WWW vs Internet: what’s the difference?

Much of contemporary technological terminology tends to get mixed up. Sometimes because they look alike, other times it’s because of the closeness and overlap of meanings. So when it comes to mixing the World Wide Web and the Internet, it’s probably because you’ve heard them used interchangeably for over a decade.

Still, it’s worth it to understand the meaning and know the difference between the words you use frequently. So, WWW vs. Internet, what’s the difference and where do they meet?

What is the World Wide Web?

WWW stands for World Wide Web.

WWW has been used as a single word for so long that it is sometimes hard to remember that it is an acronym. The World Wide Web is a worldwide network of web pages that can be found and accessed through their addresses.

You can think of the web as a model for sharing information. It uses various communication protocols, such as HTTPS, to transmit and exchange data between devices connected to the network.

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Every time you load a page on your browser, you are accessing the web. It’s the content you see on your screen. This is why they are called web pages.

Despite its name, the World Wide Web is not a true global network. It is a service that needs an infrastructure to function: the Internet.

What is the internet?

Man checking the internet on his tablet.

The Internet is a network of connected computers or servers. It is the infrastructure that allows files and data to travel between different nodes.

Networks can vary in size depending on their purpose. Local and small-scale networks (a local area network) often have a limited number of devices, such as in schools and offices. The internet you are using to read this article has a much wider reach, connecting your device to servers and computers thousands of miles away (a wide area network).

But the more devices you have in a network and the farther away they are, the harder it is to connect to them. This is where an ISP comes in. An ISP is responsible for connecting your device and your local servers to servers across the country or even overseas.

Thus, the term “Internet” literally refers to the interconnected network that connects all networks, the sprawling entity managed, owned and developed by governments, organizations, businesses, universities, etc.

Where the Internet and WWW overlap

InPrivate Browsing on Edge

The very first prototype of the Internet was invented in the 1960s. The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, or ARPANET, allowed multiple computers to communicate directly through a single network. But the Internet used today did not appear until 1983.

Likewise, the WWW had a prototype that has not been used since 1995. The NSFNET or National Science Foundation NETwork was a network system that connected five supercomputers spread across the United States. But that was purely for official government and scientific work, not for commercial access like the web today.

The modern World Wide Web was invented four years later in 1989. It took advantage of the Internet to share files in a simple and flexible format with relative speed and security for the time.

Related: Tim Berners-Lee Sells World Wide Web For $ 5.4 Million

The Internet is the hardware that connects the world. WWW is the software that uses physical structures.

Another area where you can spot the difference between the internet and the web is the connection issue. When you are out of range or having trouble connecting, the problem is with the internet. The web content you are trying to access is still there and other people with a strong connection can access it.

When the problem is with the Web, no one can access its content, regardless of the quality of your Internet network connection.

Different but inseparable

While people can continue to use the WWW and the Internet interchangeably out of habit, it’s still worth knowing the difference. In fact, the only way that global communication systems can evolve into better versions of themselves is if people understand them enough to analyze and improve their performance.


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