What is the Internet?
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite
(often called TCP/IP, although not all applications use TCP) to serve billions of users worldwide. It is a network of
networks that consists of millions of private, public, academic, business, and government networks, of local to global
scope, that are linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless and optical networking technologies. The Internet
carries an extensive range of information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext documents of the
World Wide Web (WWW) and the infrastructure to support email.
Most traditional communications media including telephone, music, film, and television are reshaped or redefined by
the Internet, giving birth to new services such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and Internet Protocol
Television (IPTV). Newspaper, book and other print publishing are adapting to Web site technology, or are reshaped
into blogging and web feeds. The Internet has enabled and accelerated new forms of human interactions through
instant messaging, Internet forums, and social networking. Online shopping has boomed both for major retail outlets
and small artisans and traders. Business-to-business and financial services on the Internet affect supply chains across
The origins of the Internet reach back to research of the 1960s, commissioned by the United States government in
collaboration with private commercial interests to build robust, fault-tolerant, and distributed computer networks.
The funding of a new U.S. backbone by the National Science Foundation in the 1980s, as well as private funding for
other commercial backbones, led to worldwide participation in the development of new networking technologies,
and the merger of many networks. The commercialization of what was by the 1990s an international network
resulted in its popularization and incorporation into virtually every aspect of modern human life. As of 2011, more
than 2.2 billion people – nearly a third of Earth's population — use the services of the Internet.
The Internet has no centralized governance in either technological implementation or policies for access and usage;
each constituent network sets its own standards. Only the overreaching definitions of the two principal name spaces
in the Internet, the Internet Protocol address space and the Domain Name System, are directed by a maintainer
organization, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The technical underpinning and
standardization of the core protocols (IPv4 and IPv6) is an activity of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), a
non-profit organization of loosely affiliated international participants that anyone may associate with by contributing
Internet is a short form of the technical term internetwork, the result of interconnecting computer networks with
special gateways or routers. The Internet is also often referred to as the Net.
The term the Internet, when referring to the entire global system of IP networks, has been treated as a proper noun
and written with an initial capital letter. In the media and popular culture, a trend has also developed to regard it as a
generic term or common noun and thus write it as "the internet", without capitalization. Some guides specify that the
word should be capitalized as a noun but not capitalized as an adjective.
The terms Internet and World Wide Web are often used in everyday speech without much distinction. However, the
Internet and the World Wide Web are not one and the same. The Internet establishes a global data communications
system between computers. In contrast, the Web is one of the services communicated via the Internet. It is a
collection of interconnected documents and other resources, linked by hyperlinks and URLs. In addition to the
Web, the Internet also powers a multitude of other services, including (among others) email, file transfer,
newsgroups, and online games. On the flip side, Web services can exist apart from the internet, such as on a private
Professor Leonard Kleinrock with
the first ARPANET Interface
Message Processors at UCLA
Research into packet switching started in the early 1960s and packet switched
networks such as ARPANET, Mark I at NPL in the UK, CYCLADES,
Merit Network, Tymnet, and Telenet, were developed in the late 1960s and
early 1970s using a variety of protocols. The ARPANET in particular led to the
development of protocols for internetworking, where multiple separate networks
could be joined together into a network of networks.
The first two nodes of what would become the ARPANET were interconnected
between Leonard Kleinrock's Network Measurement Center at the UCLA's
School of Engineering and Applied Science and Douglas Engelbart's NLS
system at SRI International (SRI) in Menlo Park, California, on 29 October
1969. The third site on the ARPANET was the Culler-Fried Interactive
Mathematics center at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the
fourth was the University of Utah Graphics Department. In an early sign of
future growth, there were already fifteen sites connected to the young ARPANET
by the end of 1971. These early years were documented in the 1972 film Computer Networks: The Heralds of
Early international collaborations on ARPANET were sparse. For various political reasons, European developers
were concerned with developing the X.25 networks. Notable exceptions were the Norwegian Seismic Array
(NORSAR) in 1972, followed in 1973 by Sweden with satellite links to the Tanum Earth Station and Peter T.
Kirstein's research group in the UK, initially at the Institute of Computer Science, London University and later at
University College London.
T3 NSFNET Backbone, c. 1992
In 1982, the Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) was standardized and the
concept of a world-wide network of fully interconnected TCP/IP
networks called the Internet was introduced. Access to the ARPANET
was expanded in 1981 when the National Science Foundation (NSF)
developed the Computer Science Network (CSNET). In December
1974, RFC 675 – Specification of Internet Transmission Control
Program, by Vinton Cerf, Yogen Dalal, and Carl Sunshine, used the
term internet, as a shorthand for internetworking; later RFCs repeat
this use, so the word started out as an adjective rather than the noun it
TCP/IP network access expanded again in 1986 when NSFNET provided access to supercomputer sites in the United
States from research and education organizations, first at 56 kbit/s and later at 1.5 Mbit/s and 45 Mbit/s.
Commercial internet service providers (ISPs) began to emerge in the late 1980s and 1990s. The ARPANET was
decommissioned in 1990. The Internet was commercialized in 1995 when NSFNET was decommissioned, removing
the last restrictions on the use of the Internet to carry commercial traffic. The Internet started a rapid expansion to
Europe and Australia in the mid to late 1980s and to Asia in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
This NeXT Computer was used by Sir Tim
Berners-Lee at CERN and became the world's
first Web server.
Since the mid-1990s the Internet has had a tremendous impact on
culture and commerce, including the rise of near instant
communication by email, instant messaging, Voice over Internet
Protocol (VoIP) "phone calls", two-way interactive video calls, and the
World Wide Web with its discussion forums, blogs, social
networking, and online shopping sites. Increasing amounts of data are
transmitted at higher and higher speeds over fiber optic networks
operating at 1-Gbit/s, 10-Gbit/s, or more. The Internet continues to
grow, driven by ever greater amounts of online information and
knowledge, commerce, entertainment and social networking.
During the late 1990s, it was estimated that traffic on the public
Internet grew by 100 percent per year, while the mean annual growth
in the number of Internet users was thought to be between 20% and 50%. This growth is often attributed to the
lack of central administration, which allows organic growth of the network, as well as the non-proprietary open
nature of the Internet protocols, which encourages vendor interoperability and prevents any one company from
exerting too much control over the network. As of 31 March 2011, the estimated total number of Internet users
was 2.095 billion (30.2% of world population). It is estimated that in 1993 the Internet carried only 1% of the
information flowing through two-way telecommunication, by 2000 this figure had grown to 51%, and by 2007 more
than 97% of all telecommunicated information was carried over the Internet.
The most prominent component of the Internet model is the Internet Protocol (IP), which provides addressing
systems (IP addresses) for computers on the Internet. IP enables internetworking and in essence establishes the
Internet itself. IP Version 4 (IPv4) is the initial version used on the first generation of today's Internet and is still in
dominant use. It was designed to address up to ~4.3 billion (109) Internet hosts. However, the explosive growth of
the Internet has led to IPv4 address exhaustion, which entered its final stage in 2011, when the global address
allocation pool was exhausted. A new protocol version, IPv6, was developed in the mid-1990s, which provides
vastly larger addressing capabilities and more efficient routing of Internet traffic. IPv6 is currently in growing
deployment around the world, since Internet address registries (RIRs) began to urge all resource managers to plan
rapid adoption and conversion.
IPv6 is not interoperable with IPv4. In essence, it establishes a parallel version of the Internet not directly accessible
with IPv4 software. This means software upgrades or translator facilities are necessary for networking devices that
need to communicate on both networks. Most modern computer operating systems already support both versions of
the Internet Protocol. Network infrastructures, however, are still lagging in this development. Aside from the
complex array of physical connections that make up its infrastructure, the Internet is facilitated by bi- or multi-lateral
commercial contracts (e.g., peering agreements), and by technical specifications or protocols that describe how to
exchange data over the network. Indeed, the Internet is defined by its interconnections and routing policies.
nternet packet routing is accomplished among various tiers of Internet Service Providers.
Internet Service Providers connect
customers (thought of at the "bottom"
of the routing hierarchy) to customers
of other ISPs. At the "top" of the
routing hierarchy are ten or so Tier 1
networks, large telecommunication
companies which exchange traffic
directly "across" to all other Tier 1
networks via unpaid peering
agreements. Tier 2 networks buy
Internet transit from other ISP to reach
at least some parties on the global
Internet, though they may also engage in unpaid peering (especially for local partners of a similar size). ISPs can use
a single "upstream" provider for connectivity, or use multihoming to provide protection from problems with
individual links. Internet exchange points create physical connections between multiple ISPs, often hosted in
buildings owned by independent third parties.
Computers and routers use routing tables to direct IP packets among locally connected machines. Tables can be
constructed manually or automatically via DHCP for an individual computer or a routing protocol for routers
themselves. In single-homed situations, a default route usually points "up" toward an ISP providing transit.
Higher-level ISPs use the Border Gateway Protocol to sort out paths to any given range of IP addresses across the
complex connections of the global Internet.
Academic institutions, large companies, governments, and other organizations can perform the same role as ISPs,
engaging in peering and purchasing transit on behalf of their internal networks of individual computers. Research
networks tend to interconnect into large subnetworks such as GEANT, GLORIAD, Internet2, and the UK's national
research and education network, JANET. These in turn are built around smaller networks (see the list of academic
computer network organizations).
Not all computer networks are connected to the Internet. For example, some classified United States websites are
only accessible from separate secure networks.
The Internet structure and its usage characteristics have been studied extensively. It has been determined that both
the Internet IP routing structure and hypertext links of the World Wide Web are examples of scale-free networks.
Many computer scientists describe the Internet as a "prime example of a large-scale, highly engineered, yet highly
complex system".The Internet is heterogeneous; for instance, data transfer rates and physical characteristics of
connections vary widely. The Internet exhibits "emergent phenomena" that depend on its large-scale organization.
For example, data transfer rates exhibit temporal self-similarity. The principles of the routing and addressing
methods for traffic in the Internet reach back to their origins in the 1960s when the eventual scale and popularity of
the network could not be anticipated. Thus, the possibility of developing alternative structures is investigated. The
Internet structure was found to be highly robust to random failures and very vulnerable to high degree attacks.
ICANN headquarters in Marina Del Rey,
California, United States
The Internet is a globally distributed network comprising many
voluntarily interconnected autonomous networks. It operates without a
central governing body. However, to maintain interoperability, all
technical and policy aspects of the underlying core infrastructure and
the principal name spaces are administered by the Internet Corporation
for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), headquartered in Marina
del Rey, California. ICANN is the authority that coordinates the
assignment of unique identifiers for use on the Internet, including
domain names, Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, application port
numbers in the transport protocols, and many other parameters.
Globally unified name spaces, in which names and numbers are
uniquely assigned, are essential for the global reach of the Internet.
ICANN is governed by an international board of directors drawn from across the Internet technical, business,
academic, and other non-commercial communities. The government of the United States continues to have the
primary role in approving changes to the DNS root zone that lies at the heart of the domain name system.
ICANN's role in coordinating the assignment of unique identifiers distinguishes it as perhaps the only central
coordinating body on the global Internet. On 16 November 2005, the World Summit on the Information Society,
held in Tunis, established the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) to discuss Internet-related issues.
The Internet allows greater flexibility in working hours and location, especially with the spread of unmetered
high-speed connections. The Internet can be accessed almost anywhere by numerous means, including through
mobile Internet devices. Mobile phones, datacards, handheld game consoles and cellular routers allow users to
connect to the Internet wirelessly. Within the limitations imposed by small screens and other limited facilities of
such pocket-sized devices, the services of the Internet, including email and the web, may be available. Service
providers may restrict the services offered and mobile data charges may be significantly higher than other access
Educational material at all levels from pre-school to post-doctoral is available from websites. Examples range from
CBeebies, through school and high-school revision guides, virtual universities, to access to top-end scholarly
literature through the likes of Google Scholar. For distance education, help with homework and other assignments,
self-guided learning, whiling away spare time, or just looking up more detail on an interesting fact, it has never been
easier for people to access educational information at any level from anywhere. The Internet in general and the
World Wide Web in particular are important enablers of both formal and informal education.
The low cost and nearly instantaneous sharing of ideas, knowledge, and skills has made collaborative work
dramatically easier, with the help of collaborative software. Not only can a group cheaply communicate and share
ideas but the wide reach of the Internet allows such groups more easily to form. An example of this is the free
software movement, which has produced, among other things, Linux, Mozilla Firefox, and OpenOffice.org. Internet
chat, whether in the form of an IRC chat room or channel, via an instant messaging system, or a social networking
website, allows colleagues to stay in touch in a very convenient way when working at their computers during the
day. Messages can be exchanged even more quickly and conveniently than via email. These systems may allow files
to be exchanged, drawings and images to be shared, or voice and video contact between team members.
Content management systems allow collaborating teams to work on shared sets of documents simultaneously
without accidentally destroying each other's work. Business and project teams can share calendars as well as
documents and other information. Such collaboration occurs in a wide variety of areas including scientific research,
software development, conference planning, political activism and creative writing. Social and political collaboration
is also becoming more widespread as both Internet access and computer literacy spread.
The Internet allows computer users to remotely access other computers and information stores easily, wherever they
may be. They may do this with or without computer security, i.e. authentication and encryption technologies,
depending on the requirements. This is encouraging new ways of working from home, collaboration and information
sharing in many industries. An accountant sitting at home can audit the books of a company based in another
country, on a server situated in a third country that is remotely maintained by IT specialists in a fourth. These
accounts could have been created by home-working bookkeepers, in other remote locations, based on information
emailed to them from offices all over the world. Some of these things were possible before the widespread use of the
Internet, but the cost of private leased lines would have made many of them infeasible in practice. An office worker
away from their desk, perhaps on the other side of the world on a business trip or a holiday, can access their emails,
access their data using cloud computing, or open a remote desktop session into their office PC using a secure Virtual
Private Network (VPN) connection on the Internet. This can give the worker complete access to all of their normal
files and data, including email and other applications, while away from the office. This concept has been referred to
among system administrators as the Virtual Private Nightmare, because it extends the secure perimeter of a
corporate network into remote locations and its employees' homes.
Many people use the terms Internet and World Wide Web, or just the Web, interchangeably, but the two terms are not
synonymous. The World Wide Web is a global set of documents, images and other resources, logically interrelated
by hyperlinks and referenced with Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs). URIs symbolically identify services,
servers, and other databases, and the documents and resources that they can provide. Hypertext Transfer Protocol
(HTTP) is the main access protocol of the World Wide Web, but it is only one of the hundreds of communication
protocols used on the Internet. Web services also use HTTP to allow software systems to communicate in order to
share and exchange business logic and data.
World Wide Web browser software, such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Apple's Safari,
and Google Chrome, lets users navigate from one web page to another via hyperlinks embedded in the documents.
These documents may also contain any combination of computer data, including graphics, sounds, text, video,
multimedia and interactive content that runs while the user is interacting with the page. Client-side software can
include animations, games, office applications and scientific demonstrations. Through keyword-driven Internet
research using search engines like Yahoo! and Google, users worldwide have easy, instant access to a vast and
diverse amount of online information. Compared to printed media, books, encyclopedias and traditional libraries, the
World Wide Web has enabled the decentralization of information on a large scale.
The Web has also enabled individuals and organizations to publish ideas and information to a potentially large
audience online at greatly reduced expense and time delay. Publishing a web page, a blog, or building a website
involves little initial cost and many cost-free services are available. Publishing and maintaining large, professional
web sites with attractive, diverse and up-to-date information is still a difficult and expensive proposition, however.
Many individuals and some companies and groups use web logs or blogs, which are largely used as easily updatable
online diaries. Some commercial organizations encourage staff to communicate advice in their areas of specialization
in the hope that visitors will be impressed by the expert knowledge and free information, and be attracted to the
corporation as a result. One example of this practice is Microsoft, whose product developers publish their personal
blogs in order to pique the public's interest in their work. Collections of personal web pages published by large
service providers remain popular, and have become increasingly sophisticated. Whereas operations such as Angelfire
and GeoCities have existed since the early days of the Web, newer offerings from, for example, Facebook and
Twitter currently have large followings. These operations often brand themselves as social network services rather
than simply as web page hosts.
Advertising on popular web pages can be lucrative, and e-commerce or the sale of products and services directly via
the Web continues to grow.
When the Web began in the 1990s, a typical web page was stored in completed form on a web server, formatted in
HTML, ready to be sent to a user's browser in response to a request. Over time, the process of creating and serving
web pages has become more automated and more dynamic. Websites are often created using content management or
wiki software with, initially, very little content. Contributors to these systems, who may be paid staff, members of a
club or other organization or members of the public, fill underlying databases with content using editing pages
designed for that purpose, while casual visitors view and read this content in its final HTML form. There may or
may not be editorial, approval and security systems built into the process of taking newly entered content and
making it available to the target visitors.
Email is an important communications service available on the Internet. The concept of sending electronic text
messages between parties in a way analogous to mailing letters or memos predates the creation of the Internet.
Pictures, documents and other files are sent as email attachments. Emails can be cc-ed to multiple email addresses.
Internet telephony is another common communications service made possible by the creation of the Internet. VoIP
stands for Voice-over-Internet Protocol, referring to the protocol that underlies all Internet communication. The idea
began in the early 1990s with walkie-talkie-like voice applications for personal computers. In recent years many
VoIP systems have become as easy to use and as convenient as a normal telephone. The benefit is that, as the
Internet carries the voice traffic, VoIP can be free or cost much less than a traditional telephone call, especially over
long distances and especially for those with always-on Internet connections such as cable or ADSL. VoIP is
maturing into a competitive alternative to traditional telephone service. Interoperability between different providers
has improved and the ability to call or receive a call from a traditional telephone is available. Simple, inexpensive
VoIP network adapters are available that eliminate the need for a personal computer.
Voice quality can still vary from call to call, but is often equal to and can even exceed that of traditional calls.
Remaining problems for VoIP include emergency telephone number dialing and reliability. Currently, a few VoIP
providers provide an emergency service, but it is not universally available. Traditional phones are line-powered and
operate during a power failure; VoIP does not do so without a backup power source for the phone equipment and the
Internet access devices. VoIP has also become increasingly popular for gaming applications, as a form of
communication between players. Popular VoIP clients for gaming include Ventrilo and Teamspeak. Wii, PlayStation
3, and Xbox 360 also offer VoIP chat features.
File sharing is an example of transferring large amounts of data across the Internet. A computer file can be emailed
to customers, colleagues and friends as an attachment. It can be uploaded to a website or FTP server for easy
download by others. It can be put into a "shared location" or onto a file server for instant use by colleagues. The load
of bulk downloads to many users can be eased by the use of "mirror" servers or peer-to-peer networks. In any of
these cases, access to the file may be controlled by user authentication, the transit of the file over the Internet may be
obscured by encryption, and money may change hands for access to the file. The price can be paid by the remote
charging of funds from, for example, a credit card whose details are also passed – usually fully encrypted – across
the Internet. The origin and authenticity of the file received may be checked by digital signatures or by MD5 or other
message digests. These simple features of the Internet, over a worldwide basis, are changing the production, sale,
and distribution of anything that can be reduced to a computer file for transmission. This includes all manner of print
publications, software products, news, music, film, video, photography, graphics and the other arts. This in turn has
caused seismic shifts in each of the existing industries that previously controlled the production and distribution of
Streaming media is the real-time delivery of digital media for the immediate consumption or enjoyment by end
users. Many radio and television broadcasters provide Internet feeds of their live audio and video productions. They
may also allow time-shift viewing or listening such as Preview, Classic Clips and Listen Again features. These
providers have been joined by a range of pure Internet "broadcasters" who never had on-air licenses. This means that
an Internet-connected device, such as a computer or something more specific, can be used to access on-line media in
much the same way as was previously possible only with a television or radio receiver. The range of available types
of content is much wider, from specialized technical webcasts to on-demand popular multimedia services.
Podcasting is a variation on this theme, where – usually audio – material is downloaded and played back on a
computer or shifted to a portable media player to be listened to on the move. These techniques using simple
equipment allow anybody, with little censorship or licensing control, to broadcast audio-visual material worldwide.
Digital media streaming increases the demand for network bandwidth. For example, standard image quality needs 1
Mbit/s link speed for SD 480p, HD 720p quality requires 2.5 Mbit/s, and the top-of-the-line HDX quality needs 4.5
Mbit/s for 1080p.
Webcams are a low-cost extension of this phenomenon. While some webcams can give full-frame-rate video, the
picture either is usually small or updates slowly. Internet users can watch animals around an African waterhole, ships
in the Panama Canal, traffic at a local roundabout or monitor their own premises, live and in real time. Video chat
rooms and video conferencing are also popular with many uses being found for personal webcams, with and without
two-way sound. YouTube was founded on 15 February 2005 and is now the leading website for free streaming video
with a vast number of users. It uses a flash-based web player to stream and show video files. Registered users may
upload an unlimited amount of video and build their own personal profile. YouTube claims that its users watch
hundreds of millions, and upload hundreds of thousands of videos daily.
Common methods of Internet access in homes include dial-up, landline broadband (over coaxial cable, fiber optic or
copper wires), Wi-Fi, satellite and 3G/4G technology cell phones. Public places to use the Internet include libraries
and Internet cafes, where computers with Internet connections are available. There are also Internet access points in
many public places such as airport halls and coffee shops, in some cases just for brief use while standing. Various
terms are used, such as "public Internet kiosk", "public access terminal", and "Web payphone". Many hotels now
also have public terminals, though these are usually fee-based. These terminals are widely accessed for various usage
like ticket booking, bank deposit, online payment etc. Wi-Fi provides wireless access to computer networks, and
therefore can do so to the Internet itself. Hotspots providing such access include Wi-Fi cafes, where would-be users
need to bring their own wireless-enabled devices such as a laptop or PDA. These services may be free to all, free to
customers only, or fee-based. A hotspot need not be limited to a confined location. A whole campus or park, or even
an entire city can be enabled.
Grassroots efforts have led to wireless community networks. Commercial Wi-Fi services covering large city areas
are in place in London, Vienna, Toronto, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago and Pittsburgh. The Internet can then
be accessed from such places as a park bench. Apart from Wi-Fi, there have been experiments with proprietary
mobile wireless networks like Ricochet, various high-speed data services over cellular phone networks, and fixed
wireless services. High-end mobile phones such as smartphones in general come with Internet access through the
phone network. Web browsers such as Opera are available on these advanced handsets, which can also run a wide
variety of other Internet software. More mobile phones have Internet access than PCs, though this is not as widely
used.An Internet access provider and protocol matrix differentiates the methods used to get online.
An Internet blackout or outage can be caused by local signaling interruptions. Disruptions of submarine
communications cables may cause blackouts or slowdowns to large areas, such as in the 2008 submarine cable
disruption. Less-developed countries are more vulnerable due to a small number of high-capacity links. Land cables
are also vulnerable, as in 2011 when a woman digging for scrap metal severed most connectivity for the nation of
Armenia. Internet blackouts affecting almost entire countries can be achieved by governments as a form of
Internet censorship, as in the blockage of the Internet in Egypt, whereby approximately 93% of networks were
without access in 2011 in an attempt to stop mobilization for anti-government protests.
Internet users per 100 inhabitants Source: International Telecommunication UnionITU
"Internet users per 100 inhabitants 2001–2011", International Telecommunications
Union, Geneva, accessed 4 April 2012
Languages used on the InternetInternet users by language "Number of Internet Users by
Language", Internet World Stats, Miniwatts Marketing Group, 31 May 2011, accessed 22
Overall Internet usage has seen
tremendous growth. From 2000 to
2009, the number of Internet users
globally rose from 394 million to 1.858
billion. By 2010, 22 percent of the
world's population had access to
computers with 1 billion Google
searches every day, 300 million
Internet users reading blogs, and 2
billion videos viewed daily on
The prevalent language for
communication on the Internet has
been English. This may be a result of
the origin of the Internet, as well as the
language's role as a lingua franca.
Early computer systems were limited
to the characters in the American
Standard Code for Information
Interchange (ASCII), a subset of the
After English (27%), the most
requested languages on the World
Wide Web are Chinese (23%), Spanish
(8%), Japanese (5%), Portuguese and
German (4% each), Arabic, French and
Russian (3% each), and Korean
(2%). By region, 42% of the
world's Internet users are based in
Asia, 24% in Europe, 14% in North
America, 10% in Latin America and
the Caribbean taken together, 6% in
Africa, 3% in the Middle East and 1%
in Australia/Oceania. The Internet's
technologies have developed enough in recent years, especially in the use of Unicode, that good facilities are available for development and communication in the world's widely used languages.
However, some glitches such as mojibake (incorrect display of some languages' characters) still remain.
Languages used on the InternetWebsite content languages "Usage of content languages
for websites". W3Techs.com. . Retrieved 30 December 2011.
In an American study in 2005, the
percentage of men using the Internet
was very slightly ahead of the
percentage of women, although this
difference reversed in those under 30.
Men logged on more often, spent more
time online, and were more likely to be
broadband users, whereas women
tended to make more use of
opportunities to communicate (such as
email). Men were more likely to use
the Internet to pay bills, participate in
auctions, and for recreation such as
downloading music and videos. Men
and women were equally likely to use
the Internet for shopping and
banking.More recent studies
indicate that in 2008, women
significantly outnumbered men on
most social networking sites, such as Facebook and Myspace, although the ratios varied with age. In addition,
women watched more streaming content, whereas men downloaded more. In terms of blogs, men were more
likely to blog in the first place; among those who blog, men were more likely to have a professional blog, whereas
women were more likely to have a personal blog.
The Internet has enabled entirely new forms of social interaction, activities, and organizing, thanks to its basic
features such as widespread usability and access. In the first decade of the 21st century, the first generation is raised
with widespread availability of Internet connectivity, bringing consequences and concerns in areas such as personal
privacy and identity, and distribution of copyrighted materials. These "digital natives" face a variety of challenges
that were not present for prior generations.
Social networking and entertainment
Many people use the World Wide Web to access news, weather and sports reports, to plan and book vacations and to
find out more about their interests. People use chat, messaging and email to make and stay in touch with friends
worldwide, sometimes in the same way as some previously had pen pals. The Internet has seen a growing number of
Web desktops, where users can access their files and settings via the Internet.
Social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace have created new ways to socialize and
interact. Users of these sites are able to add a wide variety of information to pages, to pursue common interests, and
to connect with others. It is also possible to find existing acquaintances, to allow communication among existing
groups of people. Sites like LinkedIn foster commercial and business connections. YouTube and Flickr specialize in
users' videos and photographs.
The Internet has been a major outlet for leisure activity since its inception, with entertaining social experiments such
as MUDs and MOOs being conducted on university servers, and humor-related Usenet groups receiving much
traffic. Today, many Internet forums have sections devoted to games and funny videos; short cartoons in the form of
Flash movies are also popular. Over 6 million people use blogs or message boards as a means of communication and
for the sharing of ideas. The pornography and gambling industries have taken advantage of the World Wide Web,
and often provide a significant source of advertising revenue for other websites.Although many governments
have attempted to restrict both industries' use of the Internet, in general this has failed to stop their widespread
Another area of leisure activity on the Internet is multiplayer gaming.This form of recreation creates
communities, where people of all ages and origins enjoy the fast-paced world of multiplayer games. These range
from MMORPG to first-person shooters, from role-playing video games to online gambling. While online gaming
has been around since the 1970s, modern modes of online gaming began with subscription services such as
GameSpy and MPlayer. Non-subscribers were limited to certain types of game play or certain games. Many
people use the Internet to access and download music, movies and other works for their enjoyment and relaxation.
Free and fee-based services exist for all of these activities, using centralized servers and distributed peer-to-peer
technologies. Some of these sources exercise more care with respect to the original artists' copyrights than others.
Internet usage has been correlated to users' loneliness. Lonely people tend to use the Internet as an outlet for their
feelings and to share their stories with others, such as in the "I am lonely will anyone speak to me" thread.
Cybersectarianism is a new organizational form which involves: "highly dispersed small groups of practitioners that
may remain largely anonymous within the larger social context and operate in relative secrecy, while still linked
remotely to a larger network of believers who share a set of practices and texts, and often a common devotion to a
particular leader. Overseas supporters provide funding and support; domestic practitioners distribute tracts,
participate in acts of resistance, and share information on the internal situation with outsiders. Collectively, members
and practitioners of such sects construct viable virtual communities of faith, exchanging personal testimonies and
engaging in collective study via email, on-line chat rooms and web-based message boards."
Cyberslacking can become a drain on corporate resources; the average UK employee spent 57 minutes a day surfing
the Web while at work, according to a 2003 study by Peninsula Business Services. Internet addiction disorder is
excessive computer use that interferes with daily life. Psychologist Nicolas Carr believe that Internet use has other
effects on individuals, for instance improving skills of scan-reading and interfering with the deep thinking that leads
to true creativity.
Politics and political revolutions
The Internet has achieved new relevance as a political tool. The presidential campaign of Howard Dean in 2004 in
the United States was notable for its success in soliciting donation via the Internet. Many political groups use the
Internet to achieve a new method of organizing in order to carry out their mission, having given rise to Internet
activism, most notably practiced by rebels in the Arab Spring.
The New York Times suggested that social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter helped people organize the
political revolutions in Egypt where it helped certain classes of protesters organize protests, communicate
grievances, and disseminate information.
The potential of the Internet as a civic tool of communicative power was thoroughly explored by Simon R. B. Berdal
in his thesis of 2004:
“As the globally evolving Internet provides ever new access points to virtual discourse forums, it also promotes new civic relations and
associations within which communicative power may flow and accumulate. Thus, traditionally ... national-embedded peripheries get entangled
into greater, international peripheries, with stronger combined powers... The Internet, as a consequence, changes the topology of the
"centre-periphery" model, by stimulating conventional peripheries to interlink into "super-periphery" structures, which enclose and "besiege"
several centres at once.”
Berdal, therefore, extends the Habermasian notion of the Public sphere to the Internet, and underlines the inherent
global and civic nature that intervowen Internet technologies provide. To limit the growing civic potential of the
Internet, Berdal also notes how "self-protective measures" are put in place by those threatened by it:
“If we consider China’s attempts to filter "unsuitable material" from the Internet, most of us would agree that this resembles a self-protective
measure by the system against the growing civic potentials of the Internet. Nevertheless, both types represent limitations to "peripheral
capacities". Thus, the Chinese government tries to prevent communicative power to build up and unleash (as the 1989 Tiananmen Square
uprising suggests, the government may find it wise to install "upstream measures"). Even though limited, the Internet is proving to be an
empowering tool also to the Chinese periphery: Analysts believe that Internet petitions have influenced policy implementation in favour of the
public’s online-articulated will ...”
The spread of low-cost internet access in developing countries has opened up new possibilities for peer-to-peer
charities, which allow individuals to contribute small amounts to charitable projects for other individuals. Websites
such as DonorsChoose and GlobalGiving allow small-scale donors to direct funds to individual projects of their
A popular twist on internet-based philanthropy is the use of peer-to-peer lending for charitable purposes. Kiva
pioneered this concept in 2005, offering the first web-based service to publish individual loan profiles for funding.
Kiva raises funds for local intermediary microfinance organizations which post stories and updates on behalf of the
borrowers. Lenders can contribute as little as $25 to loans of their choice, and receive their money back as borrowers
repay. Kiva falls short of being a pure peer-to-peer charity, in that loans are disbursed before being funded by lenders
and borrowers do not communicate with lenders themselves.
However, the recent spread of cheap internet access in developing countries has made genuine international
person-to-person philanthropy increasingly feasible. In 2009 the US-based nonprofit Zidisha tapped into this trend to
offer the first person-to-person microfinance platform to link lenders and borrowers across international borders
without intermediaries. Inspired by interactive websites such as Facebook and eBay, Zidisha facilitates direct
dialogue and microlending transactions between individual web users worldwide and computer-literate, low-income
entrepreneurs in developing countries. Zidisha members can fund loans for as little as a dollar, which the borrowers
then use to develop business activities that improve their families' incomes while repaying loans to the members with
interest. Zidisha borrowers access the internet via public cybercafes, donated laptops in village schools, and even
smart phones, then create their own profile pages through which they share photos and information about themselves
and their businesses. As they repay their loans, borrowers continue to share updates and dialogue with lenders via
their profile pages. This direct web-based connection allows Zidisha members themselves to take on many of the
communication and recording tasks traditionally performed by local organizations, bypassing geographic barriers
and dramatically reducing the cost of microfinance services to the entrepreneurs.
Some governments, such as those of Iran, North Korea, Burma, the People's Republic of China, and Saudi Arabia,
restrict what people in their countries can access on the Internet, especially political and religious content. This is
accomplished through software that filters domains and content so that they may not be easily accessed or obtained
without elaborate circumvention.
In Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden, major Internet service providers have voluntarily, possibly to avoid such
an arrangement being turned into law, agreed to restrict access to sites listed by authorities. While this list of
forbidden URLs is supposed to contain addresses of only known child pornography sites, the content of the list is
secret. Many countries, including the United States, have enacted laws against the possession or distribution of
certain material, such as child pornography, via the Internet, but do not mandate filtering software. There are many
free and commercially available software programs, called content-control software, with which a user can choose to
block offensive websites on individual computers or networks, in order to limit a child's access to pornographic
materials or depiction of violence.