Home > Articles

What is the Internet

Popular speaker on telecommunications issues and technology, Anabelle Dodd, discusses what the internet is and how it works in in easy-to-understand language.

Save 35% off the list price* of the related book or multi-format eBook (EPUB + MOBI + PDF) with discount code ARTICLE.
* See informit.com/terms

This chapter is from the book

In this chapter:

  • What Is the Internet?

  • Streaming—A Disruptive Technology

  • The Structure of the Internet

  • Security: Connected, Ubiquitous Networks—Vulnerable to Malicious Hackers

  • Privacy

  • The Impact of E-Commerce

  • Fostering Civic Participation and Engagement—Online Forums

  • Network Neutrality

  • The Digital Divide: Bandwidth, Skills, and Computers

  • Intranets and Extranets

The Internet is the single most important innovation of the 21st century. It’s a ubiquitous network available in much of the world, and a disruptive technology that has displaced many traditional retail businesses and services. It has created the perception that the world is smaller and changed how we communicate, shop, and spend leisure time. It has upended numerous industries, shrunk distances, led to new industries, and enabled improved communications across countries, between countries, and between continents. According to an international university student from China:

  • I am my parent’s only child, and the ability to make free video calls over the Internet to them weekly is the thing that most helps me stay in touch with them and share my experiences. Knowing that I will chat with them every week makes my parents and myself less lonely.

Technologies used in the Internet are radically changing the ways consumers access and view movies and television shows and negatively affected movie theater attendance. People can now view high-definition movies and television on their widescreen TVs in the comfort of their living rooms. Many additionally have high-end audio systems to supplement their viewing experience. Increases in the number of people using streaming, the high video and audio quality, and improvements in actual content have all precipitated large decreases in the numbers of adults that go to movie theaters and lower profits for movie theaters. Attendance at movie theaters has dropped steadily since 2016 and is expected to continue dropping as more people adopt streaming.

The Internet has radically changed how companies conduct commerce. The Internet is the main vehicle by which businesses contact customers, handle customer service, and interact with internal staff. The Internet is particularly attractive to young people, many of whom grew up with the Internet as a part of their daily lives. Web sites that are well designed and make it easy for customers to find what they need and to check out, lessen customers’ desire to actually speak with or e-mail a customer service rep. A well-designed, easy-to-use web site, an extranet, saves costs for businesses. Extranets are online e-commerce sites where consultants, partners, and customers access particular databases and services.

The Internet is not a single entity. It is made up of multiple large networks connected to each other by routers and switches and with growing amounts of capacity enabled by the following advancements: fiber-optic cabling, and more powerful servers and computer chips, all of which have resulted in higher-capacity broadband fiber-optic networks.

Streaming is a major disrupter of home entertainment and pay-TV. It has been enabled by both the Internet and home Wi-Fi. The number of people using streaming services has grown every year since Netflix first offered it in 2007 and many analysts expressed skepticism over its future. Streaming is widely available worldwide in developed countries in Asia, Europe, the Americas, and some countries in Africa. The rise of streaming has caused the bankruptcy of Blockbuster and other DVD retailers, and decreased the number of people subscribing to cable TV packages. Importantly, it’s changed the way people get their home entertainment.

Because of its acceptance, pay-TV providers now offer their own streaming services with content they create, own, or lease. For example, Verizon owns Yahoo!, and AOL, which they merged into their Oath unit, and AT&T, which owns DirecTV, purchased Time Warner, the owner of HBO. Furthermore, Comcast owns NBC and Universal, with its cache of movies and television shows. Thus, the three largest broadband providers own and create content through their subsidiaries. This results in competition between content providers Amazon, Netflix, and other streaming content companies including Facebook, and large telephone, cable TV, and satellite companies over which Amazon, Netflix, and others stream movies to homes and apartments. This often creates a situation where pay TV providers compete with the very organizations that stream movies and TV shows over their networks.

To prevent large telecoms from slowing down or blocking competitors’ content, the Obama era FCC instituted network neutrality. Under network neutrality rules, owners of broadband (pay-TV providers) are not allowed to slow down or block competitors’ content. Cable TV providers, however, lobbied for the elimination of network neutrality, stating that they should be compensated for carrying streaming traffic. The Federal Communications Commission eliminated network neutrality in 2017. However, their ruling is being adjudicated in courts and in legislatures in the United States.

Worldwide connectivity has led to the challenges of keeping networks secure and information private. Organizations, individual subscribers, and governments grapple with keeping information secure and employees’ and customers’ personal data private. Hackers know how internal networks are architected and where to look for vulnerabilities. Furthermore, malicious employees and staff errors add another layer of complexity in maintaining secure networks. Keeping enterprises 100 percent secure is almost impossible. Hacking is profitable and not often punished. Thus, hackers have a huge incentive to steal information they sell, or otherwise profit from illegal tampering with businesses’ computer data and networks. It’s an ongoing race between hackers finding new and novel ways to interrupt and steal information and to damage and hijack networks, vs. enterprises and governments keeping networks safe.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020