The rapid development of technology has transformed the way we live in the last few decades, but none has been quite as far reaching and dramatic as the internet. 

Communications and the way we share information shifted when the internet reached the mainstream, but what exactly is it? 

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What is the internet? 

The internet is what you used to access this very page. It is the name used to define the system used for computer networks to connect with each other. 

This page – and billions of others that can be found at the click of a button – is stored on a computer somewhere in the world. But the internet makes the exact location of that computer irrelevant, as it allowed the PC, tablet or phone which you’re using to communicate, almost transparently, with another machine hosting the web page. 

When was the internet invented? 

The internet first came about in the 1960s when the United States federal government was looking to develop a new, robust way for computers to transfer information between each other. 

By the 1980s, an early version of the internet known as ARPANET was developed for interconnecting regional academic and military networks. Eventually more networks joined the network, with commercial networks and enterprises hooking up to the system in the early 1990s. 

From the mid-1980s, the internet was widely used in universities and colleges; corporations began to use email widely in the early 1990s, and with the arrival of subscription-based service providers like CompuServe and AOL, low-cost dial up access and the user-friendly World Wide Web, usage in the home grew rapidly. 

Of course, at the beginning we were confined to slow dial-up connections to access the internet meaning we could only get onto basic websites with plain text and very few images. Now, thanks to the growth of broadband, the internet allows us to watch full-length movies, download computer games and back up hard drives full of data while still allowing us to check and send our emails and browse the web.

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Who runs the internet? 

There is actually no single organisation that looks after the governance of the internet. The government of every country can decide how its citizens access the internet and in some cases what they can access. In China, for example, the internet is heavily monitored and many web pages and social networks are censored by the government. 

However, there are some organisations that look after certain internet protocols that make the experience the same worldwide, such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which effectively determines how web addresses are managed.