly the greatest technological invention of our society. It is a platform for many services and applications such as the web, e-mail, internet of things, torrents, phone calls, video streaming, multiplayer games etc. Of course, once Internet became accessible to normal people and has become the largest public forum on the planet, it has also become the biggest dump of retards in history.

Sometimes we distinguish between lowercase i "internet", meaning a large computer network, and capital I "Internet", meaning the one, biggest worldwide internet. As many networks just become part of the great Internet, we see this distinction less often and without saying otherwise, in normal speech both "internet" or "Internet" typically stand for the big Internet.

Internet is built on top of protocols (such as IP, HTTP or SMTP), standards, organizations (such as ICANN, IANA or W3C) and infrastructure (undersea cables, satellites, routers, ...) that all together work to create a great network based on packet switching, i.e. a method of transferring digital data by breaking them down into small packets which independently travel to their destination (contrast this to circuit switching). The key feature of the Internet is its decentralization, i.e. the attribute of having no central node or authority so that it cannot easily be destroyed or taken control over -- this is by design, the Internet evolved from ARPANET, a project of the US defense department. Nevertheless there are parties constantly trying to seize at least partial control of the Internet such as governments (e.g. China and its Great Firewall, EU with its "anti-pedophile" chat monitoring laws etc.) and corporations (by creating centralized services such as social networks). Some are warning of possible de-globalization of the Internet that some parties are trying to carry out, which would turn the Internet into so called splinternet.

Access to the Internet is offered by ISPs (internet service providers) but it's pretty easy to connect to the Internet even for free, e.g. via free wifis in public places, or in libraries. By 2020 more than half of world's population had access to the Internet -- most people in the first world have practically constant, unlimited access to it via their smartphones, and even in poor countries capitalism makes these devices along with Internet access cheap as people constantly carrying around devices that display ads and spy on them is what allows their easy exploitation.

The following are some statistics about the Internet as of early 2020s: there are over 5 billion users world-wide (more than half of them from Asia and mostly young people), it is estimated 63% people worldwide use the Internet with the number being as high as 90% in the developed countries. Most Internet users are English speakers (27%), followed by Chinese speakers (25%). It's also estimated over 50 billion individual devices connected, about 2 billion websites (over 60% in English) on the web, hundreds of billions of emails are sent every day, average connection speed is 24 Mbps, there are over 370 million registered domain names (most popular TLD is .com), Google performs about 7 billion web searches daily (over 90% of all search engines).

PRO TIP: you should download and/or print your own offline Internet (or maybe we should rather say offline web). Collect your favorite websites and other resources (gopher holes, Usenet threads, images, ...) and make a single dense PDF out of them. Process each page so that it's just plain text, remove all graphics and colors, unify the font, make the font small and decrease margins so that you fit as much as possible on a single page to not waste paper. For many pages, like Wikipedia, a small script will be able to do this automatically; the uglier pages may just be edited manually. An easy approach is for example to convert the pages to plain HTML that just contains paragraphs and heading of different levels, then copy-pasting this to LibreOffice, globally editing the font and auto-generate things like table of contents and page numbers, then exporting as PDF. You can even make a script that contains the list of pages you want to scrap so that you can make a newer print a few years later. Once you have the PDF, print it out and have your own tiny offline net :) It will be useful when the lights go out, it's a physical backup of your favorite sites (the PDF, as a byproduct, is also a single-file backup in electronic form), something no one will be silently censoring under your hands, and it's also just nice to read through printed pages, the experience is better than reading stuff on the screen -- this will be like your own 100% personalized book with stuff you find most interesting, in a form that's comfortable to read. You should also download your favorite and essential websites and other files for offline use, this way you'll be able to browse even when the Internet collapses and/or if you're just somewhere without connection, plus you'll have a backup in case they go offline themselves. Here is a KISS script template that does the downloading (it can also at the same time serve as a list of your favorite websites), also feel free to improve it (e.g. compress/minimize the downloaded files etc.):

#!/bin/bash

rm -rf offline
mkdir offline

echo "
http://favoritesite1.com
https://favoritesite2.com/page1.html
http://favoritesite3.com/favoritefile1.txt
http://favoritesite4.org/coolimage.jpg
" | shuf | wget -i - -E -e robots=off -nc -nd -U "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)" --tries=3 -k -w 1 -P offline

As of 2024 the Internet is dead, like whole society, killed by capitalism -- take a look at the alternatives to the Internet down below.

History

See also history and www.

{ Some sites with Internet history: https://www.zakon.org/robert/internet/timeline/, https://www.freesoft.org/CIE/Topics/57.htm. ~drummyfish }

It goes without saying that even though in retrospect it looks like the Internet just came to be one day, it wasn't indeed so -- we have to remember large communication networks existed for a long time and were often used in ways very similar to the Internet, even for silly things like playing games (e.g. chess used to be played over snail mail and even telegraph). Before electronic networks there were networks such as paper mail and optical telegraphs. With electricity a great number of new, much improved networks appeared, such as the electrical telegraph (~1840), phone and fax networks (~1880), radio broadcasts (circa first half of 20th century) and TV broadcasts (~1930). Some of the later networks were very similar to the World Wide Web from user perspective, and they were quite advanced and widely used at the time when Internet was just in its infancy -- for example teletext (~1970) allowed people to browse graphical pages on their TVs, BBS and Usenet networks were already digital computer networks (accessed through dialup modems) allowed people to chat, discuss on forums, roleplay, play games and share files, Minitel was the most successful Internet like network that worked in France in the 1980s etc. Perhaps not to much surprise visions of Internet as we know it appeared beforehand for example in sci-fi, one particularly famous such work is the 1956 book called A Logic Named Joe.

The Internet itself evolved from ARPANET, a network designed by US department of defense; ARPANET started to be developed in 1969 (with first plans appearing in 1966), fueled by Cold War rivalry with the Soviet Union. Of course, this network wasn't intended to become what the Internet is today, no one could probably have foreseen the future, it was just another military project -- as such, ARPANET was designed to be decentralized so as to be robust, i.e. there was no central node of the network which would be an easy target for enemies in a war. ARPANET was revolutionary by utilizing so called packet switching (idea published in a paper in 1961), i.e. any data sent over the network were split into small data packets that would travel through the network independently, each one possibly by different path, and would be reassembled into the whole once they all arrived at the destination (again, this helped keep the network robust -- if one path was destroyed, packets would just find another path). This is in contrast to traditional circuit switching used until then e.g. in telephone networks (circuit switching basically just means that direct connections are established between nodes that want to communicate at given time).

In April 1969 the first RFC ("request for comments") document was published (back then wrote with typewriter) -- RFCs would become a standard type of documents for discussing the design and improvements of ARPANET and later the Internet between the network engineers and scientists -- in RFCs new standards and protocols would be suggested, defined and discussed. 29 October 1969 is seen as a historical moment for ARPANET because at that day first data were sent through it from University of California -- it was a letter "L" (a whole word "LOGIN" was supposed to be sent but the computer crashed somewhere at "G"). In November of this year the first permanent ARPANET connection was established between University of California and Stanford Research Institute and shortly after a 4 node network was established.

By 1971 there were 15 ARPANET nodes. In 1974 allegedly the first use of the word "Internet" appeared in the specification of the TCP protocol by Cerf et al. The TCP/IP protocol they published would become a key part of the Internet -- even today these protocols are the foundation of the Internet. By 1977 ARPANET had about 60 nodes.

In 1983 there were more than 500 registered hosts and in 1984 the number surpassed 1000. Also in 1984 the DNS (domain name system) was introduced -- this would allow network nodes to have "human friendly names" like mycomputer.com instead of just numeric addresses. In 1985 the first domain name was registered -- it was symbolics.com. In 1987 the number of hosts was around 10000. In 1989 this was already 100000.

In 1990 ARPANET project was officially ended to let the network, now mostly known as the Internet, live and be developed further mostly by the private sector. In this year EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), a major international non-profit that would help overlooking the Internet, was also founded. Due to the exploding popularity the Internet started to run out of IP addresses in early 1990s which was temporarily fixed by so called CIDR with long term plans to transition to bigger IPv6 addresses.

Probably the biggest milestone in Internet history was the emergence of the World Wide Web -- also www or just "the web" -- in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee who was at the time working at CERN in Europe (i.e. if we see the US as the inventor of the Internet, the Europe is who made it widespread and famous). The Web was based on the idea of documents (webpages) written in a special language (HTML), all interconnected via clickable links (so called hypertext) viewed with a program called web browser. Web's popularity was also helped by the fact that the programs made by Berners-Lee were released to the public domain so that anyone could jump on the web for free, even use it commercially without any fees and so on. And of course, a prerequisite for wide popularity was the presence of the cheap personal computer. Shortly after its invention web competed with other similar services based on similar ideas, most notably gopher, however some time in the mid 1990s the web took over and would quickly became by far the most prominent Internet service which would go on to make the Internet mainstream. In 1994 w3c (World Wide Web Consortium) was established to be the main organization standardizing the web. The web would gradually push all other networks and competing service -- such as BBSes, Usenet and gopher -- to the deepest underground. Of course, having become the Earth's largest public forum, the web would also ultimately become what would kill the Internet because all the major powers (read corporations and states) would quickly jump in to abuse it for their own propaganda, marketing, spying, manipulation, crowd control, cyberattacks and so on. This would still take some time, until around 2005 the web was great, very decentralized with plethora of useful personal web pages. People also weren't shitscared by security hysteria yet, https still wasn't the default, everyone would put his photos online along with his name, address and phone number, you could literally visit elementary school websites and find which children went to which class and so on -- no, nothing bad happened, it was all fine. However after this -- with the onset of so called web 2.0 (more bloated web) and so called social networks -- the downhill ride would start. It would still take around anther decade for the web to die completely, until 2010 the web still kept part of its original glory, but after 2015 it all shattered. After 2020 the web is but a corpse inhabited by grandma's playing games on facebook while being bombarded by ads and the corpse of what used to be the web is just being kicked further to the ground by new capitalist cyberweapons such as the "AI".

Nowadays not only the web but the Internet as a whole is dying by hardcore capitalism, becoming greatly censored, regulated, split (so called splinternet) and controlled by corporations who are absolutely killing the old decentralized, free as in freedom Internet that was developed by free software enthusiasts, nerds, oldschool hackers, free speech promoters, by universities, scientists and researches in transparent ways, through the RFCs. It is important to remember what it once used to be so that perhaps one day we can see the true Internet return.

Here is the Internet over time in numbers:

year ~inet servers ~websites ~domains ~% inet users (glob.)
1969 4
1970 10
1975 100
1980 200
1985 2000 1
1990 300000 1 9300
1995 2000000 23000 71000 1
2000 100000000 7000000 40000000 7
2005 350000000 100000000 100000000 16
2010 700000000 300000000 200000000 30
2015 1000000000 1000000000 300000000 43

Alternatives To/Alternative Ways Of Implementing The Internet

See also https://solar.lowtechmagazine.com/2015/10/how-to-build-a-low-tech-internet/.

Internet overtook the world thanks to having enabled great number of services to be provided very cheaply, at great scales and/or with extremely elevated attributes such as minimal delay or great bandwidth. This is crucial to many industries who couldn't do without such a network, however to individuals or even smaller organizations Internet is frequently just a tool of comfort -- they could exist without the Internet, just a little less comfortably. As Internet is becoming more and more monitored, controlled, overcrowded, limited and censored, we may start to consider the less comfortable alternatives as good enough ways that actually gain us advantages in some other ways, e.g. more freedom of expression, more robust network (independence of the Internet infrastructure), technological independence etc. We have to keep in mind the services allowed by the Internet, such as long distance communication, information searching or playing games still mostly exist even without Internet, just usually separated or somehow suffering a few disadvantages; nevertheless these disadvantages may be bearable and/or made smaller, e.g. by adjusting ourselves to the limitations (if our communication becomes slower, we'll simply write longer messages to which we put more thought and information etc.) or combining these alternative services in a clever way. Additionally we can make use of the lessons learned from the Internet (e.g. cleverly designed protocols, steganography, broadcasts, digital data, ...) and apply them to the alternative networks. Let us now list a few alternatives to the Internet:

See Also


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