The app obtains a list of devices "on the network" or "in the network".

I imagine a network as a 3D structure, so it seems that "in the network" might be more appropriate here. However, I cannot be sure as I am not a native English speaker.

Please help me.


The use of the word 'network' to describe a number of computerized devices connected together is a relatively recent sense. And there are fine distinctions in the use of the word between professionals (electrical engineers, computer scientists, etc.) and the general public.

In everyday use, it's common to use "on" when describing the end-user devices (printers, computers, smart phones) or resources available to end-users (file shares, servers)

Is that printer on the network?

Are you on WiFi right now?

We're installing cabling today so you can get on the network from the conference room.

We have a big shared disk on the network where we keep all the training videos.

A professional would use 'in' when describing the devices that are used to construct the network - routers, switches, cabling, etc. - which are usually invisible to the end-user.

We use Brand X switches in our network.

Did you specify proxy services and address hiding in the network as part of the security plan?

In your example, 'on' is appropriate and will probably be understood by most people. If you're writing for a professional audience, you may need to add some extra clarification.

  • I agree with John's answer. As the risk of over simplifying his answer, I would say that "in" refers to an active component of the network, and "on" refers to people/devices connected to the network merely as users of the network.
    – TrevorD
    Aug 28 '18 at 13:48
  • 1
    @TrevorD I also agree, on the network is more common. It is similar to the use of on in older situations such as on the telephone, on the radio and on the road all of which imply the use of a more or less complex technology to carry out a task or to fulfill a desire.
    – BoldBen
    Aug 28 '18 at 14:24
  • Actually, I am writing the documentation for developers, i.e. professional audience. The app in question is scanning the network to find all active devices of a specific type. Then the app creates the list of these devices for further processing. Based on your replies, it looks like "in the network" is a better option. Thank you so much!
    – f-hollow
    Aug 29 '18 at 2:51

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