The Internet is more than just the Web; the huge collection of connected networks serves as a worldwide communications hub for computer data. At its beginnings, Internet traffic consisted mostly of text in the form of emails and other documents. As the Internet grew in size and speed, users added new capabilities, including phone and video services. The Internet has great flexibility, carrying nearly any type of data.
The Internet plays host to a variety of services, some new, some decades old. Email was among the earliest uses of the Internet and remains a popular way to send messages. Chat rooms and chat clients still thrive. Computer technicians continue to use services such as File Transfer Protocol, a simple way to copy files between distant computers.
World Wide Web
The World Wide Web is a service that the Internet provides, in which Web servers send information as formatted “pages” of text, images and other media. HTTP, which stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, is the method by which a user requests a page from the browser on her computer, with the Web server responding to the request. The Internet carries data back and forth between computer and server, acting much as a telephone line does for traditional phone calls. The Web is home to the social networks that serve as primary communication tools for people around the world.
VOIP and Skype Calls
The Voice Over Internet Protocol uses the Internet to make phone calls. To make a VOIP call, you need a computer, smartphone or special digital handset that converts voice audio into digital data signals. Services such as Microsoft’s Skype and Apple’s FaceTime take the VOIP concept a step further by adding simultaneous live video. Although video and audio quality may degrade when Internet data traffic is high, long-distance calls are inexpensive.
A wide range of content providers, including Hulu, Netflix and Amazon, make video content available through the Internet. In some instances, you can download movies to your hard drive, making them part of your permanent collection. In most cases, however, the video is “streamed” to media player software on your computer or mobile device; the software doesn’t save the video, although the program might allow repeat viewings. According to CNET, the two services Netflix and YouTube accounted for half the Internet’s data traffic in 2013.
Many types of video games connect users though the Internet, allowing them to play cooperatively or competitively from PCs and consoles. Players communicate with one another through typed commands or verbally using an audio interface, and each sees the game scenario from their character’s perspective. Video gamers also share their gameplay through sessions recorded on YouTube or streamed live through Twitch, turning the video game experience into a spectator sport.