This article is about the public worldwide computer network system. For other uses, see Internet (disambiguation).
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) to serve billions of users worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of millions of private, public, academic, business, and government networks, of local to global scope, that are linked by a broad array of electronic and optical networking technologies. The Internet carries a vast range of information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext documents of the World Wide Web (WWW) and the infrastructure to support electronic mail.
Most traditional communications media including telephone, music, film, and television are being reshaped or redefined by the Internet. Newspaper, book and other print publishing are having to adapt to Web sites and blogging. The Internet has enabled or accelerated new forms of human interactions through instant messaging, Internet forums, and social networking. Online shopping has boomed both for major retail outlets and small artisans and traders. Business-to-business and financial services on the Internet affect supply chains across entire industries.
The origins of the Internet reach back to the 1960s with both private and United States military research into robust, fault-tolerant, and distributed computer networks. The funding of a new U.S. backbone by the National Science Foundation, as well as private funding for other commercial backbones, led to worldwide participation in the development of new networking technologies, and the merger of many networks. The commercialization of what was by then an international network in the mid 1990s resulted in its popularization and incorporation into virtually every aspect of modern human life. As of 2009, an estimated quarter of Earth's population used the services of the Internet.
The Internet has no centralized governance in either technological implementation or policies for access and usage; each constituent network sets its own standards. Only the overreaching definitions of the two principal name spaces in the Internet, the Internet Protocol address space and the Domain Name System, are directed by a maintainer organization, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The technical underpinning and standardization of the core protocols (IPv4 and IPv6) is an activity of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), a non-profit organization of loosely affiliated international participants that anyone may associate with by contributing technical expertise.
See also: Internet capitalization conventions
Internet is a short form of the technical term "internetwork", the result of interconnecting computer networks with special gateways (routers). The Internet is also often referred to as the Net.
The term the Internet, when referring to the entire global system of IP networks, has traditionally been treated as a proper noun and written with an initial capital letter. In the media and popular culture a trend has developed to regard it as a generic term or common noun and thus write it as "the internet", without capitalization.