What is the Internet, Anyway?
RFC 1935

Document Type RFC - Informational (April 1996; No errata)
Last updated 2013-03-02
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Network Working Group                                      J. Quarterman
Request For Comments: 1935                               S. Carl-Mitchell
Category: Informational                                               TIC
                                                               April 1996

                     What is the Internet, Anyway?

Status of This Memo

   This memo provides information for the Internet community.  This memo
   does not specify an Internet standard of any kind.  Distribution of
   this memo is unlimited.

Copyright (c) 1994  TIC

        From Matrix News, 4(8), August 1994
        Permission is hereby granted for redistribution of this article
        provided that it is redistributed in its entirety, including
        the copyright notice and this notice.
        Contact: mids@tic.com, +1-512-451-7602, fax: +1-512-452-0127.
        http://www.tic.com/mids, gopher://gopher.tic.com/11/matrix/news
        A shorter version of this article appeared in MicroTimes.

Introduction

   We often mention the Internet, and in the press you read about the
   Internet as the prototype of the Information Highway; as a research
   tool; as open for business; as not ready for prime time; as a place
   your children might communicate with (pick one) a. strangers, b.
   teachers, c. pornographers, d. other children, e. their parents; as
   bigger than Poland; as smaller than Chicago; as a place to surf; as
   the biggest hype since Woodstock; as a competitive business tool; as
   the newest thing since sliced bread.

   A recent New York Times article quoting one of us as to the current
   size of the Internet has particularly stirred up quite a ruckus.  The
   exact figures attributed to John in the article are not the ones we
   recommended for such use, but the main point of contention is whether
   the Internet is, as the gist of the article said, smaller than many
   other estimates have said.  Clearly lots of people really want to
   believe that the Internet is very large.  Succeeding discussion has
   shown that some want to believe that so much that they want to count
   computers and people that are probably *going to be* connected some
   time in the future, even if they are not actually connected now.  We
   prefer to talk about who is actually on the Internet and on other
   networks now.  We'll get back to the sizes of the various networks
   later, but for now let's discuss a more basic issue that is at the

Quarterman & Carl-Mitchell   Informational                      [Page 1]
RFC 1935             What is the Internet, Anyway?            April 1996

   heart of much confusion and contention about sizes: what is the
   Internet, anyway?

Starting at the Center

   For real confusion, start trying to get agreement on what is part of
   the Internet:  NSFNET?  CIX?  Your company's internal network?
   Prodigy?  FidoNet?  The mainframe in accounting?  Some people would
   include all of the above, and perhaps even consider excluding
   anything politically incorrect.  Others have cast doubts on each of
   the above.

   Let's start some place almost everyone would agree is on the
   Internet.  Take RIPE, for example.  The acronym stands for European
   IP Networks.  RIPE is a coordinating group for IP networking in
   Europe.  (IP is the Internet protocol, which is the basis of the
   Internet.  IP has a suite of associated protocols, including the
   Transmission Control Protocol, or TCP, and the name IP, or sometimes
   TCP/IP, is often used to refer to the whole protocol suite.) RIPE's
   computers are physically located in Amsterdam.  The important feature
   of RIPE for our purposes is that you can reach RIPE (usually by using
   its domain, ripe.net) from just about anywhere anyone would agree is
   on the Internet.

   Reach it with what?  Well, just about any service anyone would agree
   is related to the Internet.  RIPE has a WWW (World Wide Web) server,
   a Gopher server, and an anonymous FTP server.  So they provide
   documents and other resources by hypertext, menu browsing, and file
   retrieval.  Their personnel use client programs such as Mosaic and
   Lynx to access other people's servers, too, so RIPE is a both
   distributor and a consumer of resources via WWW, Gopher, and FTP.
   They support TELNET interfaces to some of their services, and of
   course they can TELNET out and log in remotely anywhere they have
   personal login accounts or someone else has an anonymous TELNET
   service such a library catalog available.  They also have electronic
   mail, they run some mailing lists, and some of their people read and
   post news articles to USENET newsgroups.

   WWW, Gopher, FTP, TELNET, mail, lists, and news:  that's a pretty
   characteristic set of major Internet services.  There are many more
   obscure Internet services, but it's pretty safe to say that an
   organization like RIPE that is reachable with all these services is
   on the Internet.
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