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A photo of Sir Tim Berners Lee in front of a computer showing the first version of the web the photo is clearly from the 90s based on the size of the computer and Sir Tim's age!
Simon Bullmore18/3/2024 15:11 AM2 min read

Know the difference: The Web and The Internet

Last week marked the 35th anniversary of the World Wide Web. A largely unheralded birthday for an ingenious idea, generously granted to the world for free by its inventor, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Most of us use websites everyday - you may be reading this now on your web browser using the information transfer protocols (HTTP) and page creation language (HTML), that Sir Tim invented.

But do you know the differences between the World Wide Web and the Internet? Could you explain those difference, given that the terms are used interchangeably. Search the internet/search the web. Same difference, surely? They're both ways of finding data and information we want.

Well, not so much.
The differences between the Internet and the Web are as important as the differences between roads and cars. Those differences are particularly important in the AI age.

The Internet (credited to the first internet developer, Vint Cerf) is a massive network of computers and other electronic devices connected together, using protocols ( the internet protocol suite otherwise known as TCP/IP) that allow them to find and communicate with each other. Think of it as the infrastructure or the "roads" that allow digital information to travel.

The World Wide Web, or simply the web, is a way of accessing information over the Internet. It uses websites and web browsers, and you can think of it as the "cars" that travel on the Internet's "roads." The web is just one part of the Internet, which also includes email, instant messaging, and much more.

In the Age of AI it's important for all of us to understand these differences, I think.

AI systems have been built using web content and are delivered via the internet. Keep that in mind to help you:

  • Navigate digital spaces efficiently: Knowing what the Web is and how it's different from the broader Internet can help you use online tools more effectively, whether for research, communication, or using cloud-based AI services.
  • Improve your security awareness: Understanding how data travels and is accessed on the Internet, can help you better understand security risks and how to protect sensitive data and information.
  • Use tech better: By understanding the structure of the Internet and how the Web works, you can better use and even create digital content. You can use AI services more knowingly and adapt to new technologies that might emerge on the Internet.
  • Employ informed decision-making: With AI and other technologies evolving rapidly, having a clear understanding of the digital environment they use will enable you to make informed decisions about using these technologies in your personal and professional life.
  • Improve problem-solving: When issues arise while using the Internet or web-based services, knowing the basics of how they work can help you troubleshoot problems more efficiently.

Using any tool comes with benefits and downsides. Knowing the what and why of the Web, the Internet, and  AI (the tech that relies on them both), will allow you to be a more skillful and informed user.

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Simon Bullmore

Simon helps our clients develop effective growth strategies and data literacy programmes. With a background in business psychology, Simon has worked in data, business development and training for over 17 years. This includes leading the learning programme at the Tim Berners-Lee founded Open Data Institute, and the launch of Harvard Business School's first European office.