How does the internet work?



Where does it come from? Could it ever shut down?

In: Technology

The Internet is a fabric that sends messages, called packets, from server computers to user computers. It does not come form a “place”, so it can’t be shut down by going to that place with a pair of wire cutters. There are central resources, like the DNS that translates “” to . However, the concept of these central resources still supports the idea of distributed storage and sharing. The people that engineered it were trying to enable US government communications after a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union (back in those days).

The internet is a bunch of computers connected to each other, including your. So it doesn’t really “come from” anywhere, any more than the road network comes from anywhere.

So think of it like this: you’ve got movies, and your neighbor has music. You drill a hole through the wall, pass a cable through there, and make a network where you can share stuff with each other.

This catches on, and eventually the whole building is wired up. Eventually you start interconnecting buildings to each other, then blocks, then cities.

Now when two people both benefit from sharing with each other, it’s easy to do it for free. But what if one of your neighbors has nothing to offer, yet wants access to your stuff? Well, you could charge them money for that. And that’s how you get ISPs that sell connections to end users.

Could it be shut down? Yes, partially. There are places where lots of people interconnect. Just like you could block the roads that connect a city to the rest of the country, you can cut the physical cables, or force the ISPs to stop offering service. But that doesn’t really affect the rest of the network. Even if your city is blocked off, that doesn’t stop the rest of the road network from existing.