What is the Internet?
The Internet is an international network of computers that are connected to each other through cable and wireless links, and follow a standardized protocol called Internet Protocol Suite to facilitate exchange of of information between many different types of computers using a very wide variety of hardware devices and software.
Internet is used by a wide range of people and organizational including students, personal users, professionals, researchers, companies, government departments and others, to exchange a very wide range of information. Two of the main application of the Internet are "World Wide Web" and the "e-mail" systems.
The Internet is the world's largest computer network. It links millions of computer terminals by wires or telephone lines in a web of networks and shared software (computer programs and languages). The original features of the Internet included electronic mail (e-mail), bulletin boards, and newsgroups. In the 1990s the World Wide Web (or "Web") became the most important component of the Internet. The Web is a vast interface (the point where all parts of a system intersect) which provides access to the multitudes of Internet sites. Researchers estimate that 20 to 30 million people accessed the Internet in mid-1995 for purposes ranging from checking weather conditions to making airline reservations to shopping.
The precursor to the Internet, called ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), was created by the U.S. Department of Defense in 1969. The purpose of ARPANET was to provide a secure, computerized network through which defense-related researchers could communicate.
When scientists and academics using the network discovered its great value, the National Science Foundation (NSF) created a similar, but greatly expanded, computer network called NSFNet. The NSF is still largely responsible for maintaining the Internet, which has grown into a vast center for information, databases, and commerce. Two independent groups—the Internet Architecture Board and the Internet Network Information Center—are in charge of daily operations, technical standards, and the naming of networks.
Sources: Famighetti, Robert, ed. The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1996, pp. 167-69; "Internet." Encyclopaedia Britannica CD 97.