How Does the Net Work?

From your house...

We all know the internet connects everyone across the world. It seems impossible for anything to travel from one point to another as quickly as information over the net. So how does it happen? Well, let's start with your computer. Let's say you log on and try to go to a site. The first thing that happens, is your computer translates the information and prepares it to send out the information, whether it be wirelessly or wired. It prepares a 'log' of all the information and splits it up into small groups called 'packets.' These packets are then sent along the network to your Internet Provider.

...To your Internet Provider...

Once your information leaves your PC, it has only one destination - to the Internet Provider. There's only one connection between you and the internet, and it's them. All the information sent out from your PC goes through this line and to the Internet Provider, or the ISP. What happens inside the ISP, though? Inside the ISP, there are multiple connections - to other customers, other ISPs, etc. Your information is then sent down these lines once they decide the best route - the equipment ISPs use are always connected to each other, sending updates as to whether the various routes are working, much as radio stations tell us if a road is blocked. They are then sent down the best path to their destination.

... To the destination.

Once your information makes it to the destination, it's done, right? Wrong. This is the step when it's packaged back together into the full piece that was sent. This is also when the error-checking occurs - say a packet didn't arrive at it's destination, or was corrupted. This is when the machine sends back data verifying the packets reached the destination. If no verification is received, it is sent again.

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