Questions About the ‘Net

Susan, a fellow blogger, was searching for the answer to an interesting question:

The things you learn while surfing the Internet. I got interested today about the Internet. I was wondering what the very first website was. I never found out. Bummer.

Susan, here’s the answer from the W3C, the standards organization responsible for developing the web. According to the history of the web, the first web page was located at

Unfortunately, CERN, the world’s largest particle physics lab and birthplace of the web, no longer maintains the page. You can see a newer version of this page here. I regret that I couldn’t find an older version of the page for you.

Susan also asked about packet switching. During the time that packet switching was invented, it was a revolution. During that time, most communications networks were circuit-switched. That means that when you wanted to hook two devices together, you used network equipment that would automatically link segments of wire together until you ended up with a single wire that ran between the two devices. This was very inefficient, because it tied up switching equipment, made it impossible to talk with more than one destination at a time, and had a very low tolerance for malfunctions in the network.

In a packet switched network (which is the technology behind the Internet), a device that wants to communicate with another device first breaks up its message into a lot of small parts, called packets. Then, rather than getting a single connection to the destination, it sends all of the packets to the device that it’s physically connected to.

This device, often called a router, is usually connected to a number of other routers. Each router looks at all the other routers it’s connected to, figures out the most efficient way to send the packet to its destination, then passes the packet on. The equipment receiving the message knows how to reassemble these packets that may arrive out of order or not at all; missing or corrupted packets can be re-requested by the recipient.

Because there’s no single circuit, many messages can travel along the same wire (think cars on a highway). Additionally, if something breaks, its easy to re-route the packets onto a different connection – thus ensuring redundancy. After all, the original goal of the ARPAnet project was to create an information network that was impervious to a nuclear attack.

I hope I answered your questions clearly enough for you to understand, Susan. If anybody’s lost, feel free to ask for clarification ;)