Don’t panic, they haven’t evolved to walk on land yet, but I’ll explain how it happens shortly.
This blog post is inspired by ‘Andrew Blum: What is the Internet, really? A TEDTalks given by Andrew Blum published 19 September 2012. If you have not seen it, here is a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XE_FPEFpHt4, and I highly recommend it.
So, What Is The Internet?
Present day, everything is touched by the internet, we shop, date, socialise and almost any other activity you can think of is available to us through the web. It’s hard to imagine not having the internet, especially considering the jobs it’s created and the people it’s connected , but how did it come together, to be a thing? We think about the Cloud and the World Wide Web and how we’re now all interconnected, but it’s difficult to comprehend, it just happens for the majority of us and we miss the physicality of the whole internet.
Well, it began with a cable from one computer to another, and then another, and then another and so on. However, you’re here, reading this, and unless you’re one of 3 developers sat around me you don’t have a cable and a switch to join us together, you came here through the internet. Physically speaking (if you can about light) flash of light has travelled from the server that hosts this website, through all sorts of cables and switches and networks and has arrived to you. Now they might be underground, or beamed by satellite, but somehow that information has travelled to you and although it seems like magic, it’s just a combination of a lot of clever technologies.
Maybe you’re a town over, or a city over, our networks are connected and there’s a physical connection between us (romantic, no?). What if you’re a country over? That’s a long way. What if there is an ocean between us? Yes, there’s a cable that runs along the sea floor connecting us.
This is a ship floating the cable from one continent, taking it across the ocean and to the next continent.
The cable is brought to the shore, and although there is a complex process behind it, the continent gets plugged into the internet. It’s not just done once though, there’s a lot of information that goes around the world.
This map shows a lot of the undersea cables that exist, for an up-to-date, interactive view take a look at http://www.submarinecablemap.com/. The sheer scale of this is incredible, 1000’s of miles of cable exist just so that people around the world can get Facebook notifications about their friends birthdays.
There was an unexpected issue though, not foreseen, that sharks like eating the cables! In this article by the Independent in 2015, there is video showing the sharks taking bites from the cable. It’s hard to believe, but your slow internet connection really could be caused by a shark eating it all up. Don’t panic though, in this article from ARS Technica UK later that year, the issues weren’t as serious as first thought and the animals could only be accountable for less than one percent of the overall cable fault up to 2006, and since then there have not been any reported issues. The main cause for undersea cable issues arise from “ships’ anchoring and fishing activities” which account for between 65-75% of issues reported.
You might not be able to pick up the internet and walk off with it, but if you want to touch it, it is out there.