The Internet is a world-wide network of computer networks that use a common communications protocol, TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol). TCP/IP provides a common language for interoperation between networks that use a variety of local protocols (Netware, AppleTalk, DECnet and others).
In the late sixties, the Advanced Research Projects Administration (ARPA), a division of the U.S. Defense Department, developed the ARPAnet to link together universities and high-tech defense contractors. The TCP/IP technology was developed to provide a standard protocol for ARPAnet communications. In the mid-eighties the NSF created the NSFNET in order to provide connectivity to its supercomputer centers, and to provide other general services. The NSFNET adopted the TCP/IP protocol and provided a high-speed backbone for the developing Internet.
From 1985 to April 1994, the Internet has grown from about 200 networks to well over 30,000 and from 1,000 hosts (end-user computers) to over two million. About 640,000 of these hosts are at educational sites, 520,000 are commercial sites, and about 220,000 are government/military sites, while most of the other 700,000 hosts are elsewhere in the world. NSFNET traffic has grown from 85 million packets in January 1988 to 56 billion packets in March 1994. (A packet is about 200 bytes, and a byte corresponds to one ASCII character.) This is more than a six hundred-fold increase in only six years. The traffic on the network is currently increasing at a rate of 6%a month.Current NSFNET statistics are available by anonymous ftp from nic.merit.edu. All statistics we report are current as of March 1994 unless otherwise indicated.
Probably the most frequent use is e-mail. After that are file transfer (moving data from one computer to another) and remote login (logging into a computer that is running somewhere else on the Internet). In terms of traffic, about 37%of total traffic is file transfer, 16%is e-mail and netnews, and 7%is from the information retrieval programs gopher and World Wide Web. People can search databases (including the catalogs of the Library of Congress and scores of university research libraries), download data and software, and ask (or answer) questions in discussion groups on numerous topics (including economics research). See [Goffe1994] for a catalog of network resources of interest to economists.
Michigan FAQs on the Internet
Economics of the Internet
The growth rate for use of the WWW is about 200,000% a year.
Frightening statistics on the growth of the Web.