Age 8–16: Let’s get talking about how the Internet works! (Part One)


The Internet seems magical. And it is, really! Do you notice how quickly we can run out of things to do with our computers or smartphones when disconnected from the Internet, that is when we are offline? The feeling of boredom is akin to how quiet everything goes when we are without electricity supply — Nigerians will know this. This is especially true in the case of smartphones. In fact, we can say, our gadgets only come truly alive with the Internet.

According to Zikoko.com, this is how we to tend see our smartphones when disconnected from the Internet. Hilarious!

When our devices are connected to the Internet, that is when we are online, we are able to use the Internet resources including the world wide web, email, chat services and file transfer. These services available through the Internet not only enable us carry out tasks more effectively, helping us be more efficient and productive in school, at work, and at home, but they also offer numerous forms of entertainment, help us keep in touch with friends and family, and meet new people around the world.

The world wide web, is like the library of the Internet through which we can access the wealth of information from anywhere in the world. Just like books are to the library, websites are to the world wide web. Through websites, we are able to create, contribute to and share information with others. Information on the world wide web include, articles, blog posts, news reports, online courses, videos, social media (popular platforms include Facebook, Twitter, Weibo) e.t.c. The world wide web also enables e-commerce, allowing us buy, sell and pay for goods and services online. Konga, the5Kshop, and Jumia are examples of popular e-commerce websites in Nigeria.

Now, because of the popularity of world wide web, it is in fact lumped together with other Internet services like email, instant messaging, and file transfer, and they together as a whole, simply referred to as the Internet. Even though other Internet services can also be accessed through websites, GMail, Yahoo mail for example are popular web based email platforms, WhatsApp desktop, the website version of Whatsapp chat application allows us chat through our browsers, and file transfer websites like Dropbox allow us send and receive large documents and files, all these services are quite different from one another especially because at the very base, they are governed by different protocols. Protocols are rules or standard methods used at each end of a communication channel, in order to properly transmit information. In other words, websites, emails, chats and files are all transmitted over the Internet using specific rules — all of which differ one to another.

The protocol for the world wide web is called HTTP, meaning Hyper Text Markup Language which lays out the rules and framework for creating and accessing websites. If you haven’t noticed yet, website addresses usually appear as http://nameofwebsite on your phone or computer browser. Some websites have https, meaning it obeys rules that guarantee high security for your data — ‘s’ is for security. The protocol for file transfer over the Internet is called FTP, simply meaning, did you guess right… File Transfer Protocol. Email protocols include SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol), POP3 (Post Office Protocol, version 3) and IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol). Chat services have more than a dozen protocols depending on the company that launched the service. However, most commonly used ones include, SIP(Session Initiation Protocol), and XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol) among others.

Think of the Internet as a super duper interconnection of highways through which digital information travels from one end to another from different places around the world.

So, we see that the Internet is essentially the communication channel — a huge network of pathways through which digital information travels across the world. In fact, we can liken the Internet to physical road highways, while each Internet service (world wide web, email, chat and file transfer) are like cars, bicycles, lorries and people which ply the highway — which must all obey certain rules to ensure safe and orderly movement from one point to another.

Now, that we have the basis of what the Internet is and what main services make up the Internet, my thoughts are that you are probably exceedingly curious to know how exactly the Internet works. Some of you have probably been as curious and perhaps taken some lessons or done some research and know a little or even quite a lot about how the Internet works. Bravo! Whether you are a novice or informed about concepts like computer networking and networking technologies, the introduction to networking online video tutorial by Dhack Institute (http://dhack-institute.teachable.com/courses/introduction-to-networking), is a fun learning resource to get acquainted with the background workings of the Internet.

If you have considerably restricted access to the Internet and cannot follow the tutorials, don’t worry you can keep a date with us as we progress in this series with summaries of each the video lessons.

Written by Jolaade.

© alljoineducation, 2016