Internet - Are you a netizen yet?

Just like the invention of the telephone, which changed society's landscape, the Internet has dramatically changed the way we communicate, do business, shop, socialize, learn, source information and much, much more. 

The seeds of the concept were sown in the 1960's but back then, nobody knew that one day, this technology would be used to update news within minutes of the event, transmit information, for a limitless storehouse of knowledge and information, to send mails to friends and study online.


During the Cold War, the government was mulling over a safer communication medium for the defense. The roots of the Internet were born then, with a project by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), a branch of the Department of Defense. ARPA was set up to develop a way for geographically separated computers to communicate with each other and that too safely.


In 1969, Frank Heart supervised the design of a new communication system; the basis of the new communication was small machines called Interface Message Processors (IMPs). IMPs were to use a new communication technology called packet switching; the packet switching technology (Network Control Protocol - NCP) would split large sections of data into smaller portions or packets and each one was to be labeled with a destination address. These packets could be sent through any route and in any order; on arrival at the destination computer, the packets could be reassembled. This still remains the backbone of some Internet communication.


The first data was exchanged over this network between UCLA and Stanford. Later, UC Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah too joined in; universities and research organizations were the first to join this network to exchange information and data. And as the network expanded, it created some compatibility problems; these were soon tackled with a more advanced set of protocols called TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) designed in 1982.


Under the ARPAnet, several other innovations occurred too. They include email in 1972, introduced by Ray Tomlinson; the telnet in 1972, which is a remote connection service for controlling a computer; FTP or File Transfer Protocol in 1973, which enables bulk information to be sent from one computer to the other.


By the 1980s more and more institutions and commercial organizations wanted to avail this new technology, this spawned the term 'Internet'. Though the Internet had already exceeded its original intentions, more innovations were needed for it to function as a global information utility.


By the end of the '80s, Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist in Geneva proposed an application of the Internet, the world wide web and a new language HTML (Hyper-Text Markup Language) for linked computers. In the immediate years, tools to retrieve information from the Web and general communication were the focus. In 1991, Gopher, the first successful Internet document retrieval system was developed by the University of Minnesota. And two years later, the notions of a browser was being developed by a team led by Marc Andreessen - they created a "browser" program called Mosaic and distributed it free. Later Microsoft and Netscape followed it up with their browsers, which were simplified, and more user friendly and had the ability to source information. In 1994, Real Audio was introduced, which enabled one to hear audio in real time. Of course, since then, there have been many other innovations.

The Internet is not owned by anyone or controlled by any company or corporation or nation. It is accessed through fiber optics, satellites and phone lines. It has changed cultural patterns, business practices, the consumer industry, education and research; it has also had significant impact on facilities


The invention of the Internet has eclipsed several technologies that have preceded it and has had an unprecedented global appeal. Statistics has it that after the invention of the radio, it took 38 years before 50 million people tuned in; the TV took 13 years to reach this milestone; the PC kit took 16 years to hit this benchmark, the Internet took only four years! In 1999, there were some 150 million people hooked on to the net and more than 800 million web pages. A judge once cited it as "the single most important advancement to freedom of speech since the writing of the Declaration of Independence"!


The netizen

So, where do we go from here? Here are some articles, which discuss the future of the Internet.

Back when the Internet was still known as the "Information Superhighway," many pundits predicted that "interactivity" would soon change the way people live everyday. Although nobody believed that what was going to happen between a computer and a person in cyberspace would be more interactive than what happens between human beings, the Information Superhighway promised to bring the experience of cyberspace incredibly close to real life. Looking back now, the question is, did it?


As co-inventor and the first major user of the Internet, the academic community is almost 30 years into a transformation enabled by new technology, and has developed many compelling visions of what can be accomplished with broadband networks that support multimedia applications, real-time collaboration and resource sharing. Internet2 is an effort to realize those visions, especially in the areas of research and education, by networking on campus, among universities, and by networking our institutions with the rest of the world. 

A very important question posed by organizations today is: Are we Internet ready and can we leverage our current software construction tools, methods, architectures and skills to take advantage of the inevitable Internet based future?


Some terms used in the Internet.

URLs (Uniform Resource Locators) for locating resources 

FTP (File Transfer Protocol) for transfer of large files

TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) for the way computers communicate with each other

DOMAIN NAME - the address that identifies the Internet site

IP (Internet Protocol) - the numeric address that later translates into a domain name

DNS (Domain Name System) that which translates from IP to domain name

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) for serving 

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) for publishing


INTERNET SETVICE PROVIDER, a company that provides Internet accounts

SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) for mail transfer

ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) for telecommunication

FIREWALL for blocking external sites

HYPERLINKS for navigation

DLL(Dinamic Link Library) 

WWW (World Wide Web)

.com (Commercial) for commercial sites

.org (Organization) for organization sites

.gov (Government) for government sites

.edu (Education) for educational sites

HIT for number of __ accessing the web page

CGI (Common Gateway Interface) for interaction on the net