How does the internet work?

The Internet works by connecting computers across the globe, allowing users to send information to each other over that connection. It sounds simple, but the means by which it happens can be a little complicated.

What is the internet?

The Internet is a wire placed underground that connects one server to another. Contrary to what some might believe, it’s not a magical cloud in the air transmitting information from one location to another.

Each server is connected to the wire, usually through another wire of its own. The server is assigned its own Internet Protocol (IP) address. These numbered designations allow the servers to find each other and make a connection so they can interact and trade data.

A server is essentially a computerized file folder that stores data and transmits it to a computer upon request. The computers receiving the information from the server, like your laptop or smartphone, are called clients.

Our home computers or phones connect to these servers through an Internet Service Provider (ISP). The ISP is also connected to the Internet’s main wire and acts as a conduit between the home computer and the servers. Home computers connect to the ISP through wires, telephone cables, satellites, and wireless routers.

When information is sent from a home computer, such as an email, it is broken down into small packets of digital data. It travels from the home computer to the ISP, which then transmits it to the Internet servers. From there, it takes a similar course back to another computer.

The digital packets are then reassembled so the information can be seen and read on another person’s desktop. These packets don’t always travel in a direct line from one computer to another. Sometimes they are separated and sent down different tracks, then meet up at the end to come back together.

How does the internet work across the ocean?

The Internet works across the globe the same way it works in the U.S., but instead of wires underground, there are hundreds of large underwater cables that transmit data from continent to continent. There are currently 263 active cables beneath the ocean’s surface with 15 more set to be up and running by the end of 2015. They each work to transmit data from servers in one country to another.

The internet for dummies

In the most simplistic terms, the Internet works by sending data to lengthy wires beneath the ground and sea, put there by people. Home computer, laptops and even smartphones send signals, either wirelessly or through cables of their own, to ISP servers, which then send the data to the main wires.

The data then travels through the wire to another server, which sends it to your computer for you to see. Again, there is no magic cloud in the sky that holds and transmits your data from one computer to the next.

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