What is the internet?

Posted:

11 / 4 / 2021

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what is the internet?

The internet. We all use it, some would say we all depend on it, but what is it? Who invented it? How did the internet come about in the first place? And, when did it transform into a source of information and means of communication for billions of people?

In essence, the internet is the underlying infrastructure that supports the world wide web – but, as you might have guessed, there’s much more to the story than that.

As we go on our journey to answer the question: “what is the internet?”, we’re going to encounter some pretty wild facts like: did you know that most of the internet actually lies underwater? (Specific wires called submarine communications cables sit at the bottom of the ocean and transmit 99% of international data.)

The following will take a quick tour of all things internet, to answer the key internet-related questions. Looking at:

  • When was the internet invented? And, who invented the internet?

  • How does the internet work?

  • What is the Internet of Things?

  • In summary

When was the internet invented and who invented it?

Let’s set the scene: it’s 1950’s America, mass media is exploding, rock ‘n’ roll is taking off, and pop culture is really having a moment...

A whirlwind of social excitement is palpable yet, at the same time, a general sense of public angst shrouds not just America, but the whole world as the impact of the Cold War leaves many anxious.

At the height of the Cold War, there existed huge tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, as both superpowers possessed deadly nuclear weapons. There was widespread fear of long-range surprise attacks and, as an act of defense, the US needed to develop a communications system that would resist a Soviet nuclear attack. A communications system based on a computer network would be perfect…

Now, at this point we have two key characters to introduce: The Elliott Brothers. In 1952 the Elliott brothers invented a computer called the Elliott-NRDC 401 (imaginative eh).

The Elliott was a powerful (but hefty) machine, weighing in at around a ton, and spanning up to 10 ft (four meters). It was by no means the slim, portable piece of kit we’re used to using today. And, there weren’t many of them about, meaning you had to travel long distances to use one. (Imagine having to travel for two hours just to send an email!)

This was a problem. Computers were there, but very few had access to them. To solve the problem, a method of ‘time-sharing’ came about, meaning that users could use a series of terminals to access a mainframe computer. But this was by no means a failsafe solution. Pretty soon, engineers and organizations began researching the feasibility of a large scale computer network.

“Large scale computer network” you say?
– Yes, that’s right, something akin to the internet we know and love today, but it’s still got some growing up to do before it reaches the version we’re now familiar with.

So, who invented the internet?

There’s actually not one lone person that we can attribute to the invention of the internet. There were many cooks in this technology kitchen (so to speak).

At the very beginning of the invention of networking technology, research from a variety of scientists and engineers was brought together to form the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (known as ARPANET) – from this foundation other creations then paved the way for the web as it’s known today.

How does the internet work?

In everyday terms, the internet is a global computer network for communication.

The internet itself moves data from one place to another, allowing internet users to browse and share information.

Data moves over the internet via a process called “packet switching.” Packet switching sends data in separate pieces, with each piece tagged with the intended destination. Once all of the separate pieces of data reach the destination, they are then reassembled, forming an email, or the webpage that you see before you.

Packet switching allows many people to use the internet at once. If packet switching wasn’t used and emails traveled whole, instead of in pieces, then an entire portion of the network would be blocked every time anyone sent a message.

More people using the internet means more data being generated and exchanged.
To make it easier for a wider audience to reach the data they need, the way in which data is stored has been centralized using internet servers that host data in a more centralized and accessible way.

Before internet servers, internet access went via a local network to access data. But this became very cumbersome as it meant getting data between local networks rather than from a central repository. To solve this problem, and streamline the way in which we access the internet, internet servers were created.

There are millions of servers for the Internet. Servers are located in data centers, the number of which is rapidly expanding to match the rise in demand for storage capacity caused by our ever-increasing internet dependence.

The data center problem...

Increasing numbers of data centers boosts opportunities for operators, developers and investors, but we must acknowledge the simultaneous challenges. Factors such as sustainability, cybersecurity, and obsolescence must be taken into consideration alongside an appreciation for our growing need for more connected devices and digital services, resulting in a call for more data center facilities.

When it comes to energy consumption, data centers are pretty demanding. In fact, it’s predicted that, by 2025, data centres will use 20% of the world’s energy – equating 5.5% of the global carbon footprint. It’s little wonder that they have come under close scrutiny.

To combat the fact that data centers could one day become a true carbon catastrophe, the future of infrastructure strategies will most likely integrate on-premises colocation, cloud storage and edge delivery options to reduce reliance on large, energy expensive data centers.
what is the internet?
Data centers house internet servers.
Increasing numbers of data centers boosts opportunities for operators, developers and investors, but we must acknowledge the simultaneous challenges. Factors such as sustainability, cybersecurity, and obsolescence must be taken into consideration alongside an appreciation for our growing need for more connected devices and digital services, resulting in a call for more data center facilities.

When it comes to energy consumption, data centers are pretty demanding. In fact, it’s predicted that, by 2025, data centres will use 20% of the world’s energy – equating 5.5% of the global carbon footprint. It’s little wonder that they have come under close scrutiny.

To combat the fact that data centers could one day become a true carbon catastrophe, the future of infrastructure strategies will most likely integrate on-premises colocation, cloud storage and edge delivery options to reduce reliance on large, energy expensive data centers.
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What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things is a process that enables anything, rather than anyone, to be connected to the internet.

The IoT refers to objects that are able to collect and transfer data over a wireless network without human intervention. A ‘thing’ can refer to any connected device or object fitted with sensors that has the ability to gather and transfer data over a network.

Within buildings, IoT devices can help to reduce operating costs and improve efficiencies. For example, a light fitting with a motion sensor on it will be able to automatically turn off when there’s no one in the room, without anyone having to flick a light switch. This saves energy, reducing costs and boosting efficiencies, and is just one example of how the IoT permeates throughout everyday life.

IoT device deployments can also provide the data and insights necessary to visualize usage patterns and automate processes. In the context of a building, the data generated by a robust IoT infrastructure will survive into the future, allowing any discerning landlord or developer to refine the in-building experience and tailor the building’s features and functions to maximize efficiencies, whilst retaining building user comforts, allowing the building to compete in today’s rapidly changing environment.

In summary

The internet is the underlying infrastructure that supports the world wide web.

By moving data from one place to another, the internet allows us to share and access information, and it was invented through a conglomeration of different people’s ideas, research, and requirements.

The internet itself has always been a global computer network designed for research and communication, but the ways in which we use and access that service have developed with the changing needs of users and society. This has impacted demand for speed, accessibility and dependency upon internet services, a demand that real estate has had to accept, meet and exceed to maintain pace with modern expectations.

For more on how real estate can tackle the climate crisis, read WiredScore's article on smart buildings.
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