The Internet is the Information Superhighway; It has become a cliche to say so. However, before embarking on a drive around the World Wide Web, it is important to understand how the roads themselves work (and to understand who pays road tax).
The Internet is undergoing a stormy adolescence as it moves from being a playground for academics into being a commercial service. With more than 50 % of the network commercially provided, and more than 50 % of the subscribers being businesses, the Internet is now a very different place from what it was in the 1980s. Growth has occurred most sharply in Europe, and in the commercial sector in the last two years.
This has led to a critical problem in dealing with change. And change must be dealt with. Along with routing and addressing, there is also a crisis in security (or lack of it) and in accountability. These factors have led to the most interesting debate in the history of communications, as political, economic and technical concerns become inextricably intertwined.
There are two aspects of the technology: The first is host software (applications and support). These form what one might call the "Information Services". The second is network support. This is the access and transfer technology used to move the information around.
First, a brief history of the Internet will give some clues as to its success, and will give some context to understanding how WWW works and fits together with the rest of the Information Highstreet.