The Internet (Net) versus the World Wide Web (Web)

I expect you knew this, but I thought that Tim Berners-Lee was the inventor of the Internet. I was wrong; in fact it was Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn.

Well, partly wrong because Tim invented the Web and it was actually my ignorance of the difference between the Net and the Web that was at fault.

The Net is the physical network of computers and hardware linked together and the Web is the collection of sites and information that the Net enables access to.

I know that I hadn’t appreciated the two sides to this before now – probably reflecting how seamless the whole experience usually is. Goes to show that you need both the means and the vision to make a real success.

He explains the difference below, although we are no further enlightened as to why he added the space within “world wide” or what the vision for this was. Maybe he did it just because he could.

The Internet (‘Net) is a network of networks. Basically it is made from computers and cables. What Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn did was to figure out how this could be used to send around little “packets” of information. As Vint points out, a packet is a bit like a postcard with a simple address on it. If you put the right address on a packet, and gave it to any computer which is connected as part of the Net, each computer would figure out which cable to send it down next so that it would get to its destination. That’s what the Internet does. It delivers packets – anywhere in the world, normally well under a second.

“Lots of different sort of programs use the Internet: electronic mail, for example, was around long before the global hypertext system I invented and called the World Wide Web (‘Web). Now, videoconferencing and streamed audio channels are among other things which, like the Web, encode information in different ways and use different languages between computers (“protocols”) to provide a service.

“The Web is an abstract (imaginary) space of information. On the Net, you find computers — on the Web, you find document, sounds, videos,…. information. On the Net, the connections are cables between computers; on the Web, connections are hypertext links. The Web exists because of programs which communicate between computers on the Net. The Web could not be without the Net. The Web made the net useful because people are really interested in information (not to mention knowledge and wisdom!) and don’t really want to have know about computers and cables.

Tim Berners-Lee