(July 17): The Covid-19 pandemic has rapidly transformed the internet into the most critical infrastructure on Earth. By enabling people and businesses to remain connected while under lockdown, the Internet has helped to prevent the global economy from collapsing entirely. Indeed, with fear and social distancing continuing to separate many of us, it has become the connective tissue for much human interaction and economic activity around the world.

But few appreciate how this critical global resource has remained stable and resilient since its inception, even as its scope and scale have undergone uninterrupted explosive growth. In an age of widening political, economic, and social divisions, how has the “one internet” connecting the entire world been sustained? And how can we best continue to protect it?

The answers to both questions start with understanding what makes the internet — which consists of tens of thousands of disparate networks — look like and function as one network for all. These components or unique Internet identifiers include internet protocol (IP) addresses, which are associated with every device connected to the internet and domain names (like ft.com, harvard.edu, or apple.news), which we use to search for and connect to computers easily.

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