4
A Reporter's Field Guide to the Internet

Prologue: About the Internet

The Internet is a global network of computer networks using a common set of technical protocols known as TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocols). Born of various industry initiatives but primarily a U.S. Defense Department project to maintain communications in the advent of a nuclear holocaust, the Internet is largely a product of the inventive minds of Vinton Cerf, now a vice president for MCI, and Robert E. Kahn, president of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives. Not controlled by any one person or organization, the Internet is a medium of multimedia content, interactive communications, electronic mail, and much more. Content is produced by millions of people, companies, governments, and others in more than 180 countries on all seven continents. The quality of that content varies widely, from the exceptional to the confused to the deliberately misleading. Most of it is available at no cost to the user, although there are exceptions. Most of the material discussed here is available to journalists at no cost. Although there are other online resources outside the Internet (e.g., parts of proprietary online services such as America Online are not available via the Internet), the majority of online content and services is on the Internet. This primer therefore focuses on the Internet (although AOL membership now exceeds twenty million, its growth rate is slowing; according to David Simons, managing director of Digital Video Investments,

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