What Is the Main Purpose of the Internet?

The main purpose of the Internet is to provide global access to data and communications. Use of the Internet and networking is essential for advancing research in science, medicine, engineering and design as well as in maintaining global defense and surveillance. With better access to microcomputing, the Internet also fosters a global workforce and users provides access to wider cultural contexts.

According to “Brief History of the Internet,” the Internet is “one of the most successful examples of the benefits of sustained investment and commitment to research and development of information infrastructure.” Developing a global network has involved close collaboration between governments and universities, public- and private-sector corporations, and millions of technology and information developers.

From its inception, the Internet has been a key to global defense. One of networking’s first proponents, and one of the early adopters of what we now call social media, J.C.R. Licklider of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was the first head of computer research at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. In 1962, he proposed the concept of “Galactic Network,” in spirit very much like the modern Internet, which is used daily by law enforcement and the military for surveillance.

Because microcomputing and high-speed networking have made so many more people available in the workforce, many human intelligence tasks are accomplished more efficiently because so many workers have access to online clearinghouses for things like clerical work, writing and research. This networking combined with easier access to social global interaction brings the Internet even closer to Licklider’s goal.