Feature

What you (still) don't know about the internet

The internet is radically changing human civilization, says John Naughton in Britain's Observer. But most people don't even understand the basics

"The internet has quietly infiltrated our lives," says John Naughton in Britain's Observer, "and yet we seem to be remarkably unreflective about it." Much of what the media tells us is negative: the web is riddled with predators threatening our kids; it's causing an "epidemic of plagiarism;" Google makes us stupid. Sounds scary. But that sort of coverage tends to obscure the essence of this technological revolution. These nine "big ideas," will help you see through the fog:

"The most common — and still surprisingly widespread — misconception is that the internet and the web are the same thing. They're not.... Think of the internet as the tracks and signaling, the infrastructure on which everything runs....

On the internet, web pages are only one of the many kinds of traffic that run on its virtual tracks. Other types of traffic include music files being exchanged via peer-to-peer networking, or from the iTunes store; ... software updates; email; instant messages...; and other stuff too arcane to mention.

And (here's the important bit) there will undoubtedly be other kinds of traffic, stuff we can't possibly have dreamed of yet, running on the internet in 10 years' time....

The net is much bigger and far more important than anything that travels on it.

Understand this simple distinction and you're halfway to wisdom."

Read the full article in The Observer.

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