What Are the Main Functions of the Internet?

This is about the main function of the internet.

We use it all the time, but do we know what it’s main purpose is?

So if you want to know why the internet was invented and its intended function, this article is for you.

Let’s get started!

What Are the Main Functions of the Internet? (+ Vital Facts)

The Function of the Internet

Have you ever wondered why the internet exists, what its purpose is, and why it was invented?

Did the guy who came up with the concept think that we would surf the web for silly things and watch funny videos online?

Like many other things we use in life for their intended purposes, we come across information that shows us how wrongly we’ve been using something:

Remember that goo in a cup that we used to play with as kids. This goo is actually used to clean tricky surfaces because dust and other small particles stick to it.

Now, let’s review these four points to have a better understanding of what the internet is and its main functions:

  • Internet: the global network
  • How does the internet work?
  • The intended purpose of the internet
  • The internet of things

After we’re done, you’ll know almost all the basics of the internet.

Internet: The Global Network

The internet connects more devices across the globe than there are people in the world. 

The current number of connected devices is more than 22 billion, and the statistic is growing as the internet of things continues to transform the 21st century.

Close-up of man with his phone and watch, along with people using their phone.

The main function of the internet is to allow connected devices to communicate with no geographical limitations. 

The main function heavily relies on the history of how the internet came to be.

The history of the global network

Communication drives society and progress, and as human civilization evolves, so do communication methods.

The internet finds its earliest roots in packet switching, which is a method that groups data and transmits it through the network. It’s like ordinary delivery services: You pack something, and you send it to an address.

Packet switching works electronically, and it transmits data packets through digital networks. It’s the basis of global network communication, the foundation of what the internet is today.

As the first building block was laid, so came the prototype of the internet. The ARPANET (Advanced Research Project Agency Network) started to develop in the late 1960s to allow communication between multiple computers in one network.

The first-ever communication between two computers happened on October 29, 1969, through the ARPANET prototype. It happened between the Network Measurement Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park.

Slowly but surely, the interest in the network grew. The society of engineers across the nation saw the benefits of such a project. More connections were made across the country, and international interest multiplied as well.

The international collaboration led to the development of protocols (sets of rules for data packet transmission). Later on, the CSNET (Computer Science Network) was developed due to the need for communication in the academic community.

As the academic society started to understand the benefits of networks, the TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol) became standardized. The NSFNet (National Science Foundation Network) expanded across the continents.

The first commercial internet service providers (ISP) started in 1989 in the US. That was the beginning of the internet and the end of the ARPANET.

So, the only thing we need to understand is how it works.

How Does the Internet Work?

The interconnected global network or the internetwork works by following TCP/IP protocols to ensure reliable data transmission worldwide. Simply put, this is the network, the one that connects all others.

Think about your home network. You have a couple of devices connected to it. That is your local network. There are hundreds of thousands of networks worldwide that are public, academic, business, and government networks.

So, what supports all of these networks?

The internet backbone

The backbone of the internet takes a role like none other. It is what keeps the internet running, and it is well-organized too.

The internet backbone is all the paths that data can take between large-scale connected computer networks and core routers. Now, these large interconnected computer networks are strategically connected to provide data pathways.

The data routes are comprised of local area networks (LANs) and subnetworks the network centers host. They are combined with internet exchange points (internet traffic exchange) and network access points to provide internetwork to all the continents and countries in the world.

All these data routes, exchange points, access points, computer networks, and core routers form the backbone of the internet. 

Now, there are 7.9 billion people in the world today. At least one-third of them are using the internet daily. How does it endure? Why doesn’t the internet collapse? 

People using mobile phones in public underground train.

It doesn’t because the endpoints of communication (our devices) are the ones doing the processing. It’s so well-designed. We receive data packets that our devices process into files and displayable media.

That is the beauty of the internet’s resilience: So many devices that support the processing power of billions or trillions in bits of information.

The internet connects them all. Let’s take a look at the mechanic through the eyes of internet users.

The mechanics of the internet

The World Wide Web (WWW) is something that we access daily through the internet. It’s a whole system that identifies different resources by URLs (Uniform Resource Locators).

You can imagine an URL as a magnet, you point it towards a piece of metal, and it pulls it to you. The magnet is the web address that you type into your browser.

As we have TCP/IP protocols that ensure the integrity and reliability of the transferred data packets, we also have HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol). This protocol is an essential part of internet use for us.

These protocols are rules that interconnect the resources on the web, making them easier for us to find and use.

The internet and the World Wide Web are not the same things. The internet can be compared to a plate of steak, while the World Wide Web and the protocols it uses are the knife and fork.

What happens is:

  • You open your browser: the application that grants you access to the World Wide Web.
  • You type in a web address (URL): the words you type get sent to your internet service provider and transformed into an IP address (the unique numeric address for a device in a network).
  • A request is sent: based on the numeric IP address, your browser sends a request to the target server. This is where HTTP comes in. The request is sent through the Hypertext Transfer Protocol.
  • Approval: the server that receives the request for the website to be displayed, and all the data that goes with it, okays the request.
  • File transfer: the server sends data packets to your browser that let you display the website.

That is how browsing works, and this is how the internet works. So, what is the intended purpose of the internet, what is its main function?

The Intended Purpose of the Internet

The main function of the internet is to provide access to data and communication across the globe. That was the intended purpose as well.

Effective communication needs to be established to create and maintain progress. 

The reason for the creation of the internetwork was to connect research and academic societies.

Girl using her laptop at a co-working space.

Ever since the internet was invented, there is a surge in technological development as well. So, the actual main function of the internet is to connect society’s greatest achievements and combine the progress of all the great minds in the world.

It is the connection that makes information available at the tip of your fingers. With a mouse click or a touch, you can access any kind of information that you desire.

Here lies the intended purpose of the internet, the possibility of connecting all data flow and information into one network.

Imagine a researcher working on any project that benefits energy consumption or production in the Netherlands. They also have access to all the information from the researchers in Japan, Turkey, the US, etc. All thanks to the internet.

It’s quite a neat thing, but the interconnectedness and information ease of access is not its only function, although it is the cardinal one.

What are the other functionalities of the internet?

The Internet of Things

The concept of IoT (Internet of Things) evolved from technological development. 

As smartphones and computers developed, so did other things that we use in our daily lives.

The best part is that they are connected as they contain sensors, software, or other technology that has that capability. That happened for two reasons: 

  • Better functionality
  • Overall improvement in the way we do things

You can find the functions of the internet in:

  • Infrastructure: using the ability to connect devices for better energy management. Plus, it’s far easier to monitor the environment by using sensors to receive data on air quality, water quality, atmospheric changes, etc. Smart cities are not far from our reach also.
  • Consumer functions: we have heard about home automation in the form of smart homes, where everything can be controlled with a remote or with your voice. You can turn on the heating from far away, and it’s happening as we speak. Also, smart homes can be very beneficial to the elderly. That will be the future.
  • Military: there’s no doubt that even the military is using the internet to improve battlefield and navy operations. It’s just something that goes alongside all the benefits of the internet.
  • Industrial: agriculture is getting much better as we utilize the internet to connect devices that can help create artificial conditions where certain things can grow in all seasons of the year. It has also improved manufacturing, as machines are connected through the internet, and we teach them how to make things.
  • Organization: last but not least, since the internet was invented, it has been so much easier to organize everything. With communication being much easier through the internet, transportation is much more efficient. Think about smart traffic control. Digitalization and internet access have improved medical systems and healthcare across the world.

Finally, we use the internet to learn, shop, spread information, entertain ourselves. 

There are numerous functions of the internet, but the main one is to be connected.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

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