The Difference Between the Internet and the World Wide Web

It seems that most people, even intelligent and well-informed people, are confused about the difference between the Internet and the Web. No one has expressed this misunderstanding more clearly than Tom Wolfe in Hooking Up:

I hate to be the one who brings this news to the tribe, to the magic Digikingdom, but the simple truth is that the Web, the Internet, does one thing. It speeds up the retrieval and dissemination of information, partially eliminating such chores as going outdoors to the mailbox or the adult bookstore, or having to pick up the phone to get hold of your stock broker or some buddies to shoot the breeze with. That one thing the Internet does and only that. The rest is Digibabble.

This confusion between the network and the services that it first enabled is a natural mistake. Most early customers of electricity believed that they were buying electric lighting. That first application was so compelling that it blinded them to the bigger picture of what was possible. A few dreamers speculated that electricity would change the world, but one can imagine a nineteenth-century curmudgeon attempting to dampen their enthusiasm: "Electricity is a convenient means to light a room. That one thing the electricity does and only that. The rest is Electrobabble."


Hillis notes that people equate the www with the internet, failing to realize they are actually very different things, with www being just one thing out of many running on the internet. He compares it to people equating electricity with electric lights, and failing to realize all the other applications the invention makes possible.

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World Wide Web (0.954091): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Internet (0.759668): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Lighting (0.734468): website | dbpedia | freebase
Hypertext (0.642709): dbpedia | freebase
MySpace (0.596965): dbpedia | yago | crunchbase
Hyperlink (0.590885): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 The Dawn of the Entanglement
Electronic/World Wide Web>Internet Article:  Hillis, W. Daniel (Jan 2010), The Dawn of the Entanglement, Edge, Retrieved on 2010-10-01
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