To understand the evolution of the internet, we must first understand what the internet is. Physically, the internet is a massive web of connections between telephone and cable lines, wireless connections, and satellite systems- as described in the book Media & Culture: Mass Communication in a Digital Age. However, functionally, it is much more than that. It is a limitless repository of information. It’s a manual to anything and everything that is updated daily, by the minute. However, it wasn’t always this uncontrolled, open structured digital landscape.
Here’s a look at the three stages of transformation the internet has gone through.
Centralized Network: Originally, the internet started has a centralized network developed by the U.S. Defense Department to allow the military and academic researchers to connect. It was centralized in that all information led to one main hub. If a wire connection was disrupted from one of the end stations, there was no way to reroute communication. Even worse, if the main hub was destroyed or disconnected, the whole network went down with it.
Decentralized Network: The weaknesses of the centralized network eventually encouraged the move to a decentralized network. In this type of network there are many main information hubs. The loss of one of these hubs does not shut down the whole network, just communication from the severed one.
Distributed Network: Finally, we have the distributed model we know and love. This model allows for a constant flow of information from one to millions as there is no central information hubs. Disconnections for the most part are not a concern as information can be sent to its destination through a multitude of pathways. This model allows for people to share easily and become information publishers as well as consumers. Another major benefit of the distributed network is it allows for custom experiences on the internet. People don’t need to read, watch or share the same limited information; they can surf around the net and share with whom they wish, when they wish.