Internet Primer

Internet Primer

DOUG LLOYD: If you’ve
been watching these videos in the order which we recommend,
we’re about to undergo bit of a culture shift. Because now, we’re going to start
talking about the internet and web technologies. So up until now, we’ve
really been doing a lot of C.>>And when we’ve been
running our programs, we have been running them
from the command line. That’s pretty much how the users have
been interacting with the programs that we write. They pick something to prompt, something
happens in the terminal window, and then it’s done.>>Sometimes you might have persistent
data that remains afterwards. But that’s pretty much it. It’s at the command line. It’s the only way the user can interact. From this point forward,
we’re going to start transitioning so that the users
can interact with our websites. So we’re going to be writing
websites, which aren’t written in C, but are written in a variety of other
programming languages, including PHP, and it’s sort of helper languages,
HTML, CSS, and the like. So we’re going to start
talking about those things.>>Before we get into web
programming itself, I think it’s probably a good
idea to take a step back and talk about how computers and
humans interact over the web. So this video is really a primer,
a basic guide, to the internet. Now, the caveat here is the
CS50 is not a networking class. So what we’re going to be talking
about here is pretty high level. We’re not going to
get into any low level details of how all this stuff works. If you’re interested
in that, I’d strongly recommend taking a class
on computer networking. And we might even tell
white lie or two just for the purposes of making the
general understanding clear.>>So with that said, let’s talk about
how we interact with the internet. So here we are. Here’s us. We’re pretty looking forward to
getting onto the internet, which as we all know, is chock full of cats.>>Now do we just connect to
the internet like this? Well, probably not. Intuitively, you know
that, say for example, when you change your Wi-Fi
network on your computer, you don’t see one called internet
unless that just so happens to be the name of your local Wi-Fi. Right?>>It’s usually something like home. Or if you’re at work, it might
be the name of your company. There’s not just one
option called internet. And so something or some
things exist in between when we want to connect to the internet. What are some of those things? Well, we’re going to talk about that. We’re also going to talk about
some of the important things we need in order to be able
to connect to the internet. And the first of these
things is an IP address. So you’ve probably heard
the term IP address before. What does it mean? Well, an IP address is
basically a unique identifier of your computer on a network. Just like every home or
office has a unique address to which one could send a mail.>>Similarly, every computer if it
wants to receive data or send data, needs to have a unique address. So that when information
is sent or received, it’s being sent from or received
to the correct location. This addressing scheme, as I
said, is called IP addressing. IP is stands for Internet Protocol,
which we’ll talk about again shortly.>>Now, what does IP addressing look like? Well, the scheme basically was,
when it was first implemented, to give every computer
a unique 32-bit address. That’s a lot of bits. That’s 4 billion addresses.>>And generally, instead of using
hexadecimal notation, which we’ve used previously in the context of
pointers in C to talk about addresses, we usually represent IP
addresses in a little bit more of a human friendly
way, representing them as four clusters of 8 bits
represented as decimal numbers. Because humans don’t frequently speak
hexadecimal, unless you’re programming. But people who use the internet
aren’t necessarily programmers.>>And so making it easy
and accessible for them to be able to talk about what their
IP address is in case they maybe need to call up somebody
to troubleshoot something, it’s better to make it in the more
common conventional decimal number format. And so an IP address just looks
pretty much like this, w.x.y.z, where each one of those letters
represents a non-negative value in the range of 0 to 255. Recall that an 8-bit number
can hold 256 distinct values.>>And so that’s why our range is 0 to 255. And we have four clusters of 8
bits for a grand total of 32 bits. And so an IP address might
look something like this. This is sort of a generic
default IP address, All of them are in the range of 0 to
255, so that’s a valid IP address.>>Here at Harvard University, all of
our IP addresses start with 140.247. That’s just the way that the IP
addresses in this geographic area have been assigned. And so this might be an IP address
that might exist here at Harvard.>>So as I said, if every IP address
is 32 bits, we have about 4 billion to give out, a little
more than 4 billion. But we can kind of see a problem, right? What’s the world population right now?>>Well, it’s somewhere
north of 7 billion people. And in the Western world
at least, most people have more than one device
capable of internet connectivity. I have one right here. And I have another one in my pocket. And I have one back in my office.>>And so that’s three. And that doesn’t even count the
ones that I have at home, too. And so that’s kind of a problem, right? We have at least 7 billion people
and only 4 billion addresses.>>And every device is supposed
to be uniquely identified. We have developed some workarounds
to deal with this problem, something called a private
IP address, which we’re not going to get into in this video. But basically, it allows further the
web, the internet, to kind of fake out a little bit that you have a unique
address by having private addresses and then funneling them through
one single address, which is shared by many different computers.>>But that’s really not a long term fix. Even that fixed isn’t
going to last forever. And so we need to have a different
way of dealing with this.>>So as I said, we had about 4 billion. But that’s not going to
be good enough, right? And so the way that it has
been decided there we’re going to deal with this is
to make longer IP addresses. Instead of 32-bit addresses, we’re
going to have 128-bit addresses. So instead of 4 billion
addresses, we’re going to have that huge number of addresses,
which is 340 billion billion billion billion, so a lot of IP addresses.>>And this new scheme is called IPv6
is commonly how it’s referred. The old scheme being IPv4. It’s a bit of a problem in
that this problem has been known about for a really long time. >>And you’ll see this a lot in the
context of computers and computing. We’re good at anticipating problems. But we’re bad at dealing with them
even though we know about them. So IPv6 has been around for a while. And only in the last couple
years have we actually started phasing in these IPv6 addresses
to phase out the IPv4 addresses. But some places do have them. And they look similar
to a regular IP address. But they are a lot longer.>>So instead of now having four
clusters of 8 bytes for your address, we now have eight clusters of 16 bytes. And 8 times 16 is 128. And we represent these in the less
conventional hexadecimal form. Because having 16-bit numbers means that
instead of being a range of 0 to 255, We’d have a range of 0 to 65,535.>>And so having a bunch
of those stuck together would be very difficult to read. And so we usually use hex
just out of convenience. And so a typical IPv6 address
might look something like this.>>It’s certainly a lot longer than
the IPv4 address we’ve seen before. But this would be a valid IPv6 address. This one is also about IPv6 address.>>This one happens to belong to Google. And notice there’s a
bunch of zeros there. Sometimes these addresses
can get so long. And since we’re still
pretty early in IPv6, sometimes there can be big chunks of
zeros in there that we don’t need.>>If you’re reading this out loud,
it’s 2001.4860.4860. It’s kind of a lot, right? So if you see a bunch of
zeros, you might sometimes see an IPv6 address like this,
where they omit the zeros and use a double colon instead. This is OK, though. Because we know that there are
supposed to be eight distinct chunks. And so by implication, we see four. So we know that there must be four sets
of zeros like this, that fill it in.>>So sometimes, you might see
an IPv6 address not having eight separated chunks like we do here. You might see it looking like this. And that just means that
everything you don’t see in between where that double colon
is is just zero separated.>>So, OK. We know a little bit more
about IP addresses now. But how do we get them? We can’t just pick the one we want. If we did that, we might end up fighting
somebody for the same IP address. Or somebody might have
chosen it previously. If we try and take it, we’re going
to run into a bit of a problem. And so we can’t just pick
the IP address that we want.>>So the way that we get an
IP address is somewhere between our computer and the
internet, that big internet out there, there’s something called a DHCP server,
a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol server. It’s a big mouthful of text. But really all it does is it
assigns you an IP address.>>Your DHCP server has a list of
addresses that it can validly assign. And it gives you one. That’s pretty much all there is to it. Now before DHCP, this task
of assigning addresses fell to a system administrator. So an actual person would have
to manually assign your computer and address when you
connected to a network. So DHCP just sort of automates this
process of giving you an IP address. But that’s how you get it. It’s just a program running
somewhere between you and the internet that has a bank of
IP addresses that it can give out. And when you connect to the
network, it gives you one. So let’s revisit this diagram. Somewhere between you and the
internet, there’s a DHCP server. OK. So that’s good. Now, let’s talk about DNS. So we’ve talked although
these IP addresses. And we know that if we’re
going to uniquely identify a device on the internet, it
has to have a unique address.>>And we could visit that
address if we wanted to. But you’ve probably never typed
in something like into your browser, right? You don’t type in numbers
into your browser. You usually type in human readable names
like or, right?>>Those aren’t IP addresses, though. So exists this service
called the Domain Name System, DNS, that translates IP
addresses to human comprehensible words or phrases that are much more memorable
than remembering a set of four numbers or, soon, a set of eight
hexadecimal numbers. That would be really challenging, right?>>Think about before the
days of cell phones. You had your memorize your
friend’s phone numbers. It might have gotten tough
after a little while. And similarly, if you want
to visit a bunch of websites, you probably don’t want to
remember a bunch of numbers. You’d rather remember a bunch of words.>>So this mapping, this translating, of
sets of numbers to human readable names kind of makes DNS the
yellow pages of the web. And you can think about
it as if it’s just a huge list running from all
the way down to, which would be the highest possible– that’s
the full range from 0s to 255s of all 4 billion-ish IPv4 addresses. I made up the ones on
the top and the bottom. But the one in the middle there
is actually an IP address. So if we visited,
apparently that translates to that site there, io– what the heck is that? Well, not every name that maps is
actually clear what it is, right?>>So sometimes somebody
who owns an IP address might name their host something
that they’re actually not. For example, that IP address if you
went there, is actually just But Google has a lot
of different servers.>>And they can’t call them all So they have their own
internal system for translating to whatever server actually
is connected to that IP address. And then there’s another
system that exists between to translate that gobbledygook
here to But we won’t get into that.>>And similarly for
IPv6s, we’re also going to have a yellow pages
that’ll be a lot bigger. And similarly, in the
middle there– it was tough to find an IPv6
address that was legitimate. But I found one for Google.>>But it’s Google’s Irish website. But if you went to that IPv6 address,
if your browser was IPv6 capable, that would bring you to
Google’s Irish homepage. So there you go.>>But this isn’t entirely true, right? This the system seems cumbersome, right? If there’s a huge list of 4
billion things to have to look up, that’s pretty big. There’s no yellow pages
of the world, right? If you still get the yellow
pages delivered to you– I got mine the other day,
and I just recycled it. But if you do get the yellow
pages delivered to you, you don’t get a book that’s every
phone number that exists on the planet, right? You get a list of the
local phone numbers, the ones you’re most likely to call.>>And that’s actually what DNS is. If you think about it, DNS is
really the local yellow pages. And large DNS servers
like google.coms, they are actually just more
like libraries that have a copy of all of the local yellow
pages or all of the local DNS records. So there’s really no one repository
of the full DNS of the internet, just like there’s no one
yellow pages of the world.>>There are all these local small
scale DNSs that exist out there. And there are services that
aggregate them together. But they depend on those
smaller DNS systems updating their information, so that
they have the most accurate information.>>So again, this analogy
is large aggregating DNS systems are like
libraries that have a copy of every yellow pages of the world. They don’t themselves
update those books. They depend on the books coming in,
so they can update the information if they need it.>>So the DNS system is not a giant block. It’s decentralized across
many, many servers. So now we know that somewhere
between us and the internet there exists a DNS server
as well as a DHCP server.>>Now, access points,
what our access points? Well, access points you’re probably
pretty familiar with from actually connecting to the internet. That’s the network that you choose,
the home or your work network or what have you.>>And I’m generalizing the
concept of an access point here for purposes of this video. But there are actually
a lot of things that can be rolled up into access points. There are concepts of routers, which
is sort of a general term that we use.>>But there are also switches
and things actually called access points that are separate from
this general concept of an access point. But basically what
happens is with IPv4, I said we have this concept
of private addresses, right? And instead of every machine
having a unique IP address, which we have run out of, because
we’re over 4 billion devices trying to connect to
the internet, what we do is instead assign an
IP address to a router. That router or access point
just in your home, for example.>>And the router’s job as to
sort of act as a traffic cop, allowing everybody who’s connected
to that router to use the same IP address to get out. Does that make sense? So everybody at your home
has a private IP address. They can’t connect to the
internet, or the internet rather can’t speak to them, through
that private address. They can only speak to them
through the address in the router. And it’s the router’s
job to take information that you’re sending the router
and direct it to the correct place and for information that’s coming
into the router for the router to send it to you.>>So the routers are really the
devices here– particularly a router in your home, the most common sort
of usage case for most people– that has the public IP address. That’s the device that’s
connected to the internet. And you connect to the router
to have information flow through it on your behalf.>>As I said, a modern home network, the
router and switch and access point are all kind of bundled
up into a single device. Sometimes a modem is
bundled in there as well. That’s usually just called a router. But it’s really all of
those things together.>>Large scale business networks or
so-called Wide Area Networks, WANS, actually keep these devices separate. They have a switch. They have routers. They have multiple access points.>>For example, at a
university you’ll see things that look like so-called routers
mounted are all around campus. Those are all access points that flow
into routers, switches, et cetera, to pass information along. Because these networks are so
big that one single access point can’t cover its large area.>>And so these large networks,
business networks, et cetera, split these into separate
devices, so the network and scale and grow if needed. So again, somewhere between us and
the internet, we have an access point. And that’s what we connect to. And through there, we
can get to the internet. As I said at the
beginning of this video, this is not a course on networking. So this is not the entire story. And I’ve kind of glossed over it. And maybe I’ve left you
even a little bit confused as to what some of these things are. But that’s OK.>>We don’t need the whole story. It’s enough for us to know moving
forward just basically a little bit about how the internet works. So what we know is we have these
private networks at our house.>>And we connect to a router. And that router is connected
to the internet at large. But what is the internet at large? I keep saying this, but what is it?>>Well, it’s really just all these
individual networks at my house, and at your house, and at every other
house, that are connected together. It’s an interconnected
network, an inter-net. So instead of thinking
about the internet as this giant cloud, this ethereal
thing that exists out there, it’s really just a connection
among all of these networks.>>So here we go. We have our local network. And we’re not the only person
probably on our local network trying to use the internet. There’s probably several
of us trying to get in.>>And we’re not the only network
that exists in the world, right? There are other networks, too, that
are trying to connect to the internet. But the internet is not,
again, a separate entity.>>It’s just a set of rules that allow
these networks, these small networks, the blue, the purple,
and the red network here, to communicate with each other. So there’s no thing
they’re all connecting to. They’re all just connected
to each other, right?>>And so somewhere on these
networks exists the services that we actually want. So maybe in the blue network
is where Google lives. And in the purple network
is where Facebook lives. And in the red network, well, maybe
that’s where all those cats are.>>And so if we want to get
information about cats, we just traverse this chain of networks
to get the information we want. And here, I’ve represented
the network as all being able to talk to each other. And we can only talk to the network. But the network can’t talk back to us.>>But that’s not true either, right? This is all a two-way street. Information can flow through
networks back and forth.>>How does it do that? Well, the internet’s really
a system of protocols. And we’re going to
start talking about what those protocols are in future videos.>>But again, the internet
is not a separate thing. It’s a set of rules that defines
how networks communicate, these small networks, these
local network that we’re used to, the people in our house, the people
at our school, the people at our job, all sharing a network. And how these networks interconnect
and talk to each other, that’s actually what the
internet’s all about. So let’s, in a future
video, talk about some of the protocols that comprise
the internet to hopefully give you a bit more of a
well-rounded understanding. I’m Doug Lloyd. This is CS50.

4 thoughts to “Internet Primer”

  1. The number of possible IPv6 addresses: three hundred forty undecillion, two hundred eighty-two decillion, three hundred sixty-six nonillion, nine hundred twenty octillion, nine hundred thirty-eight septillion, four hundred sixty-three sextillion, four hundred sixty-three quintillion, three hundred seventy-four quadrillion, six hundred seven trillion, four hundred thirty-one billion, seven hundred sixty-eight million, two hundred eleven thousand, four hundred fifty-six addresses. Just incase anyone was wondering how to say that number.

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