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Internet - How does it work?

You likely use the Internet for browsing the web, sending email or playing online games but have you ever wondered what the Internet actually is?

The internet is essentially a vast number of different computers and networks around the world. Every computer connected to the internet has a unique address, similar to your home's postal address. The Internet ensures information flowing between different addresses reaches its destination as quickly as possible. Internet addresses are series of numbers rather than the typical web site names such as that you're accustomed to typing into a web browser. However, the Internet has a built-in mechanism for translating every web site name into its exact address, called an IP address.

Your computer isn't likely connected directly to the internet even if you have a broadband connection at home. Basically, all of your internet traffic, such as instant messaging or web browsing, must be translated into a format that can travel to your local DSL, cable or other broadband provider over telephone, cable or other types of lines. Your broadband provider likely has multiple high-speed connections that connect it to the internet.

Now let's put the pieces together. Suppose you open up a web browser on your home computer and type in a particular web site's name. Your computer first locates its exact address on the Internet and then sends information out of your home over your broadband connection, bound for the web site's address. When a web site responds it sends data back over the internet to your computer. Amazingly enough, this process usually takes under a second, even when a web server is located thousands of miles away.

So now you have the basics. The next time you're browsing the web, instant messaging, sending an email or playing an online game you'll know where your information is going and understand some of the mysteries of the Internet.

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