Since its inception, the Internet has greatly transformed our lives, and although it developed quite slowly, the number of users continued to swell over time (Weber, 2004). Presently, millions of users across the world access and use the Internet every day for work, leisure, or education. Initially, the Internet was not intended to be a channel for interpersonal communication. It was established by the US Department of Defense as a channel of communication by scientists located in different places. According to Windeatt, Hardisty, and Eastment (2000), the Internet is the most radical agent of change witnessed in the recent past.
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Although the Internet has many benefits, it also presents serious challenges to users and organizations. Its usage has spread throughout the world, and it is being used for good as well as bad purposes. Even though no single organization controls the Internet, various organizations exist to set standards that should be followed by all users and service providers.
During its growth, the Internet had to undergo radical technological changes to cater for the increasing number of users. Fundamentally, the Internet is a set of diverse networks that correlate with each other on a mutual basis. The networks that make up the Internet are linked using devices such as routers, which facilitate the forwarding of packets from one node to another as they travel to their intended destination. This paper provides a discussion on the evolution of the Internet.
Evolution of the Internet
The Internet started in the early 1960s when the Cold War was at its peak. To support its research projects in different locations, the Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA) opted to create a huge computer network for sharing data and programs (Pastor-Satorras & Vespignani, 2007). The creation of the network was meant to be a security measure to ensure that data and information belonging to ARPA remained within the system. The Advanced Research Project Agency Network (ARPANET) was later initiated by Lawrence Roberts, a research professional at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). At first, the network was intended to link mainframe computers located at four different universities in the United States. It later expanded to include other public and private institutions.
Packet switching technology was invented by ARPANET and opened the way for the development of the Internet. According to Abbate (2000), packet switching was one of ARPANET’s widely celebrated inventions and facilitated the movement of data packets across computer networks. Although it was fast, well-organized, and reliable, its implementation was quite complex. Consequently, some experts were concerned about its practicality. As explained earlier, the Internet was originally designed to support the research work done by the United States Department of Defense. The idea was then adopted by learning institutions before finally being embraced by the business world. With time, the number of nodes attached to ARPANET increased, and soon it was necessary to use more advanced technologies.
The example set by ARPANET inspired other public institutions, such as the United States Department of Energy that decided to follow suit. The adoption of the Internet by public organizations was later imitated by private institutions. As the number of connections increased, the need for advanced technology became apparent. Consequently, designers had to focus on technologies that could reliably support the increasing number of users and organizations.
Although there has been tremendous growth of the Internet as a result of the cooperation between different players in the technological sector, Tselentis (2009) argues that the evolution of the Internet may reach a standstill due to the evolution in technology that does not cater for the needs of every single individual in the society. Rather than focusing on their needs only, organizations should target innovations that are mostly affordable and all-inclusive.
The Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) Development
The development of many other networks further stimulated the growth of the Internet. This was later reinforced by the discovery of the TCP/IP protocol. Generally, all computers that are connected to the Internet use the TCP/IP protocol to communicate. The Internet TCP/IP protocol suit consists of several protocols with TCP and IP being the most important ones (Tkacz & Kapczynski, 2009).
While TCP is mainly concerned with reliable delivery of transmitted data packets, IP helps with the unique identification of the various nodes present on the Internet. Whenever a host initiates the transmission, it attaches important details to the data packets being transmitted to ensure successful delivery. One of the strengths of TCP/IP is its reliability. Acknowledgment messages are returned to the sender in case of successful deliveries while negative acknowledgments are received if data sent fails to reach the intended recipient. The User Datagram Protocol (UDP) may also be used, but unlike TCP, it is unreliable, and the delivery of packets is not guaranteed. With UDP, no mechanism exists to let the sender know the status of the transmission. It is, however, faster than TCP and is normally used to offer streaming media services where reliability may not be a major concern.
Evolution of the World Wide Web
A clear distinction exists between the Internet and the World Wide Web. While the Internet is the infrastructure that supports operations, the World Wide Web refers to the collection of web pages that reside on different servers across the world and are accessible through the Internet. This is analogous to the idea of vehicles using roads to get to their destination. Without the road infrastructure, vehicles will not be able to move and are thus useless. Similarly, the World Wide Web is only useful if a reliable Internet infrastructure is in place.
The World Wide Web is an invention by Tim Berners-Lee and utilizes a global hypertext system that relies on the Internet to move information from one point to another across the Internet. Hypertext transfer protocol is used to facilitate the transmission of web documents from a server machine to a client’s machine that initiates a request. According to Tkacz and Kapczynski (2009), the development and application of the World Wide Web made the Internet more available for users. To a large extent, the World Wide Web is responsible for the increased number of Internet users. For a long time, the World Wide Web was mostly text-based. Marc Andreesen later improved the work done by Tim Berners-Lee, making it possible for web documents to support text as well as non-text based content. The development of Web 2.0 is expected to open the way for Web 3.0, which is meant to revolutionize the Internet further as we move into the next generation. Among other things, Web 3.0 will enable developers to transform the Web into a database that will permit easy access to data.
Principally, the Internet uses a client/server model with servers existing in different places. A server may refer to hardware or software and is usually configured to provide services to client machines. On the other hand, a client is either hardware or software that accesses services from the server. Ordinarily, client machines are used by users to access resources stored in different servers. To communicate, both the client and server must use the same protocol or communication standard.
Unlike any other invention, the Internet has transformed our lives. It has simplified interaction and greatly changed the way human beings interact. As has been discussed in this paper, the Internet has positive as well as negative effects. While it creates opportunities for growth and development, it presents serious challenges that must be dealt with. Although people can easily store and disseminate information using the Internet infrastructure, security, and privacy are key concerns. Because of security lapses, for example, many organizations have lost important trade secrets that were leaked to competitors.
Undoubtedly, the Internet affects every part of our lives, and its influence will continue to permeate every corner of our society. Regardless of the negative effects, the Internet has simplified life. The world has become a global village, and reaching others is no longer a challenge. In the same way, businesses are no longer restricted by boundaries that existed in the olden days, and consumers have a wide variety of products to choose during a purchase.
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Although the Internet has undergone so many changes over the years, it is obvious that continuous technological changes and the desire by humans to further simplify operations will define the future of the Internet. As noted earlier, the move toward the use of more sophisticated technologies is inevitable.
Abbate, J. (2000). Inventing the Internet. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Pastor-Satorras, R. & Vespignani, A. (2007). Evolution and Structure of the Internet: A Statistical Physics Approach. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Tkacz, E. & Kapczynski, A. (2009). Internet – Technical Development and Applications: Technical Development and Applications. Berlin: Springer.
Tselentis, G. (2009). Towards the Future Internet: A European Research Perspective. Netherlands: IOS Press BV.
Weber, S. (2004). The Internet. New York: Chelsea House Publishers.
Windeatt, S., Hardisty, D. & Eastment, D. (2000). The Internet. New York: Oxford University Press.