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Does the Imperium have Internet?

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#1 Schmazer



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Posted 20 February 2013 - 06:54 PM

I've been having an argument with one of my players lately about what (if any) form the internet would take in 40k. I look at the Imperium and their armies, and say that victory against almost every single xeno race out there except perhaps for Orkz would be nigh impossible if they do not possess communication infrastructure and technology lower than todays standards.

My friend says the internet is a lost technology and that "They just use radio waves, or some sort of SUPER radio waves." 

I know they use astropaths for sending messages between planets, but that's betwen PLANETS. I'm talking about how the navy would coordinate with the ground forces and pinpoint orbital strikes. Or how the administratum sends information to eachother, or how a Skullprobe can stream realtime  audio/video directly into the brain of a techpriest.

"Radio Waves" seem a little too… out of date to possibly transmit the sheer amount of information the Imperium would require.


So, IS there some sort of Internet in the 40k universe?

#2 Lynata



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Posted 20 February 2013 - 07:26 PM

It probably depends on what sources you look at. I recall reading a novel where the Tech-Priests used (invisible, low-power) laser beams to communicate with one another. A clever idea, although with obvious limitations regarding line of sight and potential distortion by local effects such as microparticles (dust), fog, or even just a leaf falling right into the stream.

I would suggest to just make something up - this is the sort of detail where either no author of studio or licensed material ever bothered to write about, or where you can find a thousand different interpretations throughout the books. When I'm looking at the various excerpts of communiques in the codices, which sometimes include low-resolution images, then I would simply assume that Imperial forces have the means to transport them.

As for a widely available cable network like it exists in the real world (-> internet) … this I would think is something that depends entirely on the individual world, with some planets having public terminals and broadcasts whereas others may not even have a radio station.

#3 Darth Smeg

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 07:51 PM

I'd say it would depend upon the world you're on. According to some writers (Graham McNeil), (some of) the tech priests have a Noosphere, a sort of internet-like connection between minds. But I don't think they're sharing it with outsiders.

Abnett includes data-networks that his characters access to get information in his novels, so there is evidence for this if you want it.

The reason it is absent from much of the fluff and imagery, is because 40K had it's start during the 1980s, long before the Internet existed. In much of the old sci-fi classics that inspired 40K there is no such thing as the Internet, and I guess it would be pretty hard to imagine given the times. Flying cars? Sure! Space ships and lasers? Sure. But carrying a phone around that lets you browse porn and post to virtual forums? Huh..

You could also argue the other way: Information is Power, Guard it well!

The authorities of the Imperium do not want to educate or empower their citizens, and the free flow of information that the Internet provides would be anathema to them. While there will be vox-networks for the military, the wealthy and powerful, trade houses, etc, it will probably be closed networks, all very specific-purpose only. No open, multi-purpose, all-access WWW as we know it.

Don't say Radio. Say Vox. Data-vox, voxnet, etc. The Imperium has warp-drives, antigrav and plasmaguns. Of course they have some sort of communications tech that works across the planet. We just don't have to understand HOW it works :)

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#4 Gurkhal



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Posted 20 February 2013 - 09:06 PM

I'm with Smeg on this. 

While individual Forge Worlds and some Hive Worlds may have internet-like stuff its very restricted and used only for official purposes. In no way would a such thing every be allowed to reach the general population. Now one or two developed worlds with a democratic system might have something like the internet, but I would think that it's heavily censures, regulated and watched by the eternal attention of the Inquisition for any kind of devient information that could crop up.

#5 borithan



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Posted 20 February 2013 - 10:05 PM

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: As others have said, access to information is seens as a very sensitive issue in the Imperium. something as open as the Internet would not exist. There will be certain networks in limited scales in certain places, yes, but even they would be strictly controlled for various reasons.

Yes, there might be advanced mediums of communication (lasers, subspace radio, wibblium frequency inducers etc), but the thing that defines the internet is the interconnectivity of everything, which is entirely anti-ethical to the though process of the Imperium. Information is power, and so it is not left open to the general public, and allowing too much power (and therefore information) to gather in the hands of even the approved few is seen as dangerous, so even allowing the chosen to have potential full access is unheard of. Add on top of this the various factions and fractured power structures of the Imperium, who will want to keep tight control of what information they give out (the Tech Priests in particular), and something like the internet will simply not exist.

All the things you describe that the Imperium does: coordination of military forces, sending work messages to each other, sending audio/visual messages, are done now without the internet. How do military forces coordinate? Radio. Yes, maybe mega encrypted stuff, which is smaller and more powerful than it was 70 odd years ago, but it is still radio (and the manner that the Imperium use it is much more like WW2 armies, ie, at most a radio for every platoon, rather than every squad, or even every squad member, having a radio… ok, if you go by Gaunts Ghosts you can have that via comm-beads but then I personally don't think Dan Abnett actually writes much 40k sci fi, just sci fi that happens to have the 40k brand on it). Commmunicating between work colleges? Well, often it is in person, or physical messages carried by messengers, living and automaton. Some places might have local networks (but then I could see some places having those vacuum tubes to deliver scrolls… maybe even in the same buiding as a wireless network like the noosphere), but again, internet is not required for it . Sending audio-visual messages? We do that now. The limitations are not in the amount of data we can transmit, but the ability to get it direct into people's brain (ok, and maybe transmission in troublesome environments, such as inside buildings). You don't need the internet to do that.

#6 Magos Seqvirin

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 12:31 AM

I agree with almost everything that has been said above, but I would like to make an addendum, from a Tech-Priest point of view. 

The closest thing to an internet for a Tech-Priest is the noosphere, but such an advanced information system is rarely (or even never) available outside of Forge Worlds. And even on Forge Worlds, the level of access depends greatly on the Tech-Priest's rank, which means one has to achieve a certain level of initiation into the Cult Mechanicus before he/she is granted cybernetics capable of detecting and interacting with the noosphere. Regular serfs and menials won't be given noosphere access just because they live on a Forge World (they ought to be happy to have a place to sleep and nutrients to consume). 

Regarding other worlds, the most important factor is the planet's technological level. Low-tech planets (feral or medieval worlds) neither have the technology and the infrastructure to create an electronic information network. More advanced worlds, such as Imperial and Hive worlds, probably have some kind of network for sharing information, but I believe they would be closer to a vox-net similar to a telephone network (most of it wired) and vidcom (or TV) channels, most of them spewing Imperial propaganda 24/7. However, just because these latter worlds do not have open and free "internet" for the masses, members of the Adeptus Mechanicus will still be able to use the hive's networks to relay information over them. Their arcane mastery of technology grants them a higher level of access and makes them capable of using these networks for other uses than intended. For example, a Tech-Priest, using a hive's electric infrastructure, would be able to hack into a manor's security network and hi-jack its vidfeeds.

(At least, that's how we play things in my group.)

Oh, I almost forgot! For over environments, such as space stations or spaceships, always assume at least hive world level technology. Neverthless, intraship communication will mostly be via wires, with ranking officers having access to voxbeads. 


#7 IdOfEntity



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Posted 21 February 2013 - 04:09 AM

1) The internet originated before the 80's.  (60's)  It simply wasn't commercialized until the late 80's/ very early 90's.  It started through government funding and some of you may be familiar with terms like ARPANET.  Until the 90's only a small percentage of the United States population had any kind of regular access to it, and the majority of the information accessible was not entertainment.

2) The idea of interconnectedness and accessibility defining the internet is…simplistic.  TheSecure Internet Protocol Router Network exists that U.S. citizens do not access without having proper clearance and credentials.  This is the form of interconnected computer network that you'd most likely encounter within the fictional setting of the 41st Millenium.

3) Radio waves are one of many ways to transmit information, and do in fact traverse the oblivion of space as we speak.  It is limited in speed, though, and would not be capable of travelling interstellar distances in a practical amount of time.  This is where science-fantasy steps in and invents things like Warp Travel and other such things.  Super Radio waves are a way of phrasing it, I suppose.  There are plenty of science-fiction terms you can lift.

My opinion: 

Worlds with a well-funded Administorum, a large Mechanicus presence, or individual Naval vessels will have their interconnected networks in place.  Few will have access to them, and mostly for logistical/military purposes.  Interstellar transmission between planets/vessels will only be manageable from Psyker Communique  (Expensive and limited), and large scale archive updates will have to be performed by shipping large data stores through interstellar vessels.  (which happens infrequently) 

The information would be non-homogenous and out-of-date in most locations.  Even the correct time relative to Terra is difficult to maintain.

Adeptus will probably have their own closed networks that would need seperate access requirements, and may not have the same interface as a Military or Mechanicus network.  There is probably massive variation between individual networks concerning Operating Systems, User Interfaces, Security Measures, and Storage Methodology.  The only true universal constant would be Binary, which makes the Tech-Priest and Adept THAT important.

#8 Blood Pact

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 05:03 AM

Gurkhal said:

I'm with Smeg on this. 

While individual Forge Worlds and some Hive Worlds may have internet-like stuff its very restricted and used only for official purposes. In no way would a such thing every be allowed to reach the general population. Now one or two developed worlds with a democratic system might have something like the internet, but I would think that it's heavily censures, regulated and watched by the eternal attention of the Inquisition for any kind of devient information that could crop up.

While I agree that in most places the general population would have no access at all to the 'Imperium Wide Web', I don't think it would be entirely uncommon.

The Noosphere, which seems like a semi-psychic WiFi, wasn't necessarily lost when the Forge-City of its creator was destroyed with all her works, as it was also present on Calth, so its reasonable to assume that the technology might have survived in some form, if only in relatively isolated cases. While Imperial data networks are almost a given, as despite the anachronistic behavior of the ruling powers, a domain of such a vast scale generally couldn't get by without some sort of network interface in many of its cogitation units. Certainly in larger worlds (again, the more advanced ones, but most of them, not some) both the Inquisition and Arbites would serverely be hampered by having to track down each and every record through written archives. It seems most likely, that (again on developed worlds), it would be only the common Imperial citizen who lacked such access, while the wealthy and influencial would be granted extra priviledges as usual (trading guilds and their officers hooked up to the market, for instance). And because of that, it would look very different than the internet of today, since civilian usage would limit what you'd find largely to the databases of the various parts of the Adeptus, commercial and industrial exchanges and mercantile networks of various forms, and in some cases where the world might have public terminals, simple civil information to access from there ('phone number' directories, maps for directions, etc.).

While many things have an archaic feel in 40K, their computer technology could probably be considered more or less on par with the early two-thousands to today's levels, and I'm really only speaking in terms of what you'd find commonly in Administratum towers and Arbites Precints. While the Mechanicus can be assumed to have something much greater (every desk sized cogitator laying around their shops may very well be the equivalent of a powerful super-computer). Not to mention, powerful computer and networks that would be needed to run a starship. While further exceptions like the Inquisition and Astartes hardly need to be mentioned.


Besides, having an 'internet' just gives you more to do. As agents of the Inquisition, hacking in to restricted networks, possibly full of dark and chilling information, is all part of the fun and games (until someone is branded a Heretic!).

#9 PnPgamer



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Posted 22 February 2013 - 09:40 AM

Somehow I feel that Slaanesh would like this "intermenets". maybe it could be done into a song… Internet is for proms? nah gotta figure out something better…

#10 InquisitorAlexel



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Posted 22 February 2013 - 10:41 AM

The fun with Warhammer 40k is that it's such on a large scale, with so many human cultures, with so many worlds, with so many different technologies (even if we say that the Adeptus Mechanicus standardise everything, it isn' the case in practice), that the answer to this question is: absoluteley.

Then, for the same reason, the "internet" is certainly limited to some worlds, and even then, depending on the culture, to a limited number of persons, but it always depends on local facts. For exemple, in the ravenor trilogy, Ravenor's interrogator hack throught a planetary governmental data and imprints new identites for some agents and himself to infiltrate a building.

#11 Adeptus-B


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Posted 22 February 2013 - 11:15 AM

Advanced worlds would likely have cogitator networks similar to our internet, but there would be no way to link one planet's network to another in a different system; I assume that they recieve 'updates' in the form of datacrystals, which have to be physically delievered by a voidship (the frequency of the 'updates' would depend on the prestiege of the world).

On a semi-related note, I recall at least one Black Library novel refering to the 40K equivelant of computer hackers as 'slicers'; I was surprised that The Lathe Worlds didn't follow up on this, with detailed rules for 'slicing' cogitatorsystems…

#12 Cymbel



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Posted 26 February 2013 - 11:27 AM

I see it like this, for hive worlds and other similar non-mechanicus controlled tech heavy places (like voidships), yes, for a given value of internet. You get basic video-vox transmissions, "news" (more "olds" though knowing the Imperium) and so on, controlled through the government, cheap entertainment for hive proles and fancier networks for the nobles and upper class. Otherwise it is handled in dataslates, cogitators, pre-stored information (read only) and simple tech. Techies of course have all manner of crazy gear, but that is to be expected and is even less consistent

#13 Garner



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Posted 05 March 2013 - 06:14 PM

Personally I think it's unlikely that the "internet" in the way we perceive it exists in the 40k setting. Many of the workers do not have access to electricity in their homes even in the Hives. Ever notice all the candles in the art for 40k? That's not just for kicks. Power don't come cheap and in a population of 58,000,000,000 not every one gets power. In fact most couldn't it's just simple economics. Few worlds were actually intended to support populations of that size much less allow every hab worker the ability to share cat videos.

Thus the "internet" or other similiar cogitator networks would almost certainly be only for official use. Wireless communication would be a joke. Even radio communication almost completely jammed with signals for actual important business. For the average citizen in the 40k setting even on a Hive World they almost certainly live much worse than we do today but it is for their own protection.


Do your duty, do not expect what you do not deserve, give freely to the Imperium, and the Emperor will protect you from a fate worse than deah. Woe to the man who idly believes that he deserves to siphon power for idle games when lives are on the line. For these idle curiousities and entitlements can only lead to sin and death. So continue to make your camo-tarps! Do not suggest to your friend that these materials come from our world and are therefore ours to have! What we have is the assurance that the war in the heavens for our bodies and souls has not yet reached here and you and all of man kind can be free from damnation and an ignoble death if you can but restrain your appetite for these carnal pleasures!

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