How Does the Internet Work?

Table of Contents

The internet is a set of interconnected computers and servers. Web pages and files containing information are located in the hard drive of these connected servers so that they can be shared by many users.
Every computer and server has a unique internet protocol address (IP address). The client computer IP address is usually temporary. Just like a postal addresses, IP addresses help computers find each other in the vast network.

internet as a network of computers and servers with IP addresses.
Fig. 1 - Internet as a Network of computers and servers with IP addresses

An IP address has the form: dddd.dddd.dddd.dddd where dddd is a number having a value between 0 and 255.

When you decide to use your computer to retrieve information from the internet, you first connect it to the internet through an internet service provider (ISP). (see diagram below)

internet client connected.

Fig. 2 - Internet Client Connected

You then use a browser such as Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari to view internet pages. The URL that you type in the browser to find a page in the internet contains: the protocol (http, ftp, etc.) , the IP address usually in the form of a domain name such as and the path.
In order to open the web page that you are currently reading, you need to type the following:
http (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol) is the protocol used. A protocol is a set of rules for data to be sent over the internet. There are other protocols. is the domain name which is the IP address written in easy to use and remember format
internet/what_internet.html is the path to the folder "internet" containing the file "what_internet.html" containing the information you are trying to retrieve.

When you request the web page, a Domain Name Service (DNS) is used to convert the domain name "" into an IP address such as "" in order to find the server containing the page to be retrieved. If you type the right URL and the server is not down, you receive the webpage requested.

The data over the internet is usually sent by small pieces of information called packets and then reassembled into their original form and order when it reaches its destination. Each packet traveling through the internet has an IP address of its destination which can be a server or a computer. The packets are sent through different paths of the network (internet) and each packet take the least busy path at that instant which makes the whole operation of sending data more efficient.

Links and References

1 - How the Internet Works (8th Edition) 8th Edition - Preston Gralla - ISBN-10: 0789736268
2 - The Internet Book: Everything You Need to Know About Computer Networking and How the Internet Works (4th Edition) - Douglas E Comer - ISBN-10: 0132335530