The most important technological innovation of our generation, the Internet is actually a network of networks. Originally designed by the U.S. Department of Defense so that a communication signal could withstand nuclear war and serve military institutions worldwide, the Internet was first known as the ARPANet, the most robust communication technology. It is a system of linked computer networks, international in scope, that facilitates data transfer and communication services, such as remote login, file transfer (FTP), electronic mail (e-mail), newsgroups, and the World Wide Web. The Internet greatly extends the reach of each connected computer network (see: network effect, IP).
When you see "internet" written with a lowercase "i," it usually refers to a group of local area networks (LANs) that have been connected by means of a common communications protocol. Many internets exist besides the Internet, including many TCP/IP-based networks that are not linked to the Internet (the Defense Data Network is a case in point).
Historical perspective: Internet usage is pervasive in the U.S. where there were 220.1 million Internet users as of June 2008 – a 130.9% increase since 2000. These users
represent 72.5 % penetration of the entire U.S. population.
Click on "more info" below for a timeline of the Internet!