What is the Internet Exactly?

By Allison Boccamazzo November 28, 2012

When you think about it, the Internet has a relatively short yet complex history. Over the years since its revolutionary introduction, the Internet has permeated almost every facet of our being, so much so that it stands as a shining symbol of today’s modern existentialism. Over 50 percent of consumer IP traffic is driven by video, and today, more than 30 percent of U.S. adults own a tablet of some sort – an increase from less than five percent since 2009. It’s now quite normal for you to even see a toddler handling a tablet with impressive ease.

But where does the Internet come from? It is internally complex and delicate, and the entire point is to boast a simple appearance, but you simply can’t find its physical origins behind a mobile or computer screen. Due to this, some are left wondering what exactly is found beneath the deep confines of those sleek, thin walls of your gadget of choice. One individual, Andrew Blum, journalist and author of TUBES: A Journey to the Center of the Internet, wanted to know quite literally what the Internet consisted of, and he provided his findings as a keynote speaker at today’s Telx Marketplace Live event in New York City.

Image via Shutterstock

The question is: How can we know who we are when we don’t even know the technology we’re attached to? In a time when we rely on the Internet for everything, from dating to shopping to entertainment,  Blum presents a way to better wrap our minds around the idea of what the Internet physically is, what it really amounts to and how one network literally connects to the other.

Is the Internet really just a set of tubes, or is there more to this equation? Consider Microsoft, where among its impressive 90,000 employees, only a few actually work on how the company’s network connects to others. This suggests that a certain level of intimacy is required to make everything optimally function.

Blum further points to what are arguably the two largest data centers today: Google and Facebook. What Blum was able to see is that each ultimately represented the physical reality of the Internet; where all of your “likes” are registered, baby photos are posted and every day searches are stored. Blum explains that while Facebook is “monumentalizing the data center,” Google’s Dalles, Oregon-based data center, which opened back in 2006, is oftentimes considered one of the biggest secrets in the data industry.

So when stripped down to its raw, physical core, what does a data center really look like? After breaking through the barrier to find this physical reality by visiting each firsthand, Blum puts it quite simply: Yes, it really is just a series of tubes, but a critically important one that requires a lot of close, dedicated work.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

TechZone360 Web Editor

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