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What is the internet & how does it work?

Posted on:March 22, 2022

Contrary to popular belief the internet is not some magical wireless connection in the clouds. No its actually a bit more backwards. The entire internet that we use everyday is just a bunch of cables that run under the ocean and connects every continent together. Check this out!

Well the above is just what we call the infrastructure. We still can’t do anything with those cables ourselves. Instead there are specialized companies that are responsible for taking those cables that enter at the coastlines and spread them throughout the country. Those new smaller cables end up at a different type of company we call an ISP or Internet Service Provider.

This ISP then either through fixed connection or wireless gives the public access to the internet. So they do their magic and everyone can now connect the their network. This is like one big LAN party (remember those?)

Now that you are connected you probably want to visit some sort of webpage. Well to visit a specific webpage you need to now its address (IP to be specific). An IP address is a unique number that identifies your spot on the internet, every single computer that connects needs an IP address. The IP address also serves as a return address, because you don’t actually visit a site you just request what data you want from that site and then that site sends the requested data back to your IP address and your browser then shows you what you requested.

This is the basics of how the internet works. Its like and instant mail service basically. It gets way more complex, when we bring servers, security, protocols and DNS into the picture but we will discuss some of those topics in more detail in following articles.

Clients vs Servers

One thing we need to distinguish in this article is the difference between clients and servers. Above we mentioned that everyone that connects to the internet needs an IP address and that if you want to connect to a website you need its IP address as well. Well this might lead to the confusion that if I got your personal IP address I can just connect to your computer from anywhere in the world as long as it is connected to the internet. Well NO you can’t.

This is where servers and clients come in.


A client can be a device or a machine. A client program runs on the local machine, requesting service from the server. A client program is a finite program means that the service is started by the user and terminates when the service is completed. For instance, a web browser. A client device is a machine that the end-user uses to access the web. Examples of clients are smartphones, desktops, laptops, etc. Clients are categorized into thin client, fat client, and hybrid client. Thin client  is lightweight and relies on the resources of the host computer. A fat client (or thick client) lightly relies on the server and provides rich functionality. A hybrid client is the combination of the characteristics of a thin client and a thick client.



A server is like a computer program, which is used to provide functionality to other programs. It can be any computerized process called by a client to distribute the work and share the resources.

It receives and responds to requests made over a network. Server receives the request from the client for a web document, and it sends the requested information to the client’s computer.

A device can be both a client and a server at the same time, as an individual system has the ability to provide resources and use them from another system in one go. In a single machine, there can be multiple servers.

Server has high efficiency and performance. Simultaneous multiple-user login and request processing are supported in servers. Some of the complex tasks like fulfilling client requests, storing and processing large datasets, data analysis are common for servers.

There can be various types of servers: web server, application server, database server, cloud server, file server, proxy server, mail server, and many more.

The basic difference between the client and server is that client relies on the services of the server, whereas the server authorizes the client’s requests and facilitates them with the requested services. Servers can store and analyse the large data sets, whereas clients are not suited for such tasks.

Most of the servers are never turned off; they are always on. Switching off servers may be disastrous for client systems that continuously request the services. Whereas the client systems can be switch off without any fear.