Friday, 10 August 2012

Distinguishing the internet and the world wide web

I read an article recently (I forget where otherwise I would hyperlink) emphasising the importance for users of the internet and the world wide web to understand the differences between them. Whilst I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment, the focus of the article, and many other similar articles explaining the differences, was on treating the world wide web as something that runs on the internet and is a subset of it.

What this article failed to mention is that the world wide web has something that the internet doesn't: content. The internet is a network of networks, but nonetheless a network. It provides connectivity. It does not have content but allows access to it. By contrast, the fundamental feature of the web is (hyperlinked) content.

An attempt at some one line definitions:

The Internet: a network of networks allowing access to a great array of content, most significantly the World Wide Web
The World Wide Web: a collection of hyperlinked content, hosted in servers spread across the world, accesssed via the Internet

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