Teens, Social Media, and Privacy
Teens share a wide range of information about themselves on social media sites; indeed the sites themselves are designed to encourage the sharing of information and the expansion of networks. However, few teens embrace a fully public approach to social media. Instead, they take an array of steps to restrict and prune their profiles, and their patterns of reputation management on social media vary greatly according to their gender and network size. These are among the key findings from a new report based on a survey of 802 teens that examines teens’ privacy management on social media sites:
- Teens are sharing more information about themselves on social media sites than they did in the past. For the five different types of personal information that we measured in both 2006 and 2012, each is significantly more likely to be shared by teen social media users in our most recent survey.
- Teen Twitter use has grown significantly: 24% of online teens use Twitter, up from 16% in 2011.
- The typical (median) teen Facebook user has 300 friends, while the typical teen Twitter user has 79 followers.
- Focus group discussions with teens show that they have waning enthusiasm for Facebook, disliking the increasing adult presence, people sharing excessively, and stressful “drama,” but they keep using it because participation is an important part of overall teenage socializing.
- 60% of teen Facebook users keep their profiles private, and most report high levels of confidence in their ability to manage their settings.
- Teens take other steps to shape their reputation, manage their networks, and mask information they don’t want others to know; 74% of teen social media users have deleted people from their network or friends list.
- Teen social media users do not express a high level of concern about third-party access to their data; just 9% say they are “very” concerned.
- On Facebook, increasing network size goes hand in hand with network variety, information sharing, and personal information management.
- In broad measures of online experience, teens are considerably more likely to report positive experiences than negative ones. For instance, 52% of online teens say they have had an experience online that made them feel good about themselves.
Teens are sharing more information about themselves on social media sites than they did in the past.
Teens are increasingly sharing personal information on social media sites, a trend that is likely driven by the evolution of the platforms teens use as well as changing norms around sharing. A typical teen’s MySpace profile from 2006 was quite different in form and function from the 2006 version of Facebook as well as the Facebook profiles that have become a hallmark of teenage life today. For the five different types of personal information that we measured in both 2006 and 2012, each is significantly more likely to be shared by teen social media users on the profile they use most often.
- 91% post a photo of themselves, up from 79% in 2006.
- 71% post their school name, up from 49%.
- 71% post the city or town where they live, up from 61%.
- 53% post their email address, up from 29%.
- 20% post their cell phone number, up from 2%.
In addition to the trend questions, we also asked five new questions about the profile teens use most often and found that among teen social media users:
- 92% post their real name to the profile they use most often.
- 84% post their interests, such as movies, music, or books they like.
- 82% post their birth date.
- 62% post their relationship status.
- 24% post videos of themselves.
Older teens are more likely than younger teens to share certain types of information, but boys and girls tend to post the same kind of content.
Generally speaking, older teen social media users (ages 14-17), are more likely to share certain types of information on the profile they use most often when compared with younger teens (ages 12-13).
Older teens who are social media users more frequently share:
- Photos of themselves on their profile (94% older teens vs. 82% of younger teens)
- Their school name (76% vs. 56%)
- Their relationship status (66% vs. 50%)
- Their cell phone number (23% vs. 11%)
While boys and girls generally share personal information on social media profiles at the same rates, cell phone numbers are a key exception. Boys are significantly more likely to share their numbers than girls (26% vs. 14%). This is a difference that is driven by older boys. Various differences between white and African-American social media-using teens are also significant, with the most notable being the lower likelihood that African-American teens will disclose their real names on a social media profile (95% of white social media-using teens do this vs. 77% of African-American teens).
16% of teen social media users have set up their profile to automatically include their location in posts.
Beyond basic profile information, some teens choose to enable the automatic inclusion of location information when they post. Some 16% of teen social media users said they set up their profile or account so that it automatically includes their location in posts. Boys and girls and teens of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds are equally likely to say that they have set up their profile to include their location when they post. Focus group data suggests that many teens find sharing their location unnecessary and unsafe, while others appreciate the opportunity to signal their location to friends and parents.
Teen Twitter use has grown significantly: 24% of online teens use Twitter, up from 16% in 2011.
Twitter draws a far smaller crowd than Facebook for teens, but its use is rising. One in four online teens uses Twitter in some way. While overall use of social networking sites among teens has hovered around 80%, Twitter grew in popularity; 24% of online teens use Twitter, up from 16% in 2011 and 8% the first time we asked this question in late 2009.
African-American teens are substantially more likely to report using Twitter when compared with white youth.
Continuing a pattern established early in the life of Twitter, African-American teens who are internet users are more likely to use the site when compared with their white counterparts. Two in five (39%) African-American teens use Twitter, while 23% of white teens use the service.
Public accounts are the norm for teen Twitter users.
While those with Facebook profiles most often choose private settings, Twitter users, by contrast, are much more likely to have a public account.
- 64% of teens with Twitter accounts say that their tweets are public, while 24% say their tweets are private.
- 12% of teens with Twitter accounts say that they “don’t know” if their tweets are public or private.
- While boys and girls are equally likely to say their accounts are public, boys are significantly more likely than girls to say that they don’t know (21% of boys who have Twitter accounts report this, compared with 5% of girls).
The typical (median) teen Facebook user has 300 friends, while the typical teen Twitter user has 79 followers.
Overall, teens have far fewer followers on Twitter when compared with Facebook friends; the typical (median) teen Facebook user has 300 friends, while the typical (median) teen Twitter user has 79 followers. Girls and older teens tend to have substantially larger Facebook friend networks compared with boys and younger teens.
Teens’ Facebook friendship networks largely mirror their offline networks. Seven in ten say they are friends with their parents on Facebook.
Teens, like other Facebook users, have different kinds of people in their online social networks. And how teens construct that network has implications for who can see the material they share in those digital social spaces:
- 98% of Facebook-using teens are friends with people they know from school.
- 91% of teen Facebook users are friends with members of their extended family.
- 89% are connected to friends who do not attend the same school.
- 76% are Facebook friends with brothers and sisters.
- 70% are Facebook friends with their parents.
- 33% are Facebook friends with other people they have not met in person.
- 30% have teachers or coaches as friends in their network.
- 30% have celebrities, musicians or athletes in their network.
Older teens tend to be Facebook friends with a larger variety of people, while younger teens are less likely to friend certain groups, including those they have never met in person.
Older teens are more likely than younger ones to have created broader friend networks on Facebook. Older teens (14-17) who use Facebook are more likely than younger teens (12-13) to be connected with:
- Friends who go to different schools (92% vs. 82%)
- People they have never met in person, not including celebrities (36% vs. 25%)
- Teachers or coaches (34% vs. 19%)
Girls are also more likely than boys (37% vs. 23%) to be Facebook friends with coaches or teachers, the only category of Facebook friends where boys and girls differ.
African-American youth are nearly twice as likely as whites to be Facebook friends with celebrities, athletes, or musicians (48% vs. 25%).
Focus group discussions with teens show that they have waning enthusiasm for Facebook.
In focus groups, many teens expressed waning enthusiasm for Facebook. They dislike the increasing number of adults on the site, get annoyed when their Facebook friends share inane details, and are drained by the “drama” that they described as happening frequently on the site. The stress of needing to manage their reputation on Facebook also contributes to the lack of enthusiasm. Nevertheless, the site is still where a large amount of socializing takes place, and teens feel they need to stay on Facebook in order to not miss out.
Users of sites other than Facebook express greater enthusiasm for their choice.
Those teens who used sites like Twitter and Instagram reported feeling like they could better express themselves on these platforms, where they felt freed from the social expectations and constraints of Facebook. Some teens may migrate their activity and attention to other sites to escape the drama and pressures they find on Facebook, although most still remain active on Facebook as well.
60% of teen Facebook users keep their profiles private, and most report high levels of confidence in their ability to manage their settings.
Teens have a variety of ways to make available or limit access to their personal information on social media sites. Privacy settings are one of many tools in a teen’s personal data management arsenal. Among teen Facebook users, most choose private settings that allow only approved friends to view the content that they post.
Most keep their Facebook profile private. Girls are more likely than boys to restrict access to their profiles.
Some 60% of teens ages 12-17 who use Facebook say they have their profile set to private, so that only their friends can see it. Another 25% have a partially private profile, set so that friends of their friends can see what they post. And 14% of teens say that their profile is completely public.
- Girls who use Facebook are substantially more likely than boys to have a private (friends only) profile (70% vs. 50%).
- By contrast, boys are more likely than girls to have a fully public profile that everyone can see (20% vs. 8%).
Most teens express a high level of confidence in managing their Facebook privacy settings.
More than half (56%) of teen Facebook users say it’s “not difficult at all” to manage the privacy controls on their Facebook profile, while one in three (33%) say it’s “not too difficult.” Just 8% of teen Facebook users say that managing their privacy controls is “somewhat difficult,” while less than 1% describe the process as “very difficult.”
Teens’ feelings of efficacy increase with age:
- 41% of Facebook users ages 12-13 say it is “not difficult at all” to manage their privacy controls, compared with 61% of users ages 14-17.
- Boys and girls report similar levels of confidence in managing the privacy controls on their Facebook profile.
For most teen Facebook users, all friends and parents see the same information and updates on their profile.
Beyond general privacy settings, teen Facebook users have the option to place further limits on who can see the information and updates they post. However, few choose to customize in that way: Among teens who have a Facebook account, only 18% say that they limit what certain friends can see on their profile. The vast majority (81%) say that all of their friends see the same thing on their profile. This approach also extends to parents; only 5% of teen Facebook users say they limit what their parents can see.
Teens take other steps to shape their reputation, manage their networks, and mask information they don’t want others to know; 74% of teen social media users have deleted people from their network or friends list.
Teens are cognizant of their online reputations, and take steps to curate the content and appearance of their social media presence. For many teens who were interviewed in focus groups for this report, Facebook was seen as an extension of offline interactions and the social negotiation and maneuvering inherent to teenage life. “Likes” specifically seem to be a strong proxy for social status, such that teen Facebook users will manipulate their profile and timeline content in order to garner the maximum number of “likes,” and remove photos with too few “likes.”
Pruning and revising profile content is an important part of teens’ online identity management.
Teen management of their profiles can take a variety of forms – we asked teen social media users about five specific activities that relate to the content they post and found that:
- 59% have deleted or edited something that they posted in the past.
- 53% have deleted comments from others on their profile or account.
- 45% have removed their name from photos that have been tagged to identify them.
- 31% have deleted or deactivated an entire profile or account.
- 19% have posted updates, comments, photos, or videos that they later regretted sharing.
74% of teen social media users have deleted people from their network or friends’ list; 58% have blocked people on social media sites.
Given the size and composition of teens’ networks, friend curation is also an integral part of privacy and reputation management for social media-using teens. The practice of friending, unfriending, and blocking serve as privacy management techniques for controlling who sees what and when. Among teen social media users:
- Girls are more likely than boys to delete friends from their network (82% vs. 66%) and block people (67% vs. 48%).
- Unfriending and blocking are equally common among teens of all ages and across all socioeconomic groups.
58% of teen social media users say they share inside jokes or cloak their messages in some way.
As a way of creating a different sort of privacy, many teen social media users will obscure some of their updates and posts, sharing inside jokes and other coded messages that only certain friends will understand:
- 58% of teen social media users say they share inside jokes or cloak their messages in some way.
- Older teens are considerably more likely than younger teens to say that they share inside jokes and coded messages that only some of their friends understand (62% vs. 46%).
26% say that they post false information like a fake name, age, or location to help protect their privacy.
One in four (26%) teen social media users say that they post fake information like a fake name, age or location to help protect their privacy.
- African-American teens who use social media are more likely than white teens to say that they post fake information to their profiles (39% vs. 21%).
Teen social media users do not express a high level of concern about third-party access to their data; just 9% say they are “very” concerned.
Overall, 40% of teen social media users say they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned that some of the information they share on social networking sites might be accessed by third parties like advertisers or businesses without their knowledge. However, few report a high level of concern; 31% say that they are “somewhat” concerned, while just 9% say that they are “very” concerned. Another 60% in total report that they are “not too” concerned (38%) or “not at all” concerned (22%).
- Younger teen social media users (12-13) are considerably more likely than older teens (14-17) to say that they are “very concerned” about third party access to the information they share (17% vs. 6%).
Insights from our focus groups suggest that some teens may not have a good sense of whether the information they share on a social media site is being used by third parties.
When asked whether they thought Facebook gives anyone else access to the information they share, one middle schooler wrote: “Anyone who isn’t friends with me cannot see anything about my profile except my name and gender. I don’t believe that [Facebook] would do anything with my info.” Other high schoolers shared similar sentiments, believing that Facebook would not or should not share their information.
Parents, by contrast, express high levels of concern about how much information advertisers can learn about their children’s behavior online.
Parents of the surveyed teens were asked a related question: “How concerned are you about how much information advertisers can learn about your child’s online behavior?” A full 81% of parents report being “very” or “somewhat” concerned, with 46% reporting they are “very concerned.” Just 19% report that they are not too concerned or not at all concerned about how much advertisers could learn about their child’s online activities.
Teens who are concerned about third party access to their personal information are also more likely to engage in online reputation management.
Teens who are somewhat or very concerned that some of the information they share on social network sites might be accessed by third parties like advertisers or businesses without their knowledge more frequently delete comments, untag themselves from photos or content, and deactivate or delete their entire account. Among teen social media users, those who are “very” or “somewhat” concerned about third party access are more likely than less concerned teens to:
- Delete comments that others have made on their profile (61% vs. 49%).
- Untag themselves in photos (52% vs. 41%).
- Delete or deactivate their profile or account (38% vs. 25%).
- Post updates, comments, photos or videos that they later regret (26% vs. 14%).
On Facebook, increasing network size goes hand in hand with network variety, information sharing, and personal information management.
Teens with larger Facebook networks are more frequent users of social networking sites and tend to have a greater variety of people in their friend networks. They also share a wider range of information on their profile when compared with those who have a smaller number of friends on the site. Yet even as they share more information with a wider range of people, they are also more actively engaged in maintaining their online profile or persona.
Teens with large Facebook friend networks are more frequent social media users and participate on a wider diversity of platforms in addition to Facebook.
Teens with larger Facebook networks are fervent social media users who exhibit a greater tendency to “diversify” their platform portfolio:
- 65% of teens with more than 600 friends on Facebook say that they visit social networking sites several times a day, compared with 27% of teens with 150 or fewer Facebook friends.
- Teens with more than 600 Facebook friends are more than three times as likely to also have a Twitter account when compared with those who have 150 or fewer Facebook friends (46% vs. 13%). They are six times as likely to use Instagram (12% vs. 2%).
Teens with larger Facebook networks tend to have more variety within those networks.
Almost all Facebook users (regardless of network size) are friends with their schoolmates and extended family members. However, other types of people begin to appear as the size of teens’ Facebook networks expand:
- Teen Facebook users with more than 600 friends in their network are much more likely than those with smaller networks to be Facebook friends with peers who don’t attend their own school, with people they have never met in person (not including celebrities and other “public figures”), as well as with teachers or coaches.
- On the other hand, teens with the largest friend networks are actually less likely to be friends with their parents on Facebook when compared with those with the smallest networks (79% vs. 60%).
Teens with large networks share a wider range of content, but are also more active in profile pruning and reputation management activities.
Teens with the largest networks (more than 600 friends) are more likely to include a photo of themselves, their school name, their relationship status, and their cell phone number on their profile when compared with teens who have a relatively small number of friends in their network (under 150 friends). However, teens with large friend networks are also more active reputation managers on social media.
- Teens with larger friend networks are more likely than those with smaller networks to block other users, to delete people from their friend network entirely, to untag photos of themselves, or to delete comments others have made on their profile.
- They are also substantially more likely to automatically include their location in updates and share inside jokes or coded messages with others.
In broad measures of online experience, teens are considerably more likely to report positive experiences than negative ones.
In the current survey, we wanted to understand the broader context of teens’ online lives beyond Facebook and Twitter. A majority of teens report positive experiences online, such as making friends and feeling closer to another person, but some do encounter unwanted content and contact from others.
- 52% of online teens say they have had an experience online that made them feel good about themselves. Among teen social media users, 57% said they had an experience online that made them feel good, compared with 30% of teen internet users who do not use social media.
- One in three online teens (33%) say they have had an experience online that made them feel closer to another person. Looking at teen social media users, 37% report having an experience somewhere online that made them feel closer to another person, compared with just 16% of online teens who do not use social media.
One in six online teens say they have been contacted online by someone they did not know in a way that made them feel scared or uncomfortable.
Unwanted contact from strangers is relatively uncommon, but 17% of online teens report some kind of contact that made them feel scared or uncomfortable. Online girls are more than twice as likely as boys to report contact from someone they did not know that made them feel scared or uncomfortable (24% vs. 10%).
Few internet-using teens have posted something online that caused problems for them or a family member, or got them in trouble at school.
A small percentage of teens have engaged in online activities that had negative repercussions for them or their family; 4% of online teens say they have shared sensitive information online that later caused a problem for themselves or other members of their family. Another 4% have posted information online that got them in trouble at school.
More than half of internet-using teens have decided not to post content online over reputation concerns.
More than half of online teens (57%) say they have decided not to post something online because they were concerned it would reflect badly on them in the future. Teen social media users are more likely than other online teens who do not use social media to say they have refrained from sharing content due to reputation concerns (61% vs. 39%).
Large numbers of youth have lied about their age in order to gain access to websites and online accounts.
In 2011, we reported that close to half of online teens (44%) admitted to lying about their age at one time or another so they could access a website or sign up for an online account. In the latest survey, 39% of online teens admitted to falsifying their age in order gain access to a website or account, a finding that is not significantly different from the previous survey.
Close to one in three online teens say they have received online advertising that was clearly inappropriate for their age.
Exposure to inappropriate advertising online is one of the many risks that parents, youth advocates, and policy makers are concerned about. Yet, little has been known until now about how often teens encounter online ads that they feel are intended for more (or less) mature audiences. In the latest survey, 30% of online teens say they have received online advertising that is “clearly inappropriate” for their age.
About the survey and focus groups
These findings are based on a nationally representative phone survey run by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project of 802 parents and their 802 teens ages 12-17. It was conducted between July 26 and September 30, 2012. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish and on landline and cell phones. The margin of error for the full sample is ± 4.5 percentage points.
This report marries that data with insights and quotes from in-person focus groups conducted by the Youth and Media team at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University beginning in February 2013. The focus groups focused on privacy and digital media, with special emphasis on social media sites. The team conducted 24 focus group interviews with 156 students across the greater Boston area, Los Angeles (California), Santa Barbara (California), and Greensboro (North Carolina). Each focus group lasted 90 minutes, including a 15-minute questionnaire completed prior to starting the interview, consisting of 20 multiple-choice questions and 1 open-ended response. Although the research sample was not designed to constitute representative cross-sections of particular population(s), the sample includes participants from diverse ethnic, racial, and economic backgrounds. Participants ranged in age from 11 to 19. The mean age of participants is 14.5.
In addition, two online focus groups of teenagers ages 12-17 were conducted by the Pew Internet Project from June 20-27, 2012 to help inform the survey design. The first focus group was with 11 middle schoolers ages 12-14, and the second group was with nine high schoolers ages 14-17. Each group was mixed gender, with some racial, socio-economic, and regional diversity. The groups were conducted as an asynchronous threaded discussion over three days using an online platform and the participants were asked to log in twice per day.
Throughout this report, this focus group material is highlighted in several ways. Pew’s online focus group quotes are interspersed with relevant statistics from the survey in order to illustrate findings that were echoed in the focus groups or to provide additional context to the data. In addition, at several points, there are extensive excerpts boxed off as standalone text boxes that elaborate on a number of important themes that emerged from the in-person focus groups conducted by the Berkman Center.
This article is about the worldwide computer network. For other uses, see Internet (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with the World Wide Web.
The Internet is the global system of interconnected computer networks that use the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to link devices worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of private, public, academic, business, and government networks of local to global scope, linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless, and optical networking technologies. The Internet carries a vast range of information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext documents and applications of the World Wide Web (WWW), electronic mail, telephony, and file sharing.
The origins of the Internet date back to research commissioned by the United States Federal Government in the 1960s to build robust, fault-tolerant communication via computer networks. The linking of commercial networks and enterprises in the early 1990s marked the beginning of the transition to the modern Internet, and generated rapid growth as institutional, personal, and mobile computers were connected to the network. By the late 2000s, its services and technologies had been incorporated into virtually every aspect of human lives.
Most traditional communications media, including telephony, radio, television, paper mail and newspapers are being reshaped, redefined, or even bypassed by the Internet, giving birth to new services such as email, Internet telephony, Internet television, online music, digital newspapers, and video streaming websites. Newspaper, book, and other print publishing are adapting to website technology, or are reshaped into blogging, web feeds and online news aggregators. The Internet has enabled and accelerated new forms of personal interactions through instant messaging, Internet forums, and social networking. Online shopping has grown exponentially both for major retailers and small businesses and entrepreneurs, as it enables firms to extend their "brick and mortar" presence to serve a larger market or even sell goods and services entirely online. Business-to-business and financial services on the Internet affect supply chains across entire industries.
The Internet has no centralized governance in either technological implementation or policies for access and usage; each constituent network sets its own policies. Only the overreaching definitions of the two principal name spaces in the Internet, the Internet Protocol address (IP address) space and the Domain Name System (DNS), are directed by a maintainer organization, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The technical underpinning and standardization of the core protocols is an activity of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), a non-profit organization of loosely affiliated international participants that anyone may associate with by contributing technical expertise.
See also: Capitalization of "Internet"
When the term Internet is used to refer to the specific global system of interconnected Internet Protocol (IP) networks, the word is a proper noun that should be written with an initial capital letter. In common use and the media, it is often erroneously not capitalized, viz. the internet. Some guides specify that the word should be capitalized when used as a noun, but not capitalized when used as an adjective. The Internet is also often referred to as the Net, as a short form of network. Historically, as early as 1849, the word internetted was used uncapitalized as an adjective, meaning interconnected or interwoven. The designers of early computer networks used internet both as a noun and as a verb in shorthand form of internetwork or internetworking, meaning interconnecting computer networks.
The terms Internet and World Wide Web are often used interchangeably in everyday speech; it is common to speak of "going on the Internet" when using a web browser to view web pages. However, the World Wide Web or the Web is only one of a large number of Internet services. The Web is a collection of interconnected documents (web pages) and other web resources, linked by hyperlinks and URLs. As another point of comparison, Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or HTTP, is the language used on the Web for information transfer, yet it is just one of many languages or protocols that can be used for communication on the Internet. The term Interweb is a portmanteau of Internet and World Wide Web typically used sarcastically to parody a technically unsavvy user.
Main articles: History of the Internet and History of the World Wide Web
Research into packet switching by Paul Baran and Donald Davies emerged in the early to mid-1960s, and packet switched networks such as the NPL network,ARPANET, Tymnet, the Merit Network,Telenet, and CYCLADES, were developed in the late 1960s and 1970s using a variety of protocols. The ARPANET project led to the development of protocols for internetworking, by which multiple separate networks could be joined into a single network of networks. ARPANET development began with two network nodes which were interconnected between the Network Measurement Center at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science directed by Leonard Kleinrock, and the NLS system at SRI International (SRI) by Douglas Engelbart in Menlo Park, California, on 29 October 1969. The third site was the Culler-Fried Interactive Mathematics Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, followed by the University of Utah Graphics Department. In an early sign of future growth, fifteen sites were connected to the young ARPANET by the end of 1971. These early years were documented in the 1972 film Computer Networks: The Heralds of Resource Sharing.
Early international collaborations on the ARPANET were rare. European developers were concerned with developing the X.25 networks. Notable exceptions were the Norwegian Seismic Array (NORSAR) in June 1973, followed in 1973 by Sweden with satellite links to the Tanum Earth Station and Peter T. Kirstein's research group in the United Kingdom, initially at the Institute of Computer Science, University of London and later at University College London. In December 1974, RFC 675 (Specification of Internet Transmission Control Program), by Vinton Cerf, Yogen Dalal, and Carl Sunshine, used the term internet as a shorthand for internetworking and later RFCs repeated this use. Access to the ARPANET was expanded in 1981 when the National Science Foundation (NSF) funded the Computer Science Network (CSNET). In 1982, the Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) was standardized, which permitted worldwide proliferation of interconnected networks.
TCP/IP network access expanded again in 1986 when the National Science Foundation Network (NSFNet) provided access to supercomputer sites in the United States for researchers, first at speeds of 56 kbit/s and later at 1.5 Mbit/s and 45 Mbit/s. Commercial Internet service providers (ISPs) emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The ARPANET was decommissioned in 1990. By 1995, the Internet was fully commercialized in the U.S. when the NSFNet was decommissioned, removing the last restrictions on use of the Internet to carry commercial traffic. The Internet rapidly expanded in Europe and Australia in the mid to late 1980s and to Asia in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The beginning of dedicated transatlantic communication between the NSFNET and networks in Europe was established with a low-speed satellite relay between Princeton University and Stockholm, Sweden in December 1988. Although other network protocols such as UUCP had global reach well before this time, this marked the beginning of the Internet as an intercontinental network.
Public commercial use of the Internet began in mid-1989 with the connection of MCI Mail and Compuserve's email capabilities to the 500,000 users of the Internet. Just months later on 1 January 1990, PSInet launched an alternate Internet backbone for commercial use; one of the networks that would grow into the commercial Internet we know today. In March 1990, the first high-speed T1 (1.5 Mbit/s) link between the NSFNET and Europe was installed between Cornell University and CERN, allowing much more robust communications than were capable with satellites. Six months later Tim Berners-Lee would begin writing WorldWideWeb, the first web browser after two years of lobbying CERN management. By Christmas 1990, Berners-Lee had built all the tools necessary for a working Web: the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) 0.9, the HyperText Markup Language (HTML), the first Web browser (which was also a HTML editor and could access Usenet newsgroups and FTP files), the first HTTP server software (later known as CERN httpd), the first web server, and the first Web pages that described the project itself. In 1991 the Commercial Internet eXchange was founded, allowing PSInet to communicate with the other commercial networks CERFnet and Alternet. Since 1995 the Internet has tremendously impacted culture and commerce, including the rise of near instant communication by email, instant messaging, telephony (Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP), two-way interactive video calls, and the World Wide Web with its discussion forums, blogs, social networking, and online shopping sites. Increasing amounts of data are transmitted at higher and higher speeds over fiber optic networks operating at 1-Gbit/s, 10-Gbit/s, or more.
The Internet continues to grow, driven by ever greater amounts of online information and knowledge, commerce, entertainment and social networking. During the late 1990s, it was estimated that traffic on the public Internet grew by 100 percent per year, while the mean annual growth in the number of Internet users was thought to be between 20% and 50%. This growth is often attributed to the lack of central administration, which allows organic growth of the network, as well as the non-proprietary nature of the Internet protocols, which encourages vendor interoperability and prevents any one company from exerting too much control over the network. As of 31 March 2011, the estimated total number of Internet users was 2.095 billion (30.2% of world population). It is estimated that in 1993 the Internet carried only 1% of the information flowing through two-way telecommunication, by 2000 this figure had grown to 51%, and by 2007 more than 97% of all telecommunicated information was carried over the Internet.
Main article: Internet governance
The Internet is a global network that comprises many voluntarily interconnected autonomous networks. It operates without a central governing body. The technical underpinning and standardization of the core protocols (IPv4 and IPv6) is an activity of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), a non-profit organization of loosely affiliated international participants that anyone may associate with by contributing technical expertise. To maintain interoperability, the principal name spaces of the Internet are administered by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN is governed by an international board of directors drawn from across the Internet technical, business, academic, and other non-commercial communities. ICANN coordinates the assignment of unique identifiers for use on the Internet, including domain names, Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, application port numbers in the transport protocols, and many other parameters. Globally unified name spaces are essential for maintaining the global reach of the Internet. This role of ICANN distinguishes it as perhaps the only central coordinating body for the global Internet.
Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) allocate IP addresses:
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency of the United States Department of Commerce, had final approval over changes to the DNS root zone until the IANA stewardship transition on 1 October 2016. The Internet Society (ISOC) was founded in 1992 with a mission to "assure the open development, evolution and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world". Its members include individuals (anyone may join) as well as corporations, organizations, governments, and universities. Among other activities ISOC provides an administrative home for a number of less formally organized groups that are involved in developing and managing the Internet, including: the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), Internet Architecture Board (IAB), Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG), Internet Research Task Force (IRTF), and Internet Research Steering Group (IRSG). On 16 November 2005, the United Nations-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis established the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) to discuss Internet-related issues.
See also: List of countries by number of Internet users and List of countries by Internet connection speeds
The communications infrastructure of the Internet consists of its hardware components and a system of software layers that control various aspects of the architecture.
Routing and service tiers
Internet service providers establish the worldwide connectivity between individual networks at various levels of scope. End-users who only access the Internet when needed to perform a function or obtain information, represent the bottom of the routing hierarchy. At the top of the routing hierarchy are the tier 1 networks, large telecommunication companies that exchange traffic directly with each other via peering agreements. Tier 2 and lower level networks buy Internet transit from other providers to reach at least some parties on the global Internet, though they may also engage in peering. An ISP may use a single upstream provider for connectivity, or implement multihoming to achieve redundancy and load balancing. Internet exchange points are major traffic exchanges with physical connections to multiple ISPs. Large organizations, such as academic institutions, large enterprises, and governments, may perform the same function as ISPs, engaging in peering and purchasing transit on behalf of their internal networks. Research networks tend to interconnect with large subnetworks such as GEANT, GLORIAD, Internet2, and the UK's national research and education network, JANET. Both the Internet IP routing structure and hypertext links of the World Wide Web are examples of scale-free networks. Computers and routers use routing tables in their operating system to direct IP packets to the next-hop router or destination. Routing tables are maintained by manual configuration or automatically by routing protocols. End-nodes typically use a default route that points toward an ISP providing transit, while ISP routers use the Border Gateway Protocol to establish the most efficient routing across the complex connections of the global Internet.
Common methods of Internet access by users include dial-up with a computer modem via telephone circuits, broadband over coaxial cable, fiber optics or copper wires, Wi-Fi, satellite and cellular telephone technology (3G, 4G). The Internet may often be accessed from computers in libraries and Internet cafes. Internet access points exist in many public places such as airport halls and coffee shops. Various terms are used, such as public Internet kiosk, public access terminal, and Web payphone. Many hotels also have public terminals, though these are usually fee-based. These terminals are widely accessed for various usages, such as ticket booking, bank deposit, or online payment. Wi-Fi provides wireless access to the Internet via local computer networks. Hotspots providing such access include Wi-Fi cafes, where users need to bring their own wireless devices such as a laptop or PDA. These services may be free to all, free to customers only, or fee-based.
Grassroots efforts have led to wireless community networks. Commercial Wi-Fi services covering large city areas are in place in New York, London, Vienna, Toronto, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago and Pittsburgh. The Internet can then be accessed from such places as a park bench. Apart from Wi-Fi, there have been experiments with proprietary mobile wireless networks like Ricochet, various high-speed data services over cellular phone networks, and fixed wireless services. High-end mobile phones such as smartphones in general come with Internet access through the phone network. Web browsers such as Opera are available on these advanced handsets, which can also run a wide variety of other Internet software. More mobile phones have Internet access than PCs, though this is not as widely used. An Internet access provider and protocol matrix differentiates the methods used to get online.
While the hardware components in the Internet infrastructure can often be used to support other software systems, it is the design and the standardization process of the software that characterizes the Internet and provides the foundation for its scalability and success. The responsibility for the architectural design of the Internet software systems has been assumed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). The IETF conducts standard-setting work groups, open to any individual, about the various aspects of Internet architecture. Resulting contributions and standards are published as Request for Comments (RFC) documents on the IETF web site. The principal methods of networking that enable the Internet are contained in specially designated RFCs that constitute the Internet Standards. Other less rigorous documents are simply informative, experimental, or historical, or document the best current practices (BCP) when implementing Internet technologies.
The Internet standards describe a framework known as the Internet protocol suite. This is a model architecture that divides methods into a layered system of protocols, originally documented in RFC 1122 and RFC 1123. The layers correspond to the environment or scope in which their services operate. At the top is the application layer, space for the application-specific networking methods used in software applications. For example, a web browser program uses the client-server application model and a specific protocol of interaction between servers and clients, while many file-sharing systems use a peer-to-peer paradigm. Below this top layer, the transport layer connects applications on different hosts with a logical channel through the network with appropriate data exchange methods.
Underlying these layers are the networking technologies that interconnect networks at their borders and exchange traffic across them. The Internet layer enables computers to identify and locate each other via Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, and routes their traffic via intermediate (transit) networks. Last, at the bottom of the architecture is the link layer, which provides logical connectivity between hosts on the same network link, such as a local area network (LAN) or a dial-up connection. The model, also known as TCP/IP, is designed to be independent of the underlying hardware used for the physical connections, which the model does not concern itself with in any detail. Other models have been developed, such as the OSI model, that attempt to be comprehensive in every aspect of communications. While many similarities exist between the models, they are not compatible in the details of description or implementation. Yet, TCP/IP protocols are usually included in the discussion of OSI networking.
The most prominent component of the Internet model is the Internet Protocol (IP), which provides addressing systems, including IP addresses, for computers on the network. IP enables internetworking and, in essence, establishes the Internet itself. Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4) is the initial version used on the first generation of the Internet and is still in dominant use. It was designed to address up to ~4.3 billion (109) hosts. However, the explosive growth of the Internet has led to IPv4 address exhaustion, which entered its final stage in 2011, when the global address allocation pool was exhausted. A new protocol version, IPv6, was developed in the mid-1990s, which provides vastly larger addressing capabilities and more efficient routing of Internet traffic. IPv6 is currently in growing deployment around the world, since Internet address registries (RIRs) began to urge all resource managers to plan rapid adoption and conversion.
IPv6 is not directly interoperable by design with IPv4. In essence, it establishes a parallel version of the Internet not directly accessible with IPv4 software. Thus, translation facilities must exist for internetworking or nodes must have duplicate networking software for both networks. Essentially all modern computer operating systems support both versions of the Internet Protocol. Network infrastructure, however, has been lagging in this development. Aside from the complex array of physical connections that make up its infrastructure, the Internet is facilitated by bi- or multi-lateral commercial contracts, e.g., peering agreements, and by technical specifications or protocols that describe the exchange of data over the network. Indeed, the Internet is defined by its interconnections and routing policies.
The Internet carries many network services, most prominently mobile apps such as social media apps, the World Wide Web, electronic mail, multiplayer online games, Internet telephony, and file sharing services.
World Wide Web
Main article: World Wide Web
Many people use, erroneously, the terms Internet and World Wide Web, or just the Web, interchangeably, but the two terms are not synonymous. The World Wide Web is the primary application program that billions of people use on the Internet, and it has changed their lives immeasurably. However, the Internet provides many other services. The Web is a global set of documents, images and other resources, logically interrelated by hyperlinks and referenced with Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs). URIs symbolically identify services, servers, and other databases, and the documents and resources that they can provide. Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is the main access protocol of the World Wide Web. Web services also use HTTP to allow software systems to communicate in order to share and exchange business logic and data.
World Wide Web browser software, such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer/Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Apple's Safari, and Google Chrome, lets users navigate from one web page to another via hyperlinks embedded in the documents. These documents may also contain any combination of computer data, including graphics, sounds, text, video, multimedia and interactive content that runs while the user is interacting with the page. Client-side software can include animations, games, office applications and scientific demonstrations. Through keyword-driven Internet research using search engines like Yahoo!, Bing and Google, users worldwide have easy, instant access to a vast and diverse amount of online information. Compared to printed media, books, encyclopedias and traditional libraries, the World Wide Web has enabled the decentralization of information on a large scale.
The Web has also enabled individuals and organizations to publish ideas and information to a potentially large audience online at greatly reduced expense and time delay. Publishing a web page, a blog, or building a website involves little initial cost and many cost-free services are available. However, publishing and maintaining large, professional web sites with attractive, diverse and up-to-date information is still a difficult and expensive proposition. Many individuals and some companies and groups use web logs or blogs, which are largely used as easily updatable online diaries. Some commercial organizations encourage staff to communicate advice in their areas of specialization in the hope that visitors will be impressed by the expert knowledge and free information, and be attracted to the corporation as a result.
Advertising on popular web pages can be lucrative, and e-commerce, which is the sale of products and services directly via the Web, continues to grow. Online advertising is a form of marketing and advertising which uses the Internet to deliver promotional marketing messages to consumers. It includes email marketing, search engine marketing (SEM), social media marketing, many types of display advertising (including web banner advertising), and mobile advertising. In 2011, Internet advertising revenues in the United States surpassed those of cable television and nearly exceeded those of broadcast television.:19 Many common online advertising practices are controversial and increasingly subject to regulation.
When the Web developed in the 1990s, a typical web page was stored in completed form on a web server, formatted in HTML, complete for transmission to a web browser in response to a request. Over time, the process of creating and serving web pages has become dynamic, creating a flexible design, layout, and content. Websites are often created using content management software with, initially, very little content. Contributors to these systems, who may be paid staff, members of an organization or the public, fill underlying databases with content using editing pages designed for that purpose while casual visitors view and read this content in HTML form. There may or may not be editorial, approval and security systems built into the process of taking newly entered content and making it available to the target visitors.
Email is an important communications service available on the Internet. The concept of sending electronic text messages between parties in a way analogous to mailing letters or memos predates the creation of the Internet. Pictures, documents, and other files are sent as email attachments. Emails can be cc-ed to multiple email addresses.
Internet telephony is another common communications service made possible by the creation of the Internet. VoIP stands for Voice-over-Internet Protocol, referring to the protocol that underlies all Internet communication. The idea began in the early 1990s with walkie-talkie-like voice applications for personal computers. In recent years many VoIP systems have become as easy to use and as convenient as a normal telephone. The benefit is that, as the Internet carries the voice traffic, VoIP can be free or cost much less than a traditional telephone call, especially over long distances and especially for those with always-on Internet connections such as cable or ADSL. VoIP is maturing into a competitive alternative to traditional telephone service. Interoperability between different providers has improved and the ability to call or receive a call from a traditional telephone is available. Simple, inexpensive VoIP network adapters are available that eliminate the need for a personal computer.
Voice quality can still vary from call to call, but is often equal to and can even exceed that of traditional calls. Remaining problems for VoIP include emergency telephone number dialing and reliability. Currently, a few VoIP providers provide an emergency service, but it is not universally available. Older traditional phones with no "extra features" may be line-powered only and operate during a power failure; VoIP can never do so without a backup power source for the phone equipment and the Internet access devices. VoIP has also become increasingly popular for gaming applications, as a form of communication between players. Popular VoIP clients for gaming include Ventrilo and Teamspeak. Modern video game consoles also offer VoIP chat features.
File sharing is an example of transferring large amounts of data across the Internet. A computer file can be emailed to customers, colleagues and friends as an attachment. It can be uploaded to a website or File Transfer Protocol (FTP) server for easy download by others. It can be put into a "shared location" or onto a file server for instant use by colleagues. The load of bulk downloads to many users can be eased by the use of "mirror" servers or peer-to-peer networks. In any of these cases, access to the file may be controlled by user authentication, the transit of the file over the Internet may be obscured by encryption, and money may change hands for access to the file. The price can be paid by the remote charging of funds from, for example, a credit card whose details are also passed – usually fully encrypted – across the Internet. The origin and authenticity of the file received may be checked by digital signatures or by MD5 or other message digests. These simple features of the Internet, over a worldwide basis, are changing the production, sale, and distribution of anything that can be reduced to a computer file for transmission. This includes all manner of print publications, software products, news, music, film, video, photography, graphics and the other arts. This in turn has caused seismic shifts in each of the existing industries that previously controlled the production and distribution of these products.
Streaming media is the real-time delivery of digital media for the immediate consumption or enjoyment by end users. Many radio and television broadcasters provide Internet feeds of their live audio and video productions. They may also allow time-shift viewing or listening such as Preview, Classic Clips and Listen Again features. These providers have been joined by a range of pure Internet "broadcasters" who never had on-air licenses. This means that an Internet-connected device, such as a computer or something more specific, can be used to access on-line media in much the same way as was previously possible only with a television or radio receiver. The range of available types of content is much wider, from specialized technical webcasts to on-demand popular multimedia services. Podcasting is a variation on this theme, where – usually audio – material is downloaded and played back on a computer or shifted to a portable media player to be listened to on the move. These techniques using simple equipment allow anybody, with little censorship or licensing control, to broadcast audio-visual material worldwide.
Digital media streaming increases the demand for network bandwidth. For example, standard image quality needs 1 Mbit/s link speed for SD 480p, HD 720p quality requires 2.5 Mbit/s, and the top-of-the-line HDX quality needs 4.5 Mbit/s for 1080p.
Webcams are a low-cost extension of this phenomenon. While some webcams can give full-frame-rate video, the picture either is usually small or updates slowly. Internet users can watch animals around an African waterhole, ships in the Panama Canal, traffic at a local roundabout or monitor their own premises, live and in real time. Video chat rooms and video conferencing are also popular with many uses being found for personal webcams, with and without two-way sound. YouTube was founded on 15 February 2005 and is now the leading website for free streaming video with a vast number of users. It uses a flash-based web player to stream and show video files. Registered users may upload an unlimited amount of video and build their own personal profile. YouTube claims that its users watch hundreds of millions, and upload hundreds of thousands of videos daily. Currently, YouTube also uses an HTML5 player.
The Internet has enabled new forms of social interaction, activities, and social associations. This phenomenon has given rise to the scholarly study of the sociology of the Internet.
See also: Global Internet usage and English on the Internet
Internet usage has seen tremendous growth. From 2000 to 2009, the number of Internet users globally rose from 394 million to 1.858 billion. By 2010, 22 percent of the world's population had access to computers with 1 billion Google searches every day, 300 million Internet users reading blogs, and 2 billion videos viewed daily on YouTube. In 2014 the world's Internet users surpassed 3 billion or 43.6 percent of world population, but two-thirds of the users came from richest countries, with 78.0 percent of Europe countries population using the Internet, followed by 57.4 percent of the Americas.
The prevalent language for communication on the Internet has been English. This may be a result of the origin of the Internet, as well as the language's role as a lingua franca. Early computer systems were limited to the characters in the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII), a subset of the Latin alphabet.
After English (27%), the most requested languages on the World Wide Web are Chinese (25%), Spanish (8%), Japanese (5%), Portuguese and German (4% each), Arabic, French and Russian (3% each), and Korean (2%).