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What's the Difference Between the Internet and the World Wide Web

Elizabeth Bridge - Tuesday, February 09, 2016

People sometimes presume that the world wide web and the internet are the same thing.  Not true. The internet is a world wide network of computer networks.  In response to the Soviet launching of Sputnik in 1957, the United States Defense Department formed the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA).  ARPA's mission was to ensure that the United States military would be more sophisticated than enemies of the United States, thus preventing future surprises like Sputnik.  By 1969, ARPA had created the first networked computers, which eventually became a world wide network of computer networks, initially used solely by the military.  Hey - without the Russians and the United States government, would we have the internet?

The world wide web came into being around 1990.  Researchers discovered that they could use the internet to connect stored pages of hypertext documents and make them accessible to people around the world.  Hypertext is any text that can be linked to another site, page, or image stored in another document or location.  Initial uses were mostly limited to scientific papers and other scholarly uses.  Next, pornographers found the web, and found it suited both the provider and consumer quite well.  Today, there are trillions of pages connected across the the world.  The world wide web is the most common application of the internet in use today, followed by email.

Everyone uses hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP), or the secure version (HTTPS), to navigate from one website to another. This tells the site you are on the world wide web and that you are using the hypertext protocol.  Search engines use the internet, but they do not search all files on the entire internet. For example, a search engine will not search emails, even though they are stored on the network of linked computers, a.k.a. , the internet.

Other Terms

So now that  you know the difference between the world wide web and the internet, here are some other terms that sometimes get all mashed together:

URL: Uniform resource locator; a complete Web address that includes the protocol used and a domain name or filename. Here's an example of a URL:

Domain name: The portion of a Web address that usually follows the www. and ends with a two- or three-letter extension, such as .com, .net, or .gov. In the Web address, the domain name is

Filename: The portion of a Web address that typically ends with .htm or .html. Filenames can also end with other extensions (.pdf, for example). The filename may not always be visible in a Web address.

Complete URL: The entire URL, including the base URL, the associated directory (the folder the information is in), and the associated filename. In the following example, the complete URL includes the base URL (, the associated directory (directory), and the associated filename (filename.html):

Top-level domain: The highest hierarchical level within the Domain Name System (DNS). When navigating to websites that are at top-level domains, you don't need to type anything after the domain name. An example of a top-level domain is

IP address (Internet Protocol address): A number assigned to a Web server on the Internet. IP addresses may be static or dynamic. Static IP addresses are permanent, while dynamic IP addresses are temporary and change often. Either type of IP address has four numbers, each from 0 to 255, separated by periods. Here's an example:

Whois database: The only authorized database of domain names and domain name registration information.

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