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The internet is a globally connected network system facilitating worldwide communication and access to data resources through a vast collection of private, public, business, academic and government networks. It is governed by agencies like the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (or IANA) that establish universal protocols.
The terms internet and World Wide Web are often used interchangeably, but they are not exactly the same thing; the internet refers to the global communication system, including hardware and infrastructure, while the web is one of the services communicated over the internet.
The internet originated with the U.S. government, which began building a computer network in the 1960s known as ARPANET. In 1985, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) commissioned the development of a university network backbone called NSFNET.
The system was replaced by new networks operated by commercial internet service providers in 1995. The internet was brought to the public on a larger scale at around this time.
Since then, the Internet has grown and evolved over time to facilitate services like:
Web-enabled audio/video conferencing services.
Online movies and gaming.
Data transfer/file-sharing, often through File Transfer Protocol (FTP).
As a global network responsible for vast amounts of data transfer and process facilitation, the Internet is constantly evolving. For instance, an initial protocol called IPv4 distributing Internet Protocol (IP) addresses has largely been replaced by a new IPv6 model that will increase the number of addresses available for each continent around the globe.
The Internet has also expanded beyond the traditional workstation, as the “Internet of Things,” (IoT) as it's called, is born. There's still somewhat of a delineation between traditional Internet nodes, which use a classic web browser, and Internet-connected devices which will more commonly use reduced instruction set software, but the Internet of Things is blurring the line of where the Internet stops and the analog world begins.
In addition, there is a key framework that helps people to understand how the Internet is changing, and where it's likely to go in the future.
This is composed of three versions or iterations of the World Wide Web, as defined above.
All of these changes show the general purpose nature of the Internet and its broad scope in human societies. Defining groups like the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) continue to work on standards and universal approaches.