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How The Internet Works

RESOLUTION: The Federal Networking Council (FNC) agrees that the following language reflects our definition of the term 'Internet'. 'Internet' refers to the global information system that --

(i)  is logically linked together by a globally unique address space based on the Internet Protocol (IP) or its subsequent extensions/follow-ons;

(ii)  is able to support communications using the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) suite or its subsequent extensions/follow-ons, and/or other IP-compatible protocols; and

(iii)  provides, uses or makes accessible, either publicly or privately, high level services layered on the communications and related infrastructure described herein.

- Unanimous resolution, Federal Networking Council, October 24, 1995.

How does the Internet work? Each of the Internet application chapters include a section on how it works. This section describes how the underlying Internet itself works.

The Internet workings include a technical design and a management structure. The management structure consists of a generally democratic collection of loosely-coupled organizations and working groups with mostly non-overlapping responsibilities. The technical design is founded on a complex, interlocking set of hierarchical tree-like structures, like Internet Protocol addresses and domain names, mixed with networked structures like packet switching and routing protocols, all tied together with millions of lines of sophisticated software that continues to get better all the time.

So far this combination of management and technical structures has worked well, providing the reliable, powerful communication platform on which the rest of the complexity of the Internet is built. The following sections provide more information.

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