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Understanding How The Internet Works in 3 Easy Steps

The following lines will explain to you how does the internet work in 3 easy steps. I'll tell you about the processes that take places when trying to reach a webpage. From your web broswer to the web server and from URL to the web page. If you wish to learn more about the internet you can visit my other articles or if you wish to learn interesting facts about PHP and other languages you are more than welcome to check all that out here:

Step 1: the web browser sends a request

The first step is to verify the URL. Once the address is verified, the web broswer will go through few processes. It will start by looking up which protocol it will use. If the URL starts by http:// it will use the HTTP protocol, if it starts with ftp://, the web broswer will use the FTP protocol. It will then search where the web server is located. For this it will use an other service of the Net: the DNS (Domain Name Server). The DNS are servers that can bring associate a domain name ( for example) to an IP address ( It's like the yellow pages that wiill associate a name to a phone number. This IP address is unique and therefore the server web is rapidly recognized. It is the IP address that your web browser will contact and will communicate with the HTTP or FTP server. The request will aim at obtaining the index.html page.

Step 2: the web server sends back the info

The web server has received a request from a machine that wishes to obtain the index.html file. It will then look up the index.html file on its hard drive, take it's display and the information it holds, to finally send all that to the web broswer. The web server knows where to send the information because since you're on the internet you also have a unique IP address.

However if you want to access the following page: the web server would have look in the intl directory then in the en directory and finally would have reached the about.html file.

You know get that a URL is composed by few elements:

  • the protcocol (http:// , ftp://, ...)
  • the IP address (, ...)
  • the requiered directories

Step 3: the web broswer processes the files

The web broswer receives the content of the index.html file. Since the extension is .html, it will be processed as a HTML file. At first, the navigator doesn't get the iconographic content of the page. Thus, it must, before showing the page, gather all the images that are held in the file. Of course all these requests are completly transparent to you. Once all the elements are gathered the page content will appear on your screen all this in few seconds.

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Comments (1)

I liked it. A lot of information proofread, but very clearly  written.