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Habits of Mind
Unit 3






The online Computer History Museum is a fun place to read about the history of the Internet—and see pictures of early diagrams or the people involved at initial stages.


Here's a brief history of the Internet, written by some of the people involved in creating it.


"Sending a communication (an email or web page or video file or whatever) via Internet Protocol packets is like sending a book by postcard." Ethan Zuckerman and Andrew McLaughlin of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society explain how the Internet works (Introduction to Internet Architecture and Institutions).





While the Internet doesn't have one organization or person in charge, several organizations have a great deal of power over what is available and how and over the architecture of the Internet. Below are three of the most important:


The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is a private, nonprofit organization that governs naming of domains.


The World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, is "an international community where Member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards," according to the organization's website.


The Internet Engineering Task Force, or IETF, is an international community that coordinates the technical standards for the Internet. 





The Center for Democracy & Technology is a nonprofit organization that works to support users' rights on the Internet. You can read about issues such as consumer privacy online, free expression and surveillance—and how the Internet's architecture affects each of those—at the center's website.


Not everyone has equal access to the Internet.  For instance, the Syrian government was able to cut off access to the entire country at one point. And when people in North Korea access the Internet, most of them get a very limited view of what's out there. Michael Grothaus has written about "What it's like to use North Korea's Internet".




There's a helpful, brief discussion about gatekeeping on this page from "Functions and Theories of Mass Communication," available through Creative Commons.  (After you click on the link, scroll down to or search for "The Media as Gatekeeper.")


The news media sometimes filter out especially violent images or videos—and sometimes they don't.  For instance, see this article from The New York Times that asks how much should YouTube filter out violent scenes?  


When ISIS killed a second journalist in 2014 and filmed the beheading, YouTube disabled the video.  Forbes magazine writer Jeff Bercovici said the censorship was good gatekeeping because terrorists were using the media to inspire mass fear and intimidation.





Birth of the Internet


The UCLA student newspaper broke the story of the creation of ARPANET, precursor to the Internet, in 1969—but the article is brief, and it doesn't seem that anyone involved realized the implications of the computer network.  As blogger Matt Novak notes, "This lack of media interest isn't terribly surprising, but it somehow feels strange with the benefit of hindsight."

The graphic above attempts to explain the complex network of groups that govern the Internet's structure.  (The graphic was created by Lynn A. Lipinski of ICANN, and you can see a bigger version here.)

Who Owns the Internet?


ICANN is one of the organizations that governs the Internet.  This short video looks at some of the strengths of the organization (it's a private group of technically oriented people, as opposed to politicians), as well as some of its weaknesses (the U.S. retains disproportionate control over an international organization).

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