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Are the Internet and the WWW the same?

If you hang around computer users enough, you may hear one of them refer to the Internet and the World Wide Web interchangeably. Although the Internet and the WWW work together, they certainly aren't one in the same, and I'll tell you why.

The Internet is a framework. It's a monstrous, world wide network of networks. It is a means to facilitate communication from user to user throughout the world. In reality, the Internet itself is nothing more than a dumb behemoth. To communicate, the Internet needs something with brains to power those facilities. Think of the Internet as a bridge across a river. The bridge itself doesn't drive cars across it. People do. The same concept applies to the web. The Internet itself can't power communication; rather, protocols do.

The World Wide Web, or WWW, provides a mechanism to view information sent over the Internet and works on top of the Internet. It was developed by a guy named Tim Berners-Lee at CERN Labs. The World Wide Web uses the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or HTTP, as its set of rules for communication, and utilizes display applications like web browsers to make information readable. Information intended for web browsers use a scripting language that web browsers can read. That scripting language is known as Hypertext Markup Language, or HTML.

For example, you are reading this web page through a web browser. The web browser functions within the World Wide Web to interpret its HTML, and the World Wide Web uses the Internet as a means to successfully communicate.

The World Wide Web is not the only communication mechanism that uses the Internet. Email, for example, does. Email also uses a set of rules to communicate. Its set of rules is called the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, or SMTP. SMTP accesses the Internet and places email messages on it for transferring. Mail messages are received by a user's computer and displayed through an email application, like Microsoft Outlook, or even a web page, like Hotmail or Yahoo.

Usenet, FTP and instant messengers (like AOL Instant Messenger, or ICQ) also use the Internet for communication. They all use a set of rules, called protocols, to govern the information transfer. The Internet handles hoards of information each and every day, ranging from WWW information to email traffic, to instant messages and Usenet sessions.

You should now know the difference between the Internet and the World Wide Web. The Internet is nothing more than a large network that facilitates communication, and the World Wide Web is a mechanism for information display and organization. You may correct those misguided Internet users now, politely and intelligently.

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