What’s the difference between the web and the Internet?

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Please tell me that the web and the internet are the not same! I have a bet with a friend and stand to lose if otherwise.
Lorrie-Ann Morris

Congratulations Lorrie-Ann, You’ve won the bet! The web and the Internet are different. Though the two terms are often used interchangeably, conceptually, the two networks are of different “things”. Let me explain.
(By the way, if the bet involves moolah, you owe me a coffee or a beverage of your choice.)

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I’m not going to bore you with technical details and will try to keep it simple. This way you would be able to explain things to your friend, else, just ask them to check this page.

What is the Internet?

The Internet is a global network of computers. Technically, it also consists of the cables and wires that interconnect the machines around the globe. So, for instance, the transatlantic cable that carries the electronic pulses is part of the Internet too.

Also, the Internet encompasses several networks – Email, Usenet, Newsgroups and, of course, the World Wide Web. Thus, the Internet is a “network-of-networks” with the web being just a part of it. (More on this in a bit).

It all started at ARPA, the Advanced Research Projects Agency, which was formed as a result of the US losing the “space race” to the Soviet Union. In order to facilitate communications between various machines at different locations, a network was developed. ARPANET, as the network came to be known, was starting point of the Internet. The first message was sent on 29th October 1969 by Charley Kline from a computer at UCLA to one at the Stanford Research Institute. The simple message had just five characters – “login”.

So, if you think about it, the Internet was born at a defence organisation in the United States!

What is the web (World Wide Web)?

The World Wide Web also has an interesting history. It was a project of Sir Time Berners-Lee, then a consulting researcher at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Thus, the web was born at a physics facility. It came into being sometime around the end of 1990 when the world’s first browser was developed; the first web site was put online on the 20th of December 1990.

The world wide web exists only “digitally” – there is not hardware component to it. If I had to explain it in really simple terms, the web is just a network of web pages and the documents associated with them. Certain software like web servers may also be considered a part of the web. And that’s about it!

Also, email is NOT a part of the web. Though you may use a web browser to check your account, email itself is a part of the Internet and has little to do with the web. It also predates the world wide web by about two decades! (The modern email system as developed by Ray Tomlinson in 1971 and he also sent the first “true” email message).

What are the important differences between the web (World Wide Web) and the Internet?

Internet World Wide Web
Is a global network of computers (and other machines) AND the cables Is a network of web pages
Invented in 1969 Invented in 1990/91
Email, Usenet, VoIP (Voice over IP) and others run on the Internet Is a part of the Internet
Can be accessed by various types of programs Can be accessed by only web browsers (programs that display web pages)
Runs various protocols like FTP, Email (POP, IMAP, SMTP), Usenet… Runs only HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol)

So there you have it – all the important differences between the Internet and the World Wide Web. Also check out the web basics quiz.

Answers Basics Did You Know?