The Internet is a broadcast medium for the everyperson. Built with the same freedom-of-messaging motivation as HAM radio of the 1970's, the modern Internet is a daily tool for millions of people to trade signals with each other.
The Internet (or 'Net') is built on a chaotic mishmash of hardware, governed by minimal standards and even fewer rules. Thousands of different software packages broadcast on the Net, connecting millions of users each day. During the Clinton administration, the Internet was nicknamed "The Information Superhighway", a term which has now become grossly inadequate to describe the sheer magnitude of the Internet's reach.
The Internet's hardware is vast: it is a chaotic combination of high-speed optic fiber, regular network cables, wireless routers, and satellite connections. No single organization owns the Internet's hardware. No single organization governs its use. The Internet truly is a marvel of free broadcasting and amateur publishing.
Anyone can use the Internet. As long as you have a computer, cell phone, or other internet-enabled device, you simply find a free or paid place to connect. Once you are connected (sometimes called 'logged on'), you can broadcast and receive all kinds of signals.
A detailed explanation of the Internet follows here:
1: The Internet Is a Big Collection of Computers and Cables.
The Internet is named for "interconnection of computer networks". It is a massive hardware combination of millions of personal, business, and governmental computers, all connected like roads and highways. The Internet started in the 1960's under the original name "ARPAnet". ARPAnet was originally an experiment in how the US military could maintain communications in case of a possible nuclear strike. With time, ARPAnet became a civilian experiment, connecting university mainframe computers for academic purposes. As personal computers became more mainstream in the 1980's and 1990's, the Internet grew exponentially as more users plugged their computers into the massive network. Today, the Internet has grown into a public spiderweb of millions of personal, government, and commercial computers, all connected by cables and by wireless signals.
No single person owns the Internet. No single government has authority over its operations. Some technical rules and hardware/software standards enforce how people plug into the Internet, but for the most part, the Internet is a free and open broadcast medium of hardware networking.
Here is a conceptual diagram of the Internet and how it contains many forms of online communications
2: The Web Is a Big Collection of HTML Pages Within the Internet.
The World Wide Web, or "Web" for short, is the very large subset of the Internet dedicated to broadcasting HTML pages. The Web is viewed by using free software called web browsers. Born in 1989, the Web is based on hypertext transfer protocol, the language which allows you and me to "jump" (hyperlink) to any other public web page. There are over 90 billion public web pages on the Web today, and over 300 billion private ('invisible') web pages.
Next: Internet 101.
Next: Understanding URL and Internet Addresses
Next: What is "P2P" Networking?
Next: The Internet Search Handbook for Newbies