It may seem esoteric to some, but I never cease to be amazed at the
power words can hold over us. One phrase I hear frequently on
travels through Africa and through America is, "I want to get
Internet." I do believe they intend a capital "I". Often the same
person will say, "Will you help me get Internet, or are you only
going to help me get email?"
When people say this, what do they mean? Do they really need what
they want? If they knew more about what they purport to want, would
they still need it?
Here's a new (to me) definition of the Internet:
"The Internet, with a capital "I," is the world's largest internet,
which is defined as any set of networks interconnected with a router
-- a hardware device that acts as a gateway between networks."
My impression is that the definition applies to "internet". Then the
Internet is one example of an internet.
The definition comes from an article by Clay Hathorn about why the
Web and the Internet are not the same thing. Currently available at
Another is this:
"The Internet is a global networks' system that consist of the
millions of local area networks (LANs) and computers (hosts)."
This definition is by Gregory R. Gromov who writes a history of the
Internet. The history is currently available at
Then there's this:
"1982 -- TCP/IP defines future communication DCA and ARPA establishes
the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP),
as the protocol suite, commonly known as TCP/IP, for ARPANET. Why is
this relevant? Leads to one of the first definitions of an internet
as a connected set of networks, specifically those using TCP/IP, and
Internet as connected TCP/IP internets."
This one is I think by Dave Marsh in his History of the
Internet, a copy of which is available at
And this one:
"The name "Internet" refers to the global seamless interconnection
of networks made possible by the protocols devised in the 1970s
through DARPA-sponsored research -- the Internet protocols, still in
That one's by Vinton Cerf in an article available at
The commonality I see is in the focus on the interconnection of
networks through a commonly agreed communications protocol. I don't
see any mention of the nature of the individual constituent networks
themselves. Presumably these constituents of the Internet can
communicate within their own membership via any protocol they choose,
so long as their data depart from their network for the other
networks of the Internet using the agreed common protocol.
Who then is a "member" of the Internet, or is "on" the Internet?
And what does it mean then to say "I want to get Internet"? How
should we as people who hope to facilitate broader access to the
Internet interpret this request?
BTW, if you browse through some of the references above, you may be
as shocked as me to learn that Al Gore reportedly coined the phrase
"information superhighway" in 1981. Yes, 1981.
Jeff @ Washington
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