What is the Internet?

The Internet is a massive, worldwide network of computers. What does that mean? Well, when you connect to a service provider (ISP), your provider is probably connected to a larger provider, who has a few dozen main computers connected with high-speed data-transferring lines. There are perhaps five or six major providers who all connect to each other. Between them and smaller, local providers who service individual people, there are several hundred thousand computers connected to each other full-time. Most people connect to this network only briefly to surf, send eMail or chat with friends, and the total number of transients plus full time participants is easily in the millions.

The Internet is a co-operative effort. When you want data from a computer halfway around the world, your request is passed from computer to computer until it gets there. There, your request is processed and the data is sent back along the same route. Each computer along the way "agrees" to pass data along in this manner, as long as it's data is also passed along by everyone else. A typical route between you and the computer you want to communicate with can easily be through ten or more computers. Fortunately, all this data-passing is happening at the speed of light. Although busy sites may not have time to devote themselves to you full time, or have lots of information to send, data changes hands at the rate of many trillions of kilobytes per nanosecond.

With so many people on-line, individual philosophies vary. Almost any kind of information you can think of, that someone else might be interested in, is probably on the internet - somewhere. The Internet has grown dramatically since it's inception. Almost every major company, and millions of smaller companies have information about themselves on the Internet. You can send e-Mail, order a few good books, order a pizza and coke to eat while reading your books, toss in your monthly groceries purchases and watch somebody's fishtank all within twenty minutes of getting on the 'Net.

You'll find that pretty everything you could be remotely interested in is on the 'Net. You'll find that pretty much everything you think is offensive is on the 'Net. The 'Net's a huge place...