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Welcome to the Internet Guide - Established: 2002

bullet News

bullet 1st of October, 2016: ICANN freed from U.S. government oversight: The United States Department of Commerce (DOC) has signed an agreement to end it's 19 year oversight of ICANN and the DNS.

bullet Latest Terms

bullet ALIWEB: Search engine that was launched in 1993, and is amongst the earliest web search engines.
bullet Dot Com Bubble: Speculative bubble - in stocks related to the Internet - that lasted from 1997-2000.
bullet Line Mode Browser: The Line Mode Browser was developed by the CERN WWW Project in the early 1990's.
bullet DNS root zone file: The DNS root zone file is a small data set file (2,232,320 bytes).
bullet DNS root name servers: The root servers serve the root zone of the Domain Name System.
bullet TLD Managers: Organisations who manage, operate, administrate Top Level Domains (TLDs).
bullet World Wide Web Wanderer: Simple referred to 'the Wanderer', it was one of the earliest web crawlers.

bullet Introduction

The Internet is a loosely-organised collaboration of computer networks that communicate and interconnect via open protocols provided by the TCP/IP. TCP/IP is a communications protocol suite that was developed in the 1970's to enable computer networks to easily interconnect, and become Interconnected Networks.

During the development of TCP/IP, the term 'Internet' was used to describe how it functioned. In 1974, Carl Sunshine, Vinton Cerf and Yogen Dalal coined the term 'Internet' in RFC 675. The core protocol of TCP/IP is the Internet Protocol (IP): it creates a numbering (address) system that enables networks to be interconnected. No single individual is credited with inventing the Internet.

While there has been other terms used to describe the Internet - Cyberspace and the Information Superhighway - the Internet is the name that has 'stuck'. In 1995, the Federal Networking Council - a group comprised of members from the DoD, NSF and NASA (US organisations) - passed a resolution that defined the Internet as:

Federal Networking council statement

bullet Governing and managing the Internet

bullet Introduction

From 1966-1992, the U.S. government funded the development of the Internet through a variety of federal agencies. The first wide area network, funded by ARPA, was ARPANET. During the 1980's more federal computer networks were created - NSFNET, MILNET, EFNET - and when these federal networks interconnected in the 1980's, they became known as the Internet: Interconnected Networks.

The software systems (protocols) developed to make these networks operational, were likewise, funded by the U.S. federal government. The creation of TCP/IP was funded by DARPA in the 1970's. TCP/IP became a defense standard in 1982, and was implemented on the majority of federally funded computer networks in the 1980's.

DARPA decided that a central authority was needed to continue the development of TCP/IP. In 1983, the Internet Activities Board (IAB) was created by DARPA for this specific purpose. By 1987, the IAB had created the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF).

The software systems (protocols) of the Internet, by their nature, produced information resources that needed to be managed. The most obvious information resource that needed to be managed was Internet numbers. Every device that connected to the Internet was assigned a number (IP) and the way in which numbers were assigned needed management. Groups, like IANA and NIC, were created to conduct this management.

Due to the success and popularity of federally funded computer networks, like NSFNET, commercially funded U.S. networks wanted to connect to the Internet. At the same time, more and more international networks, like NORDUNET, had connected to the Internet. By the late 1980's, it became obvious that a federally funded Internet would not work for two reasons:

1) The political issues created by allowing commercial companies to profit from being connected to a federally funded Internet backbone.

2) The demand from international networks wishing to interconnect, and have a 'voice' in the development of the Internet.

In the early 1990's, the U.S. federal government decided that the Internet backbone network should be comprised of autonomous commercial computer networks, and the development and management of it's protocols and information resources should be administered by international multistakeholder non-profit organisations.

bullet Internet protocol development

In 1992, the Internet Society (ISOC) was created - as a non-profit organisation - to provide leadership for Internet: development, governance, policy and technology. The Internet Society's membership is international in scope, and it's development process is open and aims to be of "benefit to all people throughout the world". The development of Internet Standards is outlined in RFC 1336:

How organisations manage the resources of the Internet in RFC 1336

The Internet Society replaced DARPA and NSF (National Science Foundation) in providing leadership and a legal standing for the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). In 1983, the IAB had been created by DARPA to manage the evolution of TCP/IP, but it had been operating with little in the way of legal protection from vendors. The core protocols of the Internet evolved to be become the Internet protocol suite. The Internet protocol suite is currently (2017) engineered by the following organisations; with the Internet Society providing leadership and potentially finance.

  1. Internet Architecture Board
  2. Internet Engineering Steering Group
  3. Internet Engineering Task Force
  4. Internet Research Steering Group
  5. Internet Research Task Force

The above organisations publish new Internet standards and developments in Request for Comments (RFC) documents. RFC documents predate the Internet: it was a document system created during the development of ARPANET. The IETF is comprised of discussion groups known as Birds of a Feather ("BoF") meetings.

The Internet Society (ISOC) has ensured that the term 'Internet' is free to use and is not trademarked.

bullet Internet namespace management

Alongside the development of Internet Standards (protocols), another resource that needs to be managed is Internet numbers. Each device that connects to the Internet is assigned an IP address: which is a 32-bit number. How IP numbers are assigned is governed by ICANN; who were under-contract to the United States Department of Commerce. IANA is a department within ICANN that authorises the assignment of IP number blocks. IANA provides a block of IP numbers to Regional Internet Registries (RIR), who then provide smaller blocks of IP numbers to computer networks within their region.

Alongside assigning IP numbers, ICANN, and by extension, IANA, maintain ultimate authority over the Domain Name System. IANA manages the DNS root zone, which is served by thirteen root name servers that have information provided by IANA. IP number blocks and the Domain Name System are the 'heart' of the address system of the Internet; referred to as the Internet namespace. The U.S. government has been criticised for maintaining authority over the namespace of the Internet (ICANN was under contract to the U.S. Department of Commerce). However, on the 1st of October, 2016, ICANN was freed from U.S. government oversight - ICANN will still be based in California. The removal of DOC oversight of ICANN marks a significant transition: the Internet was effectively governed by the U.S. government, but it is now to be governed by an international multi-stakeholder arrangement.

The transition from U.S. government oversight will be welcomed by many. The UN (United Nations) formed a Working Group to discuss Internet Governance (WGIG), with the aim of increasing the influence other countries have in the governance of the Internet. Russia, Iran, China, India, France and Brazil have been focal critics of ICANN and the U.S. governments previous oversight of it. When the Edward Snowden leaks (2013) alleged that DNS data was being spyed on by the NSA, the aforementioned nations demanded that control of the Internet's namespace should be passed to an organisation like the International Telecommunications Union; an affiliate union of the United Nations. The final resolution of the NetMundial Initiative (2014) suggested that the oversight of ICANN should be transferred to an international organisation. ICANN, W3C, ISOC, and the IETF have previously signed statements urging the U.S. government to decrease it's control of the Internet.

An interesting paper that focused upon the government of the Internet is: A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.

bullet Internet History

bullet Introduction

The Internet today (2014) is a global information infrastructure, but it's history and origins are complex. That said, the origins of the Internet are intertwined with the development of packet switching. Packet switching is a method of transmitting data - in blocks of data called packets - across digital networks. Packet switching would underpin how the Internet works. The idea of packet switching was developed/explored by two individuals:

  1. Donald Davies: working at the National Physical Laboratory (United Kingdom)
  2. Paul Baran: whilst working at the RAND Corporation (United States)

One of the first working examples of packet switching was demonstrated by the National Physical Laboratory (United Kingdom) in early 1968. This work eventually evolved into the Mark I computer network (based in the UK). This network influenced computer scientists in the United States, but Mark I did not evolve into the Internet. It was ARPANET (US packet switching computer network) that eventually evolved to become the Internet.

bullet ARPANET era

Paul Baran's work in packet switching influenced Joseph Licklider, who envisaged a 'global' computer network in 1963. Licklider was the director of the Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) in the early 1960's. In 1966, Robert Taylor became the director of the IPTO, and it was Taylor, inspired by Licklider, who created the blueprint for a ARPA 'wide area' computer network. Robert Taylor received funding from the United States Department of Defense to build ARPANET in 1966, and hired Lawrence Roberts to manage the creation of ARPANET.

ARPANET was one of the first computer networks to use packet switching; and was launched in 1969; with procurement initiated in the summer of 1968. The physical hardware of ARPANET was built by Bolt, Beranek and Newman technologies; who developed the Interface Message Processor (IMP) (router) for ARPANET; this technology was outlined in the first ever RFC document (RFC 1). The first IMP was delivered to UCLA, and the team involved in it's installation included: Vint Cerf, Bill Naylor, Jon Postel, Steve Crocker, and Mike Wingfield. Messages were sent between the IMP and the SDS Sigma 7, creating the first ARPANET node.

The first ARPANET connection was made between two nodes: SRI International (overseen by Douglas Engelbart) and UCLA (overseen by Leonard Kleinrock). Leonard Kleinrock had conducted early research into a mathematical study called 'queueing theory'. Queueing theory proved important in implementing packet switching into ARPANET. The first message sent on ARPANET was sent on the 29th of October, 1969.

ARPANET initially operated with four nodes - each was installed with an identical Interface Message Processor (IMP). The four locations were: UCLA, SRI, UCSB and the University of Utah. By 1972, there was over 20 IMPs connected to ARPANET. In 1973, ARPANET was connected to it's first two international nodes: NORSAR in Norway, and the University College of London (United Kingdom).

ARPANET initially used the NCP (Network Control Program) to transport data packets across the network. NCP was devised by Larry Roberts, Stephen D. Crocker, and a team of graduate students. Stephen D. Crocker said that NCP was not created according to a 'grand plan' but largely occurred accidentally. It was during the design process of the ARPANET protocols, that it was concluded that an official document system was needed: which would become Request for Comments (RFC).

The Defense Communication Agency (DCA) took control of ARPANET in 1975; ARPANET was, by then, operational, and ARPA's remit was the development of systems, not the control of them. In the 1980's, the DCA would split ARPANET into a military and an academic research network. While the DCA planned to phase out the research network of ARPANET, DARPA (ARPA was renamed) continued to fund the development of TCP/IP. TCP/IP would be a defense standard by 1980.

TCP/IP replaced NCP on ARPANET on the 1st of January, 1983. This day is commonly thought of as the day the Internet was born. ARPANET was phased out from 1985-1989, due to the creation of NSFNET and the Federal Internet Exchange (FIX).

bullet CSNET era

The National Science Foundation helped to fund the development of CSNET (Computer Science Network); beginning in 1979 and finalising the project by 1981. The purpose of CSNET was to expand network access to science departments at U.S. educational institutions. Due to the Defense Communication Agency (DCA) desire to phase out it's support for the ARPANET network, it was clear that universities in the U.S. would have to fund a computer network through another means. Side note: the computer network JANET would connect universities in the United Kingdom. Most universities in the U.S. had not been connected to ARPANET because they had not been involved in research related to the Department of Defense; who had funded it's development.

Larry Landweber, a Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, proposed the creation of CSNET to connect U.S. universities who were not connect to ARPANET. Seed funding for the project was provided by the National Science Foundation. With support from a range of government departments, Landweber had acquired millions of dollars to fund a new network by 1980. Some of the first universities to connect to the network were: Wisconsin-Madison, Princeton, Purdue, and Delaware. By the end of 1983 there was over seventy sites connected to the network. By 1984, Vint Cerf had organised a gateway between CSNET and the ARPANET - TCP/IP being the protocol used to facilitate it - and by 1985 a number of international sites had connected to CSNET.

In 1988, CSNET merged with BITNET, but, due to the success of NSFNET, the network was shutdown in 1991.

bullet NSFNET era

In 1985, the National Science Foundation funded the creation of NSFNET: NSFNET would expand upon the capabilities of CSNET, and would use TCP/IP. Dennis Jennings was hired by the NSF to build NSFNET in 1985. NSFNET was operational in 1986, with six supercomputer centers forming it's backbone. NSFNET was based on a three-tier model: 1) backbone; 2) regional networks; 3) campus networks. This three-tier model was important, as it would evolve to become the modern day Internet.

From 1987-1991, the speed of the NSFNET backbone was increased from 56 K-bit/sec to a 45-Mbit/s. In 1987, NSF had given Merit, IBM, and MCI a five year contract to upgrade the infrastructure of the NSF backbone. NSFNET was connected to regional networks, like MIDnet, and federal agency networks, like MILNET, and by 1992 it was connected to over 5000 computer networks. By 1988-1990, it was clear that the NSFNET backbone had become the Internet's backbone, and had become a 'network of networks'.

NSFNET was government funded. Commercial use of the backbone of NSFNET was prohibited, but commercial companies could access the network under an 'acceptable use policy'. NSFNET was far from being "open" to commercial organisations. In 1991, the Commercial Internet Exchange (CIX) was created by three networks (using TCP/IP) to freely exchange commercial traffic across their networks.

In 1991, Merit, IBM, and MCI created a commercial Internet Service Provider named ANS CO+RE. ANS CO+RE was able to use the NSFNET backbone infrastructure: due to it postion of having designed the infrastructure, and it's apparant 'cosy' relationship with the NSF. ANS CO+RE refused to interconnect with the Commercial Internet Exchange (CIX).

The controversy of ANS CO+RE - where a federally funded project was being using for commercial profit - would lead to the decomissioning of NSFNET. It was decided that the Internet would not be a single federally funded system, but would be comprised of commercial networks that voluntarily interconnected; similar to the CIX model.

Network Access Points (NAPs) were created in 1991 to replace the NSFNET backbone. NAPs would exchange data between commercial backbone networks. The four original NAP's were: Ameritech, MFS Datanet, Sprint, and Pacific Bell. Network Access Points were only a strategic "stepping stone". NAPs were eventually replaced by Internet Exchange Points.

NSFNET was decommissioned on the 30th of April, 1995.

bullet Internet era

NSFNET was U.S. government sponsored, and it's supercomputer infrastructure formed the backbone of the Internet. NSFNET did not have a commercial focus, and it was decided by the U.S. government to transition the Internet from being dominated by the NSFNET backbone to a commercial backbone.

The National Information Infrastructure (NII) was a document that was a product of the High Performance Computing Act of 1991. This document defined the creation of Network Access Points (NAPs), which would replace the NSFNET backbone for exchanging data across the networks of the Internet.

NAPS were eventually replaced by Internet Exchange Points (IXP): IXPs are commercial companies who provide the (present day) physical infrastructure that exchanges traffic between Internet networks. IXPs are a crucial aspect of the current Internet backbone: allowing networks to reduce their upstream transit costs and faults.

The Internet is an informal system where networks - using the Internet protocol suite - voluntarily agree to interconnect and exchange data across their networks. As stated, IXPs facilitate this exchange of data. However, not all networks use IXPs. The networks which comprise the Internet are broadly categorised in a three tier hierarchy.

  1. Tier One: typically long-distance international telecom companies.
  2. Tier Two: typically regional Internet Service Providers.
  3. Tier Three: ISPs who rent access from Tier Two networks.

Tier one, tier two and tier three networks create 'interconnect agreements' with one another: these agreements decide how data is transferred and routed on the Internet. There are two types of interconnect agreement:

  1. Transit agreement: data transfer is paid for.
  2. Peering agreement: data transfer is free.

Tier one networks tend to be telecom companies who own national and international fiber optic trunk lines. The data routes of the Internet are similar to the thoroughfares of a country: motorways are the primary route that cars travel upon, and likewise, tier one networks are the primary route that data travels upon the Internet.

Tier one networks typically connect to the entirety of the Internet via peering agreements, and do not pay for their access (transit of data). Some of the recognised 'tier one' networks are: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and Vodafone. Tier two networks are Internet networks that have to pay for upstream transit of data (access to tier one networks).

Tier two networks do use Internet Exchange Points (IXP) to reduce their upstream transit costs and faults, and to improve latency and bandwidth. Internet Exchange Points use the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) to exchange data across networks. Some examples of 'tier two' networks are: BT, Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom.

Finally we have tier three networks: these networks rent access to tier two networks, and sell access to Internet users. Tier three networks can be 'standalone' single-homed networks, or can be multihomed networks. Multihoming is where a 'tier three' networks purchases upstream access from multiple 'tier two' networks. This helps to improve the reliability of their service: in the scenario of a (SPOF) single point of failure.

At the bottom of the hierarchy is the end user: who pay networks a fee to access the network (Internet). End users can access the Internet with either a tier 1, tier 2, or tier 3 network.

bullet Europe and the Internet

The development of the protocols (IP and TCP) of the Internet were funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, therefore, a certain level of skepticism and mistrust existed within European governments about their own networks adopting TCP/IP. Europeans networks tended to favour networking standards they had more influence upon. This skepticism potentially has some merit: the recent Edward Snowden leaks disclosed vast court-approved NSA spying powers; VeriSign has stated it complied with "lawful orders" from the U.S. courts to redirect the DNS of a domain to a government IP address.

However, in 1983, the CERN Networking Group planned to build an external computer network, and the CERN Networking Group decided to adopt TCP/IP instead of the ISO networking standard. In 1988 and 1989, members of the CERN Networking Group were present at meetings of the Coordinating Committee for Intercontinental Research Network (CCIRN). Vint Cerf was present at these meetings, and he encouraged Europeans to create a organisation that would be responsible for allocating Internet addresses in Europe. The result was the creation of RIPE (Réseaux IP Européens). By the late 1980's, important European networks, like The European Network (EUnet), began to adopt TPC/IP; having previously used the X.25 protocol.

In 1988, Telehouse Europe was founded and the Telehouse Docklands datacentre was opened in London. Telehouse Docklands became the primary hub for the Internet in the United Kingdom. Telehouse Europe expanded across London and Europe and it presently describes itself as a "Backbone for the Global Internet Network". Internet Exchange Points, like LINX, operate out of Telehouse Docklands; Internet Exchange Points (IXP) enable Internet Service Providers to freely transit data across each others networks and therefore are a key data route for the Internet in Europe and the UK.

bullet Acessing the Internet

The technology that can access (introduction to access technologies) the Internet is ever growing, and the speed at which people can send data across the Internet is likewise growing at a similar rate. The most common access technology at present is broadband: digital subscriber line networks, fibre optic networks, and mobile networks. People can also access the Internet, at home, through wireless router technologies. When end users access the Internet, a range of ethics have been outlined in RFC documents. The amount of services on the Internet has slowly expanded since the early 1990's, but the mainstays have remained the same: World Wide Web, instant chat applications, email, and file downloads (FTP). Security has been a constant issue since the 'general public' started accessing the Internet: unauthorised system access and viruses are two of the most serious security problems.