What’s the Difference between Internet and Ethernet?

difference internet ethernet

I often hear this mistake when using Internet or Ethernet in a wrong case
But they are two completely different words, nothing sharing, except the sonority maybe
So I’ll try to explain to you the real difference between these two notions

What’s the difference between Internet and Ethernet?
Internet is a worldwide network that everyone know, which allows you to read this website
Ethernet is a local network protocol, allowing you to access the Internet with a cable between your computer and your box (probably the mistake cause)

Let’s see now with more detail the definition of both technologies, and other word like Intranet or Extranet that you may also confuse with them



The large system of connected computers around the world that allows people to share information and communicate with each other

The Cambridge Dictionary

The main lesson to remember here is that it’s a worldwide network
Thanks to this network you can browse on your favorites websites, even if they are hosted at the other end of the world

Here is a map of the main Internet cables in the world:

It’s only the submarine cables, and then in each country you have a network between regions, cities and districts (source: SubmarineCableMap)


As you may imagine, the worldwide network doesn’t appear one day, entirely connected with each country
Internet comes from a long processes from discoveries and challenges

I will not give you too much detail here, you can find entire books on the topic (this one or maybe this one are greats if you are interested, both available on Amazon)

But here are the keys dates to know, so you can have a basic idea of the history and steps:

  • 1958: The first modem is invented
  • 1969: Creation of the first network between four US universities
  • 1971: The first email sent on the ARPANET network (ancestor of the Internet network)
  • 1973: Several European countries start to join the ARPANET network
  • 1983: Revolution for networks, the TCP/IP protocol is born
  • 1990: The world wide web is live (the Internet we now use every day)
  • 2000: More than 400 million computers are connected to the Internet

So it takes 30 years of technology progress to create the Internet network
But its adoption by the public was faster
In ten years, from 1990 to 2000, the network grows from 100000 computers to 400 millions


Today, the number of people connected to the Internet continues to grow
The 4 billions mark has been surpassed in 2018, to reach 50% of the world’s population
In developed countries, the percentage of people connected to the Internet is between 80 and 90% on average

Today the Internet has become a gigantic monster
It’s estimated, for example, that there are more than 2 billions active websites
Larger sites like Google or Microsoft alone have more than 1 million servers to host their services



A system for connecting computers into networks

Cambridge Dictionary

To go further, Ethernet is a standard and a technology, allowing computers to communicate between them on a local network
So it’s a main difference to remember versus Internet


Nowadays, the Ethernet name is often used to name the hardware
You can for example talk about Ethernet socket or Ethernet cable to name an RJ45 cable

An RJ45 cable

I think that’s why so many people confuse about Internet and Ethernet
You use an Ethernet cable to connect to Internet, but it doesn’t become an Internet cable πŸ™‚

OSI model

For the network experts here, and also to fix this language issue, you have to know that all networks are built within the OSI model, with seven layers:

  • Application: your web browser
  • Presentation: languages like HTML or XML
  • Session: protocols like HTTP and HTTPS
  • Transport: TCP
  • Network: IP
  • Data link: Ethernet
  • Physical: RJ45

So Ethernet is on the data link layer and RJ45 on the physical layer
The physical layer is all about the support we use to communicate (cable, switch)
And the data link layer is the first level allowing connecting computers between each other

So you know exactly where comes the difference, it’s not big but there is one

If you want to learn more about the model OSI, you can find many tutorials, like this one on Medium or this page on Wikipedia

Similar terms

Before finishing this post, I want to explain two other bonus terms you may confuse with, in the same sonority
For example, do you know the difference between “Intranet” and “Extranet”? πŸ™‚


An Intranet is like Internet inside a company, an internal network
It could be a specific network for employees, or a group of servers they can use (web, email, etc.)

But we generally talk about an Intranet to speak about the website of the company, that only employees can read


Extranet is the opposite
An extranet is the network a company shares with their partners
Depending on the company needs, it can be another website that partners can consult, a file share or any other resources


You now know the difference between Internet and Ethernet

To sum up:

  • Internet is a worldwide network, allowing people to exchange messages, files and data all over the world, including browsing websites
  • Ethernet is a local network technology, to connect computers inside a private network, at home or in a company. We often use Ethernet to name the hardware we used to connect these computers (a cable for example)

I also explained similar terms like Intranet and Extranet
I hope you get all the answers you need in this post