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Internet

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Beginners, Glossary and Background


The Internet is a network of networks made accessible to millions of users by the use of a common protocol, Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol or "TCP/IP" for short. The Internet is used for electronic mail, file transfer, remote login, bulletin boards and the World Wide Web.

The World Wide Web consists of websites that have hypertext pages. When the pages are displayed on a browser, a user can click on images and highlighted text to obtain further pages. The key to the World Wide Web is that each link contains the network address (the Uniform Resource Locator, or URL ) of the target so the next page can be obtained from another computer on the other side of the world.

The Internet has its origins in research carried out by the RAND corporation to design a way of ensuring reliable communications even if parts of a network are destroyed by nuclear weapons. As a consequence, the Internet has no central control. If part of the network fails, or is too busy, the information is automatically sent by a different route. The World Wide Web was invented at CERN, as a means for scientists to communicate efficiently. For further details of the history see Short History of the Internet by Bruce Sterling , CERN's Invention and Hobbes' Internet Timeline .

Electronic mail (email) is rapidly taking over from normal post (snail mail) for business and personal communications. The ability to reply by clicking a button (no address to look up) and paste quotations from the original email, makes email communication rapid and convenient. The intended recipient of a telephone call is often annoyingly unavailable but an email can be sent at a time convenient to the sender and read at a time convenient to the recipient.

Newsgroups and mailing lists allow large (or small) groups to disseminate news and discuss topics of interest.

Much of the hype and excitement of the Internet revolves around the commercial exploitation of the World Wide Web. The Internet is more than a passing fad: there are solid reasons underlying the phenomenal growth in its use:

  • low cost dissemination of information using color and multimedia
  • large number of users - growing fast
  • much lower cost of transactions
  • information can be tailored to the needs of individual customers
  • open 24 hours a day, worldwide

Many companies have a website but do not have an Internet strategy. They talk about improving the website in terms of enhancing the graphics with dazzling animation but fail to consider the business objectives. Some top tips for success on the Internet are:

  • have a comprehensive strategy with clearly defined goals
  • concentrate on business objectives, rather than technical ones
  • consider the business as a whole
  • learn from what others are doing
  • recognise any important differences in your market sector
  • consider the risks as well as the opportunities
  • be prepared to make mistakes
  • be prepared to change your plans - this is a fast changing arena
  • be ready to take advantage of forthcoming technological advances

New opportunities will be created as the Internet becomes available through new delivery channels, including wireless, cable and satellite. Further opportunities will be created as different devices are connected, including Portable Digital Assistants (PDA's) , mobile phones and smart devices in businesses, homes and cars.

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22 October, 2000
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