Tips & Definitions:
(Lower case "i"nternet) A large network made up of a number of smaller networks.
(Upper case "I"nternet) The largest network in the world. It is made up of more than 100 million computers in more than 100 countries covering commercial, academic and government endeavors. Originally developed for the U.S. military, the Internet became widely used for academic and commercial research. Users had access to unpublished data and journals on a variety of subjects. Today, the "Net" has become commercialized into a worldwide information highway, providing data and commentary on every subject and product on earth.
E-Mail Was the Beginning
The Internet's surge in growth in the mid 1990s was dramatic, increasing a hundredfold in 1995 and 1996 alone. There were two reasons. Up until then, the major online services (AOL, CompuServe, etc.) provided e-mail, but only to customers of the same service. As they began to connect to the Internet for e-mail exchange, the Internet took on the role of a global switching center. An AOL member could finally send mail to a CompuServe member, and so on. The Internet glued the world together for electronic mail, and today, SMTP, the Internet mail protocol, is the global e-mail standard.
The Web Was the Explosion
Secondly, with the advent of graphics-based Web browsers such as Mosaic and Netscape Navigator, and soon after, Microsoft's Internet Explorer, the World Wide Web took off. The Web became easily available to users with PCs and Macs rather than only scientists and hackers at Unix workstations. Delphi was the first proprietary online service to offer Web access, and all the rest followed. At the same time, new Internet service providers (ISPs) rose out of the woodwork to offer access to individuals and companies. As a result, the Web grew exponentially, providing an information exchange of unprecedented proportion. The Web has also become "the" storehouse for drivers, updates and demos that are downloaded via the browser as well as a global transport for delivering information by subscription, both free and paid.
Although daily news and information is now available on countless Web sites, long before the Web, information on a myriad of subjects was exchanged via Usenet (User Network) newsgroups. Still thriving, newsgroup articles can be selected and read directly from your Web browser. See Usenet.
Chat rooms provide another popular Internet service. Internet Relay Chat (IRC) offers multiuser text conferencing on diverse topics. Dozens of IRC servers provide hundreds of channels that anyone can log onto and participate in via the keyboard. See IRC.
The Original Internet
The Internet started in 1969 as the ARPAnet. Funded by the U.S. government, the ARPAnet became a series of high-speed links between major supercomputer sites and educational and research institutions worldwide, although mostly in the U.S. A major part of its backbone was the National Science Foundation's NFSNet. Along the way, it became known as the "Internet" or simply "the Net." By the 1990s, so many networks had become part of it and so much traffic was not educational or pure research that it became obvious that the Internet was on its way to becoming a commercial venture.