This essay seeks to distinguish between the internet and the World Wide Web, and also highlight why the two have earned the label of being technologies of the twenty-first century. The twenty-first century has witnessed fast growth in information and communication technologies which have made it easier and faster to communicate with people from all over the world in real-time. Since the turn of the century communication devices which were already there have been transformed in a manner which has vastly improved their capabilities both in terms of the tasks which they can perform and the speed with which they perform them. The internet and the World Wide Web have been the vehicles which have been used to deliver this massive transformation in information and communication technologies. The terms internet and World Wide Web have however, wrongly been considered to be interchangeable in many quarters but the two have significant differences.

Ashton (2009) defines the internet as being a huge network of networks or a networking infrastructure which connects numerous different networks. Globally, the internet connects millions of computers together thus providing a gateway through which computers can participate in two-way communication as long as both of them are connected to the internet (Castells, 2002). The information which is transmitted over the internet is relayed through the use of various languages which are called protocols. The communication gadgets which we use on a day to day basis for examples cell phones achieve connectivity through a network which is also considered to be part of the internet. Norris (2001) contribute that the internet constitutes of numerous separate networks which have different functionality which are added together to form one massive network. One of the greatest things about the Internet is that nobody really owns it. However, just because nobody owns the Internet, it doesn’t mean it is not monitored and maintained in different ways. The Internet Society, a non-profit group established in 1992, oversees the formation of the policies and protocols that define how we use and interact with the Internet (Ashton, 2009).

Albert, Jeong and Barabási (1999) explain that the World Wide Web is a portion of the internet though some people have the misconception that it is actually the internet. The internet consists of much more than just the World Wide Web. For most individuals their awareness of the interaction with the internet only comes when they use the World Wide Web although they are hitherto actually connecting to the internet in other ways which they do not recognise. The World Wide Web is just one of the ways that information can be disseminated over the Internet. The Internet, not the World Wide Web Web, is also used for email, which relies on SMTP, Usenet news groups, instant messaging and FTP (Berners-Lee et al., 2010). So the World Wide Web is just a portion of the Internet, albeit a large portion, but the two terms are not synonymous and should not be confused. Owston (1997) the correct perception of the World Wide Web is that of “a way of accessing information over the medium of the Internet.” Ashton (2009) describes that the internet a model for information sharing which is built on the top of internet. The definitions of the World Wide Web therefore show that the World Wide Web is actually a subset of the internet and needs the internet for it to be in existence.

The first technical difference between the internet and the World Wide Web is that while the World Wide Web requires browsers such as Firefox or internet explorer to access web documents which are called web pages that are connected through hyperlinks, the internet does not need browsers and is in fact the structure of www is based (Castells, 2002). Ashton (2009) also points out that while noone is credited with creating the internet, the World Wide Web was created in 1992 by Tim Berners Lee. Albert, Jeong and Barabási (1999) distinguishes between the two on the basis that the internet provides the structure whilst the World Wide Web provides the dynamic networks through the application of various methodologies and protocols. The World Wide Web is essentially the system which we use to access the Internet. Another way to think about it is to say the Internet is composed of the machines, hardware and data; and the World Wide Web is what brings this technology to life (Berners-Lee et al., 2010). The World Wide Web can also be viewed as a service or an application of the Internet. Table 1 gives a summary of the main distinguishing features of the Internet and the World Wide Web.



Table 1: Differences between Internet and World Wide Web

Internet World Wide Web
Internet is a network of networks or a networking infrastructure World Wide Web is a way of accessing information through the medium of the internet
A global network through which any computer can communicate with another which is also connected to the internet It is an information sharing model that is built on top of the internet
Information is transmitted through various languages called protocols The World Wide Web uses one particular protocol which is hypertext protocol
It does not use browsers but is the structure on which the World Wide Web is based Web based documents called web pages are accessed through special software called browsers
No creator Created by Tim Berners Lee
Internet provides structure Employs various methods and protocols to provide dynamic networks

Source: Lederer et al. (2000)

The internet and the World Wide Web can be considered to be technologies of the 21st century due to the fact that most of the technological developments are based on these technologies. The technological changes which have come as a result of the internet and the World Wide Web have resulted in a significant shift in the manner in which we conduct day to day tasks, and with that changes in the way education is structured and delivered have also become necessary (Litan and Rivlin, 2001). It is now difficult to imagine someone without some of contact with the internet and the World Wide Web.

Businesses have broken new frontiers and nowadays it has become possible to run a business without actually having a physical location but just existing on the World Wide Web. World Wide Web based companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google have become some of the largest corporations in the world due to increased public access to the World Wide Web in the 21st century. More and more online businesses are being introduced as a way of tapping into the communication channel which is the World Wide Web. Even traditional businesses have also increasingly come to realise that they have a lot to benefit if they have a presence on the World Wide Web as this gives them easier access to market their products and communicate with their customers.

The World Wide Web has also drastically changed the way in which politicians communicate with the electorate (Kalathil and Boas, 2010). Recently the United States of America inaugurated president Donald Trump who has a high propensity to communicate using social media mainly Twitter. His communications on Twitter enabled him to reach a wider audience during his campaign and to date he has more than twenty-six million followers. The American president continues to use this medium to communicate on issues of policy during the course of his presidency meaning that the World Wide Web has transformed the way national policies are communicated in the 21st century. This development has also been very visible in Zimbabwe with cabinet ministers and members of parliament increasingly using Twitter to communicate. In the political arena the World Wide Web has also influenced the way of mobilising members of the public. Zimbabwe has seen powerful protests which were mobilised using social media through “Tajamuka”, “This Flag” and other hash tags.

The World Wide Web has also been the basis of the creation of online classes, transforming the way education is delivered throughout the world. This has essentially enabled students to study with institutions far away across the world. In a way this technology has broken down barriers and drastically reduced the cost of acquiring a decent education for people in developing countries. Gone are the days when someone had to actually travel to the world’s best universities in order to access that quality of education, as this can now be done through the World Wide Web.

The World Wide Web and the internet has also revolutionised the way people communicate and the cost of communication in the 21st century. It used to be very costly to communicate with people in other countries over the phone but the World Wide Web has made it possible to communicate for free over WIFI through platforms such as Skype, Whatsapp and Viber which have been developed since the turn of the century (Singhal, 2013). Indeed , it has also become possible for video calls to be made through the medium of the World Wide Web. These technologies were initially available to a limited extent on desktops, but in the 21st century they have now now become widely available on portable devices such as phones, tablets and wristwatches.

The World Wide Web has driven the development of communication devices in the 21st century. The development of new devices is now largely driven by the need to be compatible with new technologies which are based on the World Wide Web. For instance nowadays it is unthinkable for most people nowadays to have a phone which is not capable of connecting to the World Wide Web or to run web-based applications such as Whatsapp and Skype.

In today’s do-more-with-less business environment, with increasing demands from customers, shareholders, and regulators, the information and technology function in the organization is not only asked to work harder and smarter, but is being asked to take on the role of assuring the business. Humanity has progressed from agricultural revolution to the industrial revolution and is now in an information revolution which gathered pace in the 21st century. The awesome computing power which is available at continuously falling prices and the computers being networked over the Internet and World Wide Web is leading to the use of information technology in every sector of human activity be it communication, banking, trading, learning and teaching, entertainment, socializing, government, management and librarying (Aronson, 2005). Just as machines have extended man’s mechanical power and his convenience and comfort, information technology as commonly picturised by computers and the World Wide Web, is extending man’s mind or brain or intellectual power.

Technology is an enabler for more effectively managing the business, and can be used to solve problems if it is tied directly to business and governance objectives. There has been significant transformation which is brought by the World Wide Web in underdeveloped areas where access to even the smallest bits of knowledge can have far-reaching, long term effects. The implementation of information and communication technology through the World Wide Web influences the values of a society by changing expectations and realities. Technology, throughout history, has allowed people to complete more tasks in less time and with less energy.  The World Wide Web and the Internet are no exceptions and they have contributed vastly to the automation of many tasks and resulted in greater efficiency.

The main distinguishing characteristics between the Internet and the World Wide Web has been established as being that the Internet consists of many networks of which the World Wide Web is one such network. These technologies have made significant impact in the 21st century, changing the way people communicate and do business, stimulating new methods which are based on them. Finally, it is quite clear that most of the technological developments which have come in the 21st century have been built around efforts to harness the power of the Internet and World Wide Web.


Albert, R., Jeong, H. and Barabási, A.L. (1999) ‘Internet: Diameter of the world-wide web’, Nature, vol. 401, no. 6749, pp. 130-131.

Aronson, J.D. (2005) ‘Causes and Consequences of the Communications and Internet Revolution ‘, in The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations, 3rd edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ashton, K. (2009) ‘That ‘internet of things’ thing’, RFiD Journal, vol. 22, no. 7, pp. 97-114.

Berners-Lee, T., Cailliau, R., Groff, J.F. and Pollermann, B. (2010) ‘World-wide web: The information universe’, Internet Research, vol. 20, no. 4, pp. 461-471.

Castells, M. (2002) The Internet galaxy: Reflections on the Internet, business, and society, Oxford: Oxford University Press on Demand.

Kalathil, S. and Boas, T.C. (2010) Open networks, closed regimes: The impact of the Internet on authoritarian rule, New York: Carnegie Endowment.

Lederer, A.L., Maupin, D.J., Sena, M.P. and Zhuang, Y. (2000) ‘The technology acceptance model and the World Wide Web’, Decision support systems, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 269-282.

Litan, R.E. and Rivlin, A.M. (2001) ‘Projecting the economic impact of the Internet’, The American Economic Review, vol. 91, no. 2, pp. 313-317.

Norris, P. (2001) Digital divide: Civic engagement, information poverty, and the Internet worldwide, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Owston, R.D. (1997) ‘Research news and Comment: The World Wide Web: A Technology to Enhance Teaching and Learning?’, Educational researcher, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 27-33.

Singhal, A. (2013) Indias Communication Revolution: From Bullock Carts to Cyber Marts., [Online], Available: [10 March 2017].



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