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What’s the difference between the World Wide Web and the internet?

World Wide Web
It's easy to muddle up the terms...

Today marks 30 years since a British software engineer called Tim Berners-Lee submitted a document entitled Information Management: A Proposal. Not, at first glance, the most exciting event in history. However, that proposal contained Berners-Lee’s vision of something called the “web” and went on to change the world forever. But what’s the difference between the World Wide Web and the internet?

It’s very easy to use the terms “web” and “internet” interchangeably, but that’s like confusing “painting” with “art”. Or “The Premier League” with “football”. Here at The Big Tech Question we realise that it can be difficult to find jargon-free explanations so we’ve kept things as simple as possible…

The difference between the World Wide Web and the internet in one paragraph

The World Wide Web is a way of sharing information, in the form of “web pages”, over the internet. So the former is part of the latter.

The difference between the World Wide Web and the internet: slightly longer version

The internet

The internet, or “net” for short, is a vast worldwide network of interconnected devices (so computers, servers and other hardware). It dates all the way back to a US military experiment called ARPAnet in the Swinging Sixties and quickly grew with the rise of PCs in the 1980s.

The World Wide Web

Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s brainchild, the World Wide Web, is just one way of sharing information over the internet – other methods include email and instant messaging.

The World Wide Web is composed of quadrillions of digital documents, or “web pages”, which are bound together in what we now call websites. You can view these websites via a web browser such as Google Chrome, Firefox or, if you’re trying to live a more ethical tech life, Ecosia.

Here’s where things get slightly trickier. Web pages are joined together by something called the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) – think of it as “the rules of the game”, which dictate how content such as text, videos, images can be transferred via the web.

Lastly, there’s an URL, or Uniform Resource Locator or, even more simply, “web address”. Just like a physical building’s address, this directs you to a particular web page.

The World Wide Web is an incredible tool, but even its creator is worried about what it might become. In an interview with the BBC this week, Sir Tim admitted that he’s “very concerned about nastiness and misinformation spreading”. So, even on its 30th birthday, the web’s still in a sticky place.

READ NEXT: How do I break my internet addiction?

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Max Figgett

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