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Meanwhile, over the course of the decade, the Internet successfully accommodated the majority of previously existing computer networks (although some networks such as FidoNet have remained separate). This growth is often attributed to the lack of central administration, which allows organic growth of the network, as well as the non-proprietary nature of the Internet protocols, which encourages vendor interoperability and prevents any one company from exerting too much control over the network.
Various internet clients, such as web browsers, FTP client, and Telnet clientApart from the incredibly complex physical connections that make up its infrastructure, the Internet is held together by bi- or multi-lateral commercial contracts (for example peering agreements) and by technical specifications or protocols that describe how to exchange data over the network.
Unlike older communications systems, the Internet protocol suite was deliberately designed to be agnostic with regard to the underlying physical medium. Any communications network, wired or wireless, that can carry two-way digital data can carry Internet traffic. Thus, Internet packets flow through wired networks like copper wire, coaxial cable, and fiber optic; and through wireless networks like Wi-Fi. Together, all these networks, sharing the same high-level protocols, form the Internet.
The Internet protocols originate from discussions within the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and its working groups, which are open to public participation and review. These committees produce documents that are known as Request for Comments documents (RFCs). Some RFCs are raised to the status of Internet Standard by the Internet Architecture Board (IAB).
Some of the most used protocols in the Internet protocol suite are IP, TCP, UDP, DNS, PPP, SLIP, ICMP, POP3, IMAP, SMTP, HTTP, HTTPS, SSH, Telnet, FTP, LDAP, SSL, and TLS.
Some of the popular services on the Internet that make use of these protocols are e-mail, Usenet newsgroups, file sharing, Instant Messenger, the World Wide Web, Gopher, session access, WAIS, finger, IRC, MUDs, and MUSHs. Of these, e-mail and the World Wide Web are clearly the most used, and many other services are built upon them, such as mailing lists and web logs. The Internet makes it possible to provide real-time services such as web radio and webcasts that can be accessed from anywhere in the world.
Some other popular services of the Internet were not created this way, but were originally based on proprietary systems. These include IRC, ICQ, AIM, and Gnutella.
There have been many analyses of the Internet and its structure. For example, it has been determined that the Internet IP routing structure and hypertext links of the World Wide Web are examples of scale-free networks.
In network schematic diagrams, the Internet is often represented by a cloud symbol, into and out of which network communications can pass.
The Internet is also having a profound impact on work, knowledge and worldviews. In fact, Wikipedia is an Internet-based project.
In addition to the creation of electronic commerce and communication with clients by email and related means, the Internet is transforming other aspects of the workplace. Certain companies have adopted the use of blogs, which are largely used as online diaries, for promotional purposes. Since most people search the Web looking for information, these easily-updatable websites can be filled with advice on the company's area of specialization. The company's hope is that, when the visitor finds this free information, they will note the appearance of expert knowledge and may be drawn to the business' site as a result. An example of this practice is Microsoft, which has allowed its developers to publish their own personal blogs in order to pique the public's interest in their work.
Graphic representation of the WWW, a service running over the Internet, as represented by hyperlinks
The World Wide Web
Through keyword-driven Internet research using search engines like Google, millions worldwide have easy, instant access to a vast and diverse amount of online information. Compared to encyclopedias and traditional libraries, the Internet has enabled a sudden and extreme decentralization of information and data.
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