Are the internet and the web (or www) the same thing? It is a ubiquitous question for people all across the globe. Though we often use them interchangeably, we should know that they are not synonymous. Both of them are two different but related things.

The Internet is the global network infrastructure consisting of interconnected computing devices. Any computer can communicate with another one as long as they are connected to the internet.

The internet offers a variety of services, and the web is one such service provided by the internet. The web is a way to access information over the internet.

Let’s understand it in detail.

What is the Internet?

The internet is an enormous network that connects different devices globally. This network includes personal as well as organizational (educational, business, government) devices like large mainframes, desktop computers, laptops, tablets, mobiles as well as smart home gadgets.

The internet is governed by a collection of rules and regulations called the Internet Protocol (IP). It is often referred to as the “network of networks.” The internet is composed of several subnetworks ranging from defense to academics, commercial to individual PC.

In the 1960s, the internet emerged as an experiment under the name ARPAnet. U.S military was thinking about how to keep communicating even in case of any nuclear strike. As time passed, ARPAnet evolved into a civilian experiment.

Different university mainframe computers began connecting to it for academic reasons. The internet expanded tremendously with more and more users connecting to it in the 1980s and 1990s.

Today internet is a massive network linking billions of devices – government, educational, organizational, commercial, business or personal, through cables and wireless signals.

The internet supplies us with lots of services like email, chat and file transfers.

One other service provided by the internet is the web.

What is meant by the web?

The World Wide Web (or simply, the web) is referred to as a subset of the internet. It is a collection of web pages, and you need access to the internet to view it.

All kinds of information like text, audio, video, images, etc available on the internet form the www.

WWW uses the HTTP protocol that deals with the linking of files, documents and other resources of the web. Different web pages are interlinked through hyperlinks and are identified by their Uniform Resource Locator (URL) addresses.

Tim Berners-Lee invented the web. He proposed the web as a detailed information management system in March 1989 and came up with a more formal description in November 1990.

In the same year, Lee had built all the essential tools needed for a properly functioning web.

The web and its popularity started rising since the mid-1990s. It is till date one of the most important inventions and an essential element for internet usage. Let us have a look at the technologies behind the WWW.

Three core technologies behind the Web

The WWW is a popular application of the internet, and it stands on three basic technologies. They are HTML,  HTTP and web servers/browsers.

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)

It is a standard markup language used to create and describe the structure of web pages. It is a simple and powerful language.

HTML is undergoing revision and development with time to cope with the increasing and continually changing necessities of the internet users.

Every web page is usually a HTML file (a plain text file) with a .html extension. It consists of the content of the web page along with HTML tags.

The tags determine how the web page will be formatted and displayed.

Initially, it supported only text-based documents. With continuous advancements, it now can handle frames, style sheets, and plugins for general purpose website content publishing.

Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP)

HTTP is an application protocol that defines how the web servers and applications communicate over the internet. It acts as the foundation of WWW.

It is also called a stateless protocol because each command sent to it is executed independently and not related to any previous requests.

The web is a system of linked hypertext documents, accessed through the internet and HTTP has flourished as a global language to exchange such hypertext information used by web servers and client computers.

In other words, the WWW is a collection of hypertext documents which are stored on the server.

The web maintains these linked documents whereas HTTP determines how the request will be transmitted to the server and how the server will respond in return.

Both these concepts together constitute the internet and the set of rules governing it. All these rules are maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Web browsers and web servers

A web browser is typically a software application used by users to search, visit and explore different websites. They aid in basic information browsing and activities like online shopping, gaming, etc.

Web server is a system that supplies services and content to the end users over the internet.

Both the web browser and web server work together as a client-server system. To go to a web page, we make a request through the browser to a web server.

The web server processes it using the HTTP protocol and responds by serving the files, that form web pages, to the users.

Understanding the difference between the Internet and the Web

By this time, you know that the internet and the web are not synonymous. Let us focus on the features which clarify this fact.

The internet is the interconnection between billions of computer networks spread worldwide. It refers to the hardware portion which includes the computer system, routers, cables, bridges, satellites, cellular towers, etc.

All these hardware pieces operate under the Internet Protocol (IP).

The web, on the other hand, is termed as the software part. It is the collection of web pages connected through hyperlinks and URLs. It is often referred to as the subset of the internet.

Let us represent the differences in a tabular fashion to grasp the knowledge more quickly.

Table of differences between internet and web

FeaturesThe InternetThe Web
DefinitionThe internet is referred to as a vast network of networks, a networking infrastructure.The web is one of the services provided by the internet.
Year of Origin1960s1989
FunctionIt globally connects multiple computers, which can communicate as long as they remain connected to the internet.It is a subset of the internet. All sort of information like text, audio, video, etc found on the internet constitutes the web.
NatureHardwareSoftware
First versionARPANETNSFNET
Protocol usedInternet protocolHypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP)
Identified byIP addresses identify the computing devicesURL identifies the information pieces.

Conclusion

Web is a component of the Internet. They are not synonymous. The internet connects all the computers and the web aids in accessing all the information that the internet offers.

The web uses the web browsers to display the information received from the Internet. If the internet is compared to a highway, then the web is a car on it.

The computers, the web, and the internet have become part and parcel of everyone’s life in today’s world. Though the internet and the web are two different things, they exist together and aid in our activities.

The internet offers a variety of services including web or world wide web. The web is a way to access information over the internet.