How the Internet works

Yes we are all used to seeing pages appear in front of our eyes in a flash (or two) at the press of a button, or at the type of a URL. Many of us also know that these flashy pages have got something to do with HTML or CSS or JavaScript or something like that. Sure, but these are part of programming how the browser will render the page (how the site will look). But how does this page reach your computer in the first place? Where does it come from? What happens when you type in a URL in the address bar? How does the browser know where to get the page from? What exactly happens? What in the world is the internet?

For once it was not Wikipedia that answered me (it was too technical for somebody who has only a small clue), but good old HowStuffWorks.com. They didn’t have an article that was titled How the Internet works but they did have How Internet Infrastructure Works and How Web Servers Work, the latter being more precise and informative.

http://computer.howstuffworks.com/web-server2.htm

  • The browser broke the URL into three parts:
    1. The protocol (“http”)
    2. The server name (“www.howstuffworks.com”)
    3. The file name (“web-server.htm”)
  • The browser communicated with a name server to translate the server name “www.howstuffworks.com” into an IP Address, which it uses to connect to the server machine.
  • The browser then formed a connection to the server at that IP address on port 80 (Ports are discussed later in the article).
  • Following the HTTP protocol, the browser sent a GET request to the server, asking for the file “http://www.howstuffworks.com/web-server.htm” (Protocols are also discussed later).
  • The server then sent the HTML text for the Web page to the browser.
  • The browser read the HTML tags and formatted the page onto your screen.

The article describes each of the steps in lay-man detail, so you would understand it without having any prior idea. Do check it out.

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4 Responses to “How the Internet works”


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