The difference between the internet and an intranet.

At first, when asked the question “What is the difference between an intranet and the Internet?” most people might answer, “That’s easy, an intranet is for a few people to use, while the Internet can be used by anyone”.

However, the actual answer is a bit more complex than that. For example, some areas of the Internet are only accessible to users with the appropriate permissions, while there are some intranets, such as those used by the US Army or the UK’s NHS, that have 100,000s of users.

To compare the two, one needs to look at what the Internet and an intranet actually are. 

What is the Internet?

The Internet as we know it today is the term used for the global network that any computer using a TCP/IP protocol can link to. By connecting to the Internet users can access a variety of information and communication facilities, such as the World Wide Web and email.

What is an Intranet?

An intranet is a private network that only those with permission can access. Originally, intranets were confined to wired Local Area Networks (LANs) hosted on the client-server, making them almost discrete from the Internet. But the advent of web-based intranets that users could access via the Internet (with a user-name and password) has now blurred this line somewhat. 


The Internet and intranets do have some similarities. They are both, at a basic level, computer networks that enable users to communicate and access information. Indeed, the Internet started off in the 1960s as just a few US defense computers connected to each other.

They also both enable a user to access similar communication and collaboration tools. But that is where the similarities end.

The differences

The Internet is open to anyone, and anyone can be anonymous if they wish.

On the other hand intranets are private networks where all the users are known. This is incredibly empowering for everyone on an intranet network. They can trust in the information that they are receiving, while also knowing that whoever views the information they share is controlled. In this way, users can effectively communicate and collaborate in confidence on an intranet.

As can be seen, an intranet offers great advantages over the Internet for internal communication and collaboration. Yet to be truly effective, businesses must turn to quality intranet platforms such as Unily otherwise users are likely to abandon the intranet and head out onto the unregulated Internet.


Upcoming events

View all

Latest news

  • Unily launches new report: Future Of The Workplace 2030+

    This week Unily launched a new report in partnership with Kjaer Global exploring the impact of technology, AI and cultural shifts on the future of the workplace in 2030 and beyond.

  • Rising digital workplace star Unily attracts $68m growth investment

    Unily, the leading digital workplace platform today announces it has attracted a $68 million growth investment from Silversmith Capital Partners and Farview Equity Partners. Post investment, Silversmith and Farview will hold a significant minority stake in the business and with board representation will support the existing management team on its ambitious international growth strategy.

  • Unily Intranet Masterclass Auckland: An Event Round-Up

    With a reported 87% of employees not engaged in their work, the need for businesses to develop employee engagement has never been greater. Unily’s exclusive masterclass; ‘How to maximize employee engagement with an intranet’ aims to address this by showcasing how organisations can use a digital workplace to create engaging employee experiences.

View all

Where next? Latest insights.

Why intranets are key to unlocking employee engagement

A universal message from the general email address blasted to all employees can have the same effect as stapling a memo to the bulletin board in the break room. Your people may take a half-hearted glance, but are they engaged? In this blog, we explore how intranets, and more specifically targeting and personalization, are helping to power authentic engagement with internal communications.

3 HR problems your intranet can solve

20% of all intranet projects are now being led by HR. Why? Because, when leveraged correctly, a modern digital workplace is a powerful HR tool capable of increasing efficiency, improving the employee experience, and solving some of the most pressing challenges facing the department today. In this blog, we consider some of the ways an intranet can benefit HR.

Flight Centre — Nielsen Norman Best Intranet 2019

Flight Centre is one of the world’s largest and most successful independent travel retailers. Download the case study and discover the secret behind their award-winning intranet.

SUBSCRIBE. To our insights.

The latest digital workplace news, events, guides and case studies.