Air signals and marine cables

This is how the internet works!

We all browse the web to search things. But have you ever thought about what happens, when you open a browser and search for an specific website? This is a story about how air signals and marine cables bring you your search results in questions of seconds.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Browsing the Web

Let´s say you are currently behind your laptop and open the Google Chrome browser to search for something. Where do you go? To the homepage of GOOGLE, of course to search for a specific thing. Not very complicated, right.

Search something on Google


But how does this technically work? What happens when you open a browser on your laptop to search a URL? When you go to and click on ENTER, you literally ask “Who is this?” Your questions goes to the Internet Service Provider (ISP), the organization you pay for to have internet. They get your request and send it the the Domain Name Servers (DNS), which is like a modern digital phone book, that contains a list of all available internet addresses (IP-addresses). They send an IP-address back to the Internet Service Provider and the website or the web browser receives this address. At this moment you just received an IP-address, a digital number to look up the website you are searching for. Nothing is yet visible in your webbrowser. So, now you know:

Every single computer is connected to the internet with its own IP-address

Every device has an IP-address, a digital address, that allows the internet to work.


The webbrowser now sends of a second request to the specific servers of the IP-address. Servers are actually just computers connected to each other. They run a piece of software, so they know how to send you their files, when you request for them. So, it sends you the web files stored on their server:

A website consists of these main web files: HTML, CSS & Javascript.

Now you receive their web files: basically just a couple of text files, written in HTML, CSS and JavaScript. And you can literally see the requested website And everything is working. All of this is happening in a question of seconds.

The Internet backbone

Well interesting, everything on the internet is connected! That´s clear. But how is it connected? That is where the Internet backbone comes in. The what? No worries, we will get there:). Let´s talk about air signals and marine cables to explain how it works.

Air Signals & marine cables

When you are at home, at work or in a coffee shop, as long as there is WIFI, you can connect to the internet. WIFI gives us internet from the router.This router is connected to a modem, a box that allows the Internet Service Provider (ISP) to connect. So this modem has signal towers that transmit air signals (search requests) to the ISP, that is connected to the Internet Backbone, a magical blue cable lying deep inside the ocean.

So, basically, there is WIFI (signals that transmit over the air), but everything is still connected through cables. So from your country, from your home, coffeeshop or work you connect through WIFI to a router, that connects to a modem, to our Internet Service Provider (ISP), and then through cables it connects to a specific place on the internet.

Let´s say, the Google Servers are located in Dublin, Europe and you live in San Francisco, America. That specific signal of you looking up a specific IP address and specific web files to show an existing web page on the internet, goes through submarine cables. You can see these submarine cables. It´s no joke! These are physical cables that go right to the bottom of the sea from San Francisco to Dublin. And when the first search request is done, it will send the web files back through the ISP, back to your home, work of coffeeshop, where you have your device.

“Although we use WIFI, it´s physical submarine cables that connect us to the internet.”

The Internet Backbone is literally a network of connected submarine cables located , so that we can transfer digital files all over the world. So this is it: the internet is just all connected computers together, transferring files between each other. In this way worldwide knowledge and nonsense can be easily spread.



A passionate Digital Communication Professional from Barcelona, Spain. Experience: Content, UX-design, Frontend.

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Diana Vilé

A passionate Digital Communication Professional from Barcelona, Spain. Experience: Content, UX-design, Frontend.