How Does the Internet Work?

Every time you fire up Safari, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Firefox, you’re opening up a window to a sort of cyber world. It’s amazing how the internet has changed our lives. Most people think that it’s magic when you tell them that a website or their files reside in a cloud. In some ways, it is magic because it takes no effort on your part except for typing in what you’re looking for. But despite technology appearing to work like magic there is a lot more going on behind the scenes that you never see. Below is our attempt at taking you behind the scenes on a fun and fascinating look at how the internet works every time you access a website.

It all starts with an address

The internet is a collection of literally millions of computers from across the world. Your web browser frankly does not know where to go when you type in ‘www.hotmail.com.’ So, the browser takes this ‘address’ which is ‘www.hotmail.com’ and converts it into an IP address using a database of addresses called the ‘DNS’ or Domain Name Service database. The DNS keeps track of all the websites/computer names and their corresponding IP address. Since there are so many DNS servers, if one does not have the address you are redirected to the next because the other most definitely will and so your requested is forwarded until it is found.

What is an IP address?

Once your browser knows the IP address of ‘www.hotmail.com,’ it can directly connect to the server. In which case, the browser sends a request, if the server then accepts the request and a connection is established a page is sent back. The browser will then phrase through the whole page and look for various other page elements like videos, graphics, and animations, etc. Then the browser makes a connection to the web server for each element until all the elements have been completed. The page is rendered on your screen, and you can log in and to start checking your email.

But an IP address or Internet Protocol address is not limited to websites. Every computer that connects to the internet is assigned an IP address. The IP address also identifies your location, network service provider and in some cases the operating system you’re using. So, apart from websites and services everyone else’s IP address is a secret and cannot directly be accessed via a web browser.

The Difference between HTTP and HTTPS?

HTTP stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, and the ‘S’ stands for Secure. Every time you access Google, or Hotmail, or any other website your browser creates a connection to the server. The connection is in the majority of cases is an HTTP connection. However, HTTP is not secure. The HTTPS protocol connection is established when you enter in a username and password to your ‘hotmail.com’ account. Your emails are protected via HTTPS which makes it difficult if not impossible for hackers to see who’s emailing you or who you’re emailing!

So where does having an internet connection come in?

Your ISP (Internet Service Provider), AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, etc. open up a gateway through their service to the internet’s mainframe servers. Unknown to many people ISPs don’t own the internet, but rather they rent it to users and are merely third parties of sorts. An ISP is directly connected to an Upstream ISP or a Tier 1 carrier, which is a larger ISP from which your ISP buys bandwidth. Tier 1 is connected through to several other routes to other Tier 1 servers. So, the ISP opens up a gateway when you pay you the bill to the internet.