The Internet is a worldwide free-broadcast medium for the general public. Using your PC, Mac, smartphone, Xbox, movie player, and GPS, you can access a vast world of messaging and useful content through the Net.
The Net has subnetworks. The biggest subnetwork is the World Wide Web, comprised of HTML pages and hyperlinks. Other subnetworks are email, instant messaging, P2P (peer-to-peer) file sharing, and FTP downloading.
Below is a quick reference to help fill in your knowledge gaps, and get you participating in the Net and the Web quickly. All of these About.com references can be printed, and are free for you to use thanks to our advertisers.
1. How Is the 'Internet' Different from the 'Web'?
The Internet, or 'Net', stands for Interconnection of Computer Networks. It is a massive conglomeration of millions of computers and smartphone devices, all connected by wires and wireless signals. Although it started in the 1960's as a military experiment in communication, the Net evolved into a public free broadcast forum in the 70's and 80's. No single authority owns or controls the Internet. No single set of laws governs its content. You connect to the Internet through a private Internet service provider, a public Wi-Fi network, or through your office's network.
In 1989, a large subset of the Internet was launched: the World Wide Web. The 'Web' is a massive collection of HTML pages that transmits through the Internet's hardware. You will hear the expressions 'Web 1.0', 'Web 2.0', and 'the Invisible Web' to describe these billions of web pages.
The expressions 'Web' and 'Internet' are used interchangeably by the layperson. This is technically incorrect, as the Web is contained by the Internet. In practice, however, most people don't bother with the distinction.