Basic Internet Definitions for Small Business

This page is simply to give you a basic understanding of how it all works (the internet) so you understand the fundamentals before getting online.

Here are a few definitions that you should at least be familiar with. You don’t need to memorize this stuff, but it will help you form a clear vision of how it all works together. I’ve enlisted the help of some pros to explain (see sources below):

The Difference Between the Internet and the World Wide Web

Many people use the terms Internet and World Wide Web (aka. the Web) interchangeably, but in fact the two terms are not synonymous. The Internet and the Web are two separate but related things.

What is The Internet?

The Internet is a massive network of networks, a networking infrastructure. It connects millions of computers together globally, forming a network in which any computer can communicate with any other computer as long as they are both connected to the Internet. Information that travels over the Internet does so via a variety of languages known as protocols.

What is The Web (World Wide Web)?

The World Wide Web, or simply Web, is a way of accessing information over the medium of the Internet. It is an information-sharing model that is built on top of the Internet. The Web uses the HTTP protocol, only one of the languages spoken over the Internet, to transmit data. Web services, which use HTTP to allow applications to communicate in order to exchange business logic, use the Web to share information. The Web also utilizes browsers, such as Internet Explorer or Firefox, to access Web documents called Web pages that are linked to each other via hyperlinks. Web documents also contain graphics, sounds, text and video.

The Web is just one of the ways that information can be disseminated over the Internet. The Internet, not the Web, is also used for e-mail, which relies on SMTP, Usenet news groups, instant messaging and FTP. So the Web is just a portion of the Internet, albeit a large portion, but the two terms are not synonymous and should not be confused.

The Difference Between FTP and HTTP

File Transfer Protocol, or FTP, is a protocol used to upload files from a workstation to a FTP server or download files from a FTP server to a workstation. It is the way that files get transferred from one device to another in order for the files to be available on the Internet. When ftp appears in a URL it means that the user is connecting to a file server and not a Web server and that some form of file transfer is going to take place. Most FTP servers require the user to log on to the server in order to transfer files.

FTP is most commonly used to download a file from a server using the Internet or to upload a file to a server (e.g., uploading a Web page file to a server).

In contrast, Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, or HTTP, is a protocol used to transfer files from a Web server onto a browser in order to view a web page that is on the Internet. Unlike FTP, where entire files are transferred from one device to another and copied into memory, HTTP only transfers the contents of a web page into a browser for viewing. FTP is a two-way system as files are transferred back and forth between server and workstation. HTTP is a one-way system as files are transported only from the server onto the workstation’s browser. When http appears in a URL it means that the user is connecting to a Web server and not a file server. The files are transferred but not downloaded, therefore not copied into the memory of the receiving device.

URLs – Abbreviation of Uniform Resource Locator, the global address of documents and other resources on the World Wide Web.

The first part of the address is called a protocol identifier and it indicates what protocol to use (ie. http://), and the second part is called a resource name and it specifies the IP address or the domain name where the resource is located. The protocol identifier and the resource name are separated by a colon and two forward slashes.

For example, the two URLs below point to two different files at the domain The first specifies an executable file that should be fetched using the FTP protocol; the second specifies a Web page that should be fetched using the HTTP protocol:

Web Pages – A document on the World Wide Web. Every Web page is identified by a unique URL (Uniform Resource Locator).

IP Addresses – (Internet Protocol address) The address of a device attached to an IP network (TCP/IP network). Every client, server and network device is assigned an IP address, and every IP packet traversing an IP network contains a source IP address and a destination IP address.

Every IP address that is exposed to the public Internet is unique. In contrast, IP addresses within a local network use the same private addresses; thus, a user’s computer in company A can have the same address as a user in company B and thousands of other companies. However, private IP addresses are not reachable from the outside world.

Domain names – A name that identifies one or more IP addresses. For example, the domain name represents about a dozen IP addresses. Domain names are used in URLs to identify particular Web pages. For example, in the URL html, the domain name is

Every domain name has a suffix that indicates which top level domain (TLD) it belongs to. There are only a limited number of such domains. For example:
Because the Internet is based on IP addresses, not domain names, every Web server requires a Domain Name System (DNS) server to translate domain names into IP addresses.

Top level domains – TLD, short for top-level domain, refers to the suffix attached to Internet domain names. There are a limited number of predefined suffixes, and each one represent a top-level domain. Current top-level domains include:
• com – commercial businesses; this is the most common TLD
• gov – U.S. government agencies
• edu – Educational institutions such as universities
• org – Organizations (mostly nonprofit)
• mil – Military
• net – Network organizations
• ca – Canada
• th – Thailand

Web server – A computer that delivers (serves up) Web pages. Every Web server has an IP address and possibly a domain name. For example, if you enter the URL in your browser, this sends a request to the server whose domain name is The server then fetches the page named index.html and sends it to your browser.

Any computer can be turned into a Web server by installing server software and connecting the machine to the Internet. There are many Web server software applications, including public domain software from NCSA and Apache, and commercial packages from Microsoft, Netscape and others.

Domain name system DNS – (Domain Name System) A system for converting host names and domain names into IP addresses on the Internet or on local networks that use the TCP/IP protocol. For example, when a Web site address is given to the DNS either by typing a URL in a browser or behind the scenes from one application to another, DNS servers return the IP address of the server associated with that name.

In this hypothetical example, would be converted into the IP address Without DNS, you would have to type the four numbers and dots into your browser to retrieve the Web site, which, of course, you can do. Try finding the IP of a favorite Web site and type in the dotted number instead of the domain name!

Whew! I sure hope I covered everything and you didn’t fall asleep:)

If you do want to learn more about this stuff, I’ve used the following sources: