The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) to serve billions of users worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of millions of private, public, academic, business, and government networks, of local to global scope, that are linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless and optical networking technologies. The Internet carries a vast range of information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext documents of the World Wide Web (WWW) and the infrastructure to support electronic mail.

Most traditional communications media including telephone, music, film, and television are reshaped or redefined by the Internet, giving birth to new services such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and IPTV. Newspaper, book and other print publishing are adapting to Web site technology, or are reshaped into blogging and web feeds. The Internet has enabled or accelerated new forms of human interactions through instant messaging, Internet forums, and social networking. Online shopping has boomed both for major retail outlets and small artisans and traders. Business-to-business and financial services on the Internet affect supply chains across entire industries.
The origins of the Internet reach back to research of the 1960s, commissioned by the United States government in collaboration with private commercial interests to build robust, fault-tolerant, and distributed computer networks. The funding of a new U.S. backbone by the National Science Foundation in the 1980s, as well as private funding for other commercial backbones, led to worldwide participation in the development of new networking technologies, and the merger of many networks. The commercialization of what was by the 1990s an international network resulted in its popularization and incorporation into virtually every aspect of modern human life. As of 2009, an estimated quarter of Earth's population used the services of the Internet.
The Internet has no centralized governance in either technological implementation or policies for access and usage; each constituent network sets its own standards. Only the overreaching definitions of the two principal name spaces in the Internet, the Internet Protocol address space and the Domain Name System, are directed by a maintainer organization, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The technical underpinning and standardization of the core protocols (IPv4 and IPv6) is an activity of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), a non-profit organization of loosely affiliated international participants that anyone may associate with by contributing technical expertise.

ARPA created the Information Processing Technology Office (IPTO) to further the research of the Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) program, which had networked country-wide radar systems together for the first time. The IPTO's purpose was to find ways to address the US military's concern about survivability of their communications networks, and as a first step interconnect their computers at the Pentagon, Cheyenne Mountain, and Strategic Air Command headquarters (SAC). J. C. R. Licklider, a promoter of universal networking, was selected to head the IPTO. Licklider moved from the Psycho-Acoustic Laboratory at Harvard University to MIT in 1950, after becoming interested in information technology. At MIT, he served on a committee that established Lincoln Laboratory and worked on the SAGE project. In 1957 he became a Vice President at BBN, where he bought the first production PDP-1 computer and conducted the first public demonstration of time-sharing.

Professor Leonard Kleinrock with one of the first ARPANET Interface Message Processors at UCLA
At the IPTO, Licklider's successor Ivan Sutherland in 1965 got Lawrence Roberts to start a project to make a network, and Roberts based the technology on the work of Paul Baran, who had written an exhaustive study for the United States Air Force that recommended packet switching (opposed to circuit switching) to achieve better network robustness and disaster survivability. Roberts had worked at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory originally established to work on the design of the SAGE system. UCLA professor Leonard Kleinrock had provided the theoretical foundations for packet networks in 1962, and later, in the 1970s, for hierarchical routing, concepts which have been the underpinning of the development towards today's Internet.
Sutherland's successor Robert Taylor convinced Roberts to build on his early packet switching successes and come and be the IPTO Chief Scientist. Once there, Roberts prepared a report called Resource Sharing Computer Networks which was approved by Taylor in June 1968 and laid the foundation for the launch of the working ARPANET the following year.
After much work, the first two nodes of what would become the ARPANET were interconnected between Kleinrock's Network Measurement Center at the UCLA's School of Engineering and Applied Science and Douglas Engelbart's NLS system at SRI International (SRI) in Menlo Park, California, on 29 October 1969. The third site on the ARPANET was the Culler-Fried Interactive Mathematics center at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the fourth was the University of Utah Graphics Department. In an early sign of future growth, there were already fifteen sites connected to the young ARPANET by the end of 1971.
The ARPANET was one of the eve networks of today's Internet. In an independent development, Donald Davies at the UK National Physical Laboratory also discovered the concept of packet switching in the early 1960s, first giving a talk on the subject in 1965, after which the teams in the new field from two sides of the Atlantic ocean first became acquainted. It was actually Davies' coinage of the wording "packet" and "packet switching" that was adopted as the standard terminology. Davies also built a packet switched network in the UK called the Mark I in 1970. Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN), the private contractors for ARPANET, set out to create a separate commercial version after establishing "value added carriers" was legalized in the U.S. The network they established was called Telenet and began operation in 1975, installing free public dial-up access in cities throughout the U.S. Telenet was the first packet-switching network open to the general public.

Following the demonstration that packet switching worked on the ARPANET, the British Post Office, Telenet, DATAPAC and TRANSPAC collaborated to create the first international packet-switched network service. In the UK, this was referred to as the International Packet Switched Service (IPSS), in 1978. The collection of X.25-based networks grew from Europe and the US to cover Canada, Hong Kong and Australia by 1981. The X.25 packet switching standard was developed in the CCITT (now called ITU-T) around 1976.

A plaque commemorating the birth of the Internet at Stanford University
X.25 was independent of the TCP/IP protocols that arose from the experimental work of DARPA on the ARPANET, Packet Radio Net and Packet Satellite Net during the same time period. The early ARPANET ran on the Network Control Program (NCP), implementing the host-to-host connectivity and switching layers of the protocol stack, designed and first implemented in December 1970 by a team called the Network Working Group (NWG) led by Steve Crocker. To respond to the network's rapid growth as more and more locations connected, Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn developed the first description of the now widely used TCP protocols during 1973 and published a paper on the subject in May 1974. Use of the term "Internet" to describe a single global TCP/IP network originated in December 1974 with the publication of RFC 675, the first full specification of TCP that was written by Vinton Cerf, Yogen Dalal and Carl Sunshine, then at Stanford University. During the next nine years, work proceeded to refine the protocols and to implement them on a wide range of operating systems.

The first TCP/IP-based wide-area network was operational by 1 January 1983 when all hosts on the ARPANET were switched over from the older NCP protocols. In 1985, the United States' National Science Foundation (NSF) commissioned the construction of the NSFNET, a university 56 kilobit/second network backbone using computers called "fuzzballs" by their inventor, David L. Mills. The following year, NSF sponsored the conversion to a higher-speed 1.5 megabit/second network. A key decision to use the DARPA TCP/IP protocols was made by Dennis Jennings, then in charge of the Supercomputer program at NSF.
The opening of the NSFNET to other networks began in 1988. The US Federal Networking Council approved the interconnection of the NSFNET to the commercial MCI Mail system in that year and the link was made in the summer of 1989. Other commercial electronic mail services were soon connected, including OnTyme, Telemail and Compuserve. In that same year, three commercial Internet service providers (ISPs) began operations: UUNET, PSINet, and CERFNET. Important, separate networks that offered gateways into, then later merged with, the Internet include Usenet and BITNET. Various other commercial and educational networks, such as Telenet (by that time renamed to Sprintnet), Tymnet, Compuserve and JANET were interconnected with the growing Internet in the 1980s as the TCP/IP protocol became increasingly popular.

The adaptability of TCP/IP to existing communication networks allowed for rapid growth. The open availability of the specifications and reference code permitted commercial vendors to build interoperable network components, such as routers, making standardized network gear available from many companies. This aided in the rapid growth of the Internet and the proliferation of local-area networking. It seeded the widespread implementation and rigorous standardization of TCP/IP on UNIX and virtually every other common operating system.

This NeXT Computer was used by Sir Tim Berners-Lee at CERN and became the world's first Web server.
Although the basic applications and guidelines that make the Internet possible had existed for almost two decades, the network did not gain a public face until the 1990s. On 6 August 1991, CERN, a pan-European organization for particle research, publicized the new World Wide Web project. The Web was invented by British scientist Tim Berners-Lee in 1989. An early popular web browser was ViolaWWW, patterned after HyperCard and built using the X Window System. It was eventually replaced in popularity by the Mosaic web browser. In 1993, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois released version 1.0 of Mosaic, and by late 1994 there was growing public interest in the previously academic, technical Internet. By 1996 usage of the word Internet had become commonplace, and consequently, so had its use as a synecdoche in reference to the World Wide Web.
Meanwhile, over the course of the decade, the Internet successfully accommodated the majority of previously existing public computer networks (although some networks, such as FidoNet, have remained separate). During the late 1990s, it was estimated that traffic on the public Internet grew by 100 percent per year, while the mean annual growth in the number of Internet users was thought to be between 20% and 50%. This growth is often attributed to the lack of central administration, which allows organic growth of the network, as well as the non-proprietary open nature of the Internet protocols, which encourages vendor interoperability and prevents any one company from exerting too much control over the network. The estimated population of Internet users is 1.97 billion as of 30 June 2010.

From 2009 onward, the Internet is expected to grow significantly in Brazil, Russia, India, China, and Indonesia (BRICI countries). These countries have large populations and moderate to high economic growth, but still low Internet penetration rates. In 2009, the BRICI countries represented about 45 percent of the world's population and had approximately 610 million Internet users, but by 2015, Internet users in BRICI countries will double to 1.2 billion, and will triple in Indonesia.


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